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Interview

Image turned thirty years old this April. As we reflect on what’s ahead, we asked fifteen visual artists and two singer-songwriters to tell us what they learned and how they changed after turning thirty. Click here for the full collection.

Age tells us nothing about an artist’s work. Prodigies may peak early. Late bloomers may enter a period of radical invention in old age. Some of us try on wildly different roles before discovering where our passions and strengths converge. Although age is irrelevant to the quality and production of my work, I am certain the passage of time has influenced my perspective. As a younger person I could not have conceived the art I make today—works that illuminate the perpetual flux and interconnectedness of communities through time, objects steeped in metaphors of longing.

I was a graphic designer, dancer, and choreographer before launching a public relations career at age thirty with some of the hottest technology companies on the planet. In that business, you got run over if you slowed down to smell roses. After several decades doing my part to change the world one computer at a time, I reached a stopping and turning point. I chose to become an artist. My personality, values, and energy did not change. But becoming a serious artist changed my world.

Marianne Lettieri. “Reliquary for Artist”, 2016. Serving trays, garden cloche, artist’s work apron, sawdust from studio floor, hymnal pages, candy wrappers.16 x 14 x 14 inches.

 

In the formative years of my art career, I focused on financial success—the pragmatic thinking of a honed business mind. An epiphany occurred when I realized that art-making for me was not only a career, but my calling. With this discovery came a renewed sense of purpose, searching for images that satisfied a desire to slow down and engage with the enchantment of the everyday.

Robert Frost said, “Young people have insight. They have a flash here and a flash there. It is like stars coming out in the sky in the early evening. It is later in the dark of life that you see forms, constellations.” The accumulation of my diverse life experiences coalesced at middle age into conceptual themes of memory, community, and place-making—groups of stars forming imaginary patterns in my mind.

The impetus for my art-making is a desire to elicit reflection and conversation around how people move through the world and mark time. I work with used materials and artifacts that reveal the physical evidence of time and human interaction. My mixed-media constructions call attention to the brevity and mutability of life—ideas irrelevant to my thirty-year-old self are urgent to me now.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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