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

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.


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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.

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.

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.