By Sophia Green
Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your series.
Sophia Green: With these three pieces, I explore and question the beautiful rawness that is people’s inherent nature to how they express love, romance and passion–the duality between hard and vulnerable but also the lightness and dreaminess of its potential.
AM: What inspires you most?
SG: The cheesy but most authentic answer is my emotions. Specifically I believe, my emotional response[s] to all of my interpersonal relationships and/or human experiences. That is the key that turns my engine on to create. And since I started the car metaphor, once the engine starts and I’m on the road, aesthetically speaking, I’m drawn most to the view out the window. What I’m surrounded by, the city full of concrete with spits and spurts of nature here and there, which is my home, Los Angeles.
AM: What role does LA play in your work?
SG: Huge. I was born here for one, and I grew up here for two. Naturally, when it was time for college, I knew I wanted to go to... The University of Vermont. Still one of the best decisions I’ve made to date. BUT, having this break from my hometown made me understand and realize LA’s value. When I decided to move back home, I decided to embrace it for its brightness, amateurishness, sparkle, and reality. The sprawl of it, the streets, alleys, buildings, sidewalks, trees, mountains, the ocean, it’s fragile, and young, yet a bit decomposed. I don’t know; I just find the mess of it to be incredibly scintillating and ultimately incredibly inspiring.
AM: How did you first get into cement painting?
SG: [It was] exactly a year ago. I was laying in bed and thought, ’I want to create a TRUE still life…I need to [somehow] preserve a piece of fruit…forever…place it in cement…forever…this will make a REAL still life. Which means then, that the cement will essentially be the canvas…’
Then that idea, obviously [to me], led to the next idea: ‘So if cement is the canvas…what else can I put in/on it…And if cement is the canvas, then it’s actually the painting…And so on and so on and so on…’ I was up half the night thinking about the endless possibilities and could not wait to wake up the next morning and hit the hardware store up to buy my first bag of cement. I simply chose to ignore the fact that I knew nothing about cement and had zero clue as to whether any of it would actually work. Dozens of rotted epoxied apples and slabs of broken concrete later, I was sitting outside one day, after yet another failed attempt, with a bucket of sludge (what I call leftover cement sediments) leftover and my 18”x24” sketch pad. I hadn’t noticed when some of this ‘sludge’ had gotten all over some of the paper, but it had dried really beautifully. And that was the moment, I guess, when my lightbulb really went off. It’s been a year now, and I hate to toot my own horn, but the development and process has been really fucking interesting, challenging, and fascinating. The greatest aspect is that it keeps going everyday. Daily, I’m inspired with new ideas and new possibilities–they’re entirely endless!
AM: Could you briefly share the process of creating one of your pieces?
SG: I quickly learned that making slabs of concrete the size I wanted was going to be physically impossible. So now I use wood, cement board, or real canvases as the physical foundation of my pieces. Depending on which base I go with, I may or may not have to prime the board with some sort of adhesive. I use Regular Portland Cement Type I and Lehigh White Portland Cement, that I hand mix with sand. There is definitely a ‘proper’ ratio when mixing, which I have also chosen to ignore. I’ve learned by trial and error, and now my ratio depends on the texture I am going for–more water [makes it] thinner and more sand [makes it] grainier. I mix it all by hand and then just start applying it to my base (I always start with gloves, but they always end up coming off eventually). For colors, I used to only use cement dyes, which was very limiting. About a month ago, I started incorporating oil paints mixed with paint thinner, and I feel this new world of color is really taking everything to the next level.
AM: What themes do you pursue in your work?
SG: Many. But, in a nutshell, I’m really most intrigued with the destructive dance and co-habitating or existing relationship between urban structure, nature, and us [humans]. We’ve built society on a literal concrete foundation and practically decimated our natural environment in the process. Nature has its way of fighting back, yet we strive for a more natural existence and landscape. I see the beauty in the decay and cracks on the walls and in the street or where grass or the lone flower desperately peaks out of the sidewalk for air. It’s a relationship. I’m aware we aren’t going to tear down the walls and let the trees reign once again, so instead of fighting it, I choose to honor it. By using the ultimate resource that inherently destroys, I want to make our ‘unnatural’ world look a little more natural, and hence, a little more beautiful.
AM: What else can we expect to see from you?
SG: Currently, I am looking for a city wall! And after that, hopefully a lot.
Sophia Green was born and raised in LA. She was schooled in the woods of Burlington Vermont, where she studied art, history and sociology. "Cement is my paint, my hands are my brushes. Concrete is my art and expression." You can see more of her work at sophia-green.com.