Tempe Artist Clarita Luli? on Marriage and Its Influence on Her Work

Clarita Lulić embracing the likeness of her husband in her Tempe studio on ASU campus.
Clarita Lulić embracing the likeness of her husband in her Tempe studio on ASU campus.
Mikey Estes

What happens in the studio, shouldn't always stay in the studio. Studio Visit Q+A is a weekly series that profiles artists in their studios. We ask them questions, they provide answers, and then we have a nice discussion about their work. This week: Current ASU MFA student Clarita Lulić.

Originally hailing from the UK, Clarita Lulić is an emerging artist that mainly works with photography. Over her time spent studying at ASU, her practice has come to encompass sculpture, as well. Her current body of work, which will be featured in her MFA thesis exhibition at Gallery 100 next month, fittingly titled "The Good Hurt," deals with the relationship between husband and wife. Using her own relationship as a site of exploration, Lulić uses humor as a means to investigate the often private intricacies of personal relationships, specifically marriage -- a contract between two people.

See also: Kristin Bauer on Using Text, Psychology, and Silent Films as Inspiration

Lulić's journey into this body of work started off with a series of portraits of her husband made in 2013. Beholden consists of photographs in which Lulić puts her husband through a series of "tests." In the playfully humiliating images, Lulić has him pose with a bar of soap in his mouth, pie on his face, and with paint all over his body. Here, Lulić is toying with the notion of power between husband and wife, along with photographer and sitter. Her husband and muse, probably reluctantly, does whatever Lulić pleases in these works.

Images of Lulić's husband from her Beholden series.
Images of Lulić's husband from her Beholden series.
Mikey Estes

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After these initial images were made, her husband no longer wanted to participate in the project. In protest, he changed his appearance by growing a beard and changing his hairstyle, making it so Lulić could no longer subject him to these "tests of love." In the playful battle for power in their marriage, her husband shifted control in his favor. As a reaction to that, Lulić turned to sculpture in order to continue working with his likeness. "He's defied me," says Lulić. Without being able to directly use her husband, the work has become about her own interpretation of her husband. She uses a mold of him and then works from images to hand build on top of that.

The sculptures that Lulić is currently working on expand on what's going on in her photographic works. Some of the busts of her husband will even appear as photographs. Working with sculpture, Lulić is able to do things to the likeness of her husband that she isn't able to actually do, such as shooting arrows at him, setting him on fire, and throwing wine at him. Though these acts are more violent in nature, there's still a sense of humor to them.

Several of the sculptures that Lulić is currently working on in her studio.
Several of the sculptures that Lulić is currently working on in her studio.
Mikey Estes

Lulić has created these busts from a mold of her husband, but there's also a metaphorical mold present in the work. Lulić has learned that, in her marriage, her husband may not always meet her expectations of him. He may not always fit her mold of him. "A lot of the work, especially the sculptures, is about trying something for the first time and it doesn't come out right, but maybe it's still recognizable," says Lulić. There's a sense of frustration that comes to life through these sculptures. In marriage, or committed relationships in general, we learn that there's always going to be good and bad times. For Lulić, marriage is like exercise. It hurts, but it can be good for you in the long run.  

Lulić is currently working on the finishing touches for "The Good Hurt" at Gallery 100.
Lulić is currently working on the finishing touches for "The Good Hurt" at Gallery 100.
Mikey Estes

Tell us about your work in haiku format. Think it up at night Find out how to make it be Work until its right

What artist(s) are you really into right now? Sophie Calle, Ben Ashton, Phil Collins, Tracy Emin, Elizabeth Price, Sarah Blood, Rachael Whiteread, Rebecca Horn, Jesper Just

What are you reading? I'm far too distracted by the physical act of making these days to concentrate on reading. If I do it's instructions for new materials or I'm getting lost in all kinds of YouTube tutorials.

What's the last TV show, film, or video you watched? Horns

If you could collaborate with any artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why? Ben Ashton, who I met in undergraduate in Newcastle, and his wife Fiona Garden collaborate as the Fashtons. I think their work is really exciting and different and I'd love to work with them.

What was the last exhibition you saw and what did you think of it? Sammie Aasen's "Sparkle Baby." Really admire her. She's funny, gutsy and honest.

Jeff Koons or Marina Abramović and why? Abramović, obviously.

Detail view of a selection of Lulić's sculptures.
Detail view of a selection of Lulić's sculptures.
Mikey Estes

What's the best advice you've ever received? "Don't dream it, be it" -- Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Rocky Horror Picture Show

What are you currently working on? My MFA thesis show -- "The Good Hurt"

What's your most valued tool as an artist? This is difficult for me to describe, but I guess its the soul, if there is such a thing. The essence of an artist, whatever it is inside that keeps me unsatisfied and hungry to know more.

For more information on this artist, visit Clarita Lulić's website.

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Gallery 100

951 S. Mill Ave
Tempe, AZ 85281

art.asu.edu/gallery/gallery100


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