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Lessa Millet: Something with Light

Tell me about your 27 exposures project.

That project was something I had been thinking about for years. A lot of my friends were living in faraway places, and I started wondering what their everyday lives were like. I originally wanted to send people disposable cameras - which usually have 27 frames - that’s where the name of the project came from. I wanted the project to be on film because we’ve become so used to taking a photo and seeing it immediately. When you shoot film, you take the photo and then you have to wait to finish the roll and develop it. There is this waiting time, and when you get the pictures back it’s like a little surprise. To me that was the gift the project was giving back to the people who were participating in it. It definitely required a lot from the person, and people did do it but it took a lot of insistence on my part, haha.

What are some different times in your life that have been the most creative or productive?

I think I go through phases where I explore different mediums. Around 2010 I was sharing a studio with a bunch of artist in Brooklyn and someone had an old photocopy machine. I’d never really had unlimited access to a photocopy machine before, so I started playing around with it. I made a handful of zines during that time. One was called “American Landscape” where I just scavenged garbage from the studio floor and photocopied it.

I also made this other zine called “Somewhere over the rainbow” where I was photocopying all these different colored paper, but it was on a black and white copy machine, so the colors were more of a concept. I included the color names and codes underneath so if you really wanted you could look it up.

I’ve also gone through phases of drawing a lot. 2015 was a year of lots of drawings, where I did a series of portraits of my favorite writers. Last year I got really into ceramics. I was feeling kind of disenchanted with film which is supposed to be my main medium. I was having a “what is the meaning of making things” type existential crisis. We live in such a visually oversaturated world with heaps of disposable visual content constantly flying through our fingertips. I found with ceramics there is no meaning, they are functional objects, you can hold them and use them, and I really needed that simplicity. In general, even when I’m in crisis I need to be making things or else I get very depressed. I’m always doing something.

What time of day do you generally make work?

Well, when my partner is out of town I’m generally really productive at night. It’s this time when there’s nothing else to do. During the day it’s so nice out and I always want to enjoy the sun or have coffee with friends, or go to the record store, and so I’m not very productive. I’m not very good at going to sleep, I hate sleeping alone, so I find that’s a good time to focus on projects. I’ll go out to dinner and have a drink with a friend then come home and draw until 4 in the morning. I get a lot done at night.

How has moving to Los Angeles recently affected your art practice?

It’s giving me so much more time and space than I ever had in New York. In some ways it’s hard to focus because there’s so much time here. When you only have a free hour a day, sometimes you’re more productive. But I’ve also found I have a lot more time for making different kinds of art, like ceramics, furniture, drawings. And that I have more time to go deeper into each project because there isn’t that New York urgency to just get things done fast. I think that’s making my most recent video projects so much better.

What is the relationship between your commercial work and your personal art practice?

The thing about commercial work that’s really hard is that I really like making the stuff, but I’m very troubled by the content. It’s all about selling things to people that can’t afford it. I really enjoy the actual making and animating, and I feel so lucky that I get to get paid to make things in that way, but I wish I was making things that I cared about or that contributed to society a bit more.

Besides your art making practices, what are some ways that art and creativity play into in your life?

A friend recently said to me I was a professional hobbyist, and I found that kind of offensive. I think everything in life is an opportunity to be creative. I’ve made most of the furniture in my house, half of the ceramics. I like learning how to make things. One of my latest obsessions has been making sourdough bread and pizza. And those things are an art for me, not a hobby. I feel like hobbies are for people who are bored, and I’m not bored. To me it’s special to be making anything, whether it’s a pizza, the bed, a thank you note or a music video.

What would be your dream house?

Lots of light, one or two guest rooms cause we have a lot of guests, an art room, a wood shop or a messy garage type thing for making things, and it would be far away from the highway. And ideally I would have made most of what’s in the house.

What would be your ideal commercial job?

I would really like to be working with museums and with education. Something that I’m getting paid to do and that is helping other people learn things.

Is there some kind of art you’ve always wanted to do and never done?

I’ve always wanted to do something with light. It’s a very special medium, very emotional. And I would love to work with it one day. Some of my favorite artists work with light, like Robert Irwin, Dan Flavin and Olafur Eliasson

How do you navigate the world we live in? If you could create a new system of living, what are some changes you would make?

My partner Amelia helps me navigate the world we live in. She comes from a radical background that has really affected the way I think about the world as a whole, but also in my everyday life.

A big thing that’s on my mind is affordable housing, because of the raise of rent prices in NY and LA. And access to owning your house, which is something that has become only for the rich.

What projects are you working on now?

We just finished shooting a music video for Amelia Jackie and I’m VERY excited to start editing it.

Where do you find inspiration? Who are some of your favorite artists?

I find inspiration in books, art, film, music… I read mostly poetry and short stories, haven’t been able to sit through a novel in a while. I think some of my recent favorites were Citizen By Claudia Rainkine, Los Angeles Stories by Ry Cooder (who I also love as a musician), Autobiography of Red by Ann Carson and Johnny Would you Love me if my Dick was Bigger by Brontez Purnell. Last month I got to see a Robert Irwin show in LA which was so cool, cause I’m a huge fan. I LOVE Kelly Reichardt’s movies and Lucrecia Martell’s, they both make me feel excited about film again.

What do you do when you don’t know what to do?

I play video games on my phone.

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