Get to Know Us: An Interview with Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo
About the interviews: The Richmond Art Center is fortunate and proud to work with a diverse and growing number of artists and teachers who engage with our students at the Art Center as well as in our local communities. We want to share some of these wonderful people with you, to inspire your own artistic path, take a class, or learn more. See all of our interviews here.
In this interview, meet Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, our Studio Education Coordinator.
Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo was born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles. She received her BFA from California College of the Arts in Oakland and San Francisco, specializing in printmaking. Branfman-Verissimo has had solo exhibitions at E.M. Wolfman in Oakland and Bolivar Gallery in Los Angeles. She has also exhibited and performed work at Osaka Art University, Highways performance space, Miles Memorial Playhouse, Southern Exposure and the Berkeley Art Museum. Branfman-Verissimo was the 2015 Yozo Hamaguchi fellow at Kala Institute in Berkeley, is the co-founder of the seven-week long, cross-country artist residency, Rooted America, and is founder and lead curator at Nook Gallery in Oakland. You can see her work at http://www.lukazabranfman-verissimo.com
Q. What do you find most inspiring about working at the Richmond Art Center?
The interdisciplinary nature in which the center runs, and the continually transforming ways we work together. I find special joy and inspiration in working and collaborating with the Art in the Community Department, always learning from each other and developing new approaches and ways to look at the craft of teaching art.
I also love being surrounded by art making all day long! Being able to walk into the ceramics classroom and watch someone throw a vessel and then to the printmaking shop and see a student peel back a print from the etching press, then to walk into our exhibition space and see our community soaking up the art.
I look forward to more overlap and connection of programs and the growth of this great place!
Q. How did you become involved with the Art Center?
I first found out about the Richmond Art Center through the Rosie’s Girls program, a national camp based on the history and legacy of the Rosie the Riveter figure during the WWII era. The camp was created to empower Middle School/early High School aged girls through the study of women’s history, self expression, as well as art and trade skills, including carpentry, welding, firefighting, plumbing and auto mechanics. I was a Rosie’s Girl throughout my middle and high school years. Many years later, having stayed in touch with the national program, the Richmond branch of the camp asked me to be a visiting artist. It was there that I facilitated a women’s empowerment “wooden book” project and had the pleasure of travelling to the Richmond Art Center with the camp. I love to think about the many unexpected places in which our lives cross paths, and Richmond Art Center is certainly one of those places in my life.
Q. What was your path to becoming an artist? Please share some of your favorite work.
I have always made art, from painting in my childhood kitchen, to my parent’s ongoing support to continue making and from participating in every museum art camp in Los Angeles to my decision to attend art school. I include my incredible experiences at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s summer art camp in Los Angeles, side by side with my work at the Santa Monica Museum of Art, as well as studying printmaking at California College of the Arts and my first post-grad solo show in Los Angeles. My path has been, and continues to be, influenced by the many communities and histories that surround me, the experiences I collect under my belt, the people I meet and the places I visit. The archive that I have stored in my mind and in boxes and boxes in my studio, are creating this path for me.
Video: TRACES, the stories of 22 objects, wrapped and read aloud by Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, April 2015
Q. Who are your inspirations?
So many inspirations and people/ideas that have influenced my work!
I am inspired by Grace Lee Boggs, The Quilters of Gee’s Bend, Mickalene Thomas, Angela Davis, the long line of women activists in my family, Miriam Makeba, the color blue and the ways in which indigo has been used in the African continent and into the American South, the Freedom Riders of Montgomery, Alabama, Emory Douglas, Louise Bourgeois, Ruth Asawa, the Black Mountain College, Project Row Houses, and how my grandma (vovo) in Brazil taught me to make collard greens (couve) and sing in the kitchen. Artists, activists, writers, thinkers, theorists, histories, movements, hard work and organizing.
Q. What do you like to do when you’re not at the Art Center?
When I am not coordinating the Studio program, I am doing multiple things. I am working late into the night in my studio, making prints, sculptures, objects that archive, collecting stories that become sculptures or drawings, dunking everything in blue. I am reading books and checking out books from my local public library. I am curating and organizing shows in the gallery that I founded in my house, supporting contemporary artists and fresh ideas. I am exhibiting my work locally and nationally, creating performances that tell stories, map places, create community. I am going to marches and being influenced by the politics and activism around me – the Black Lives Matter work and the fight for fair teacher wages. I am spending time in the natural world, painting the sky and taking in the beauty of the bay Area.
Q. What’s on your bucket list?
Over the summer of 2015, I organized and designed a countrywide mobile artist residency, studying and meeting artists/ communities/ projects that make work within their community. Making meals, dancing, creating prints and collecting stories in community members backyards, houses and schools (for more info: rootedamerica.tumblr.com). I would like to do a similar project but on a larger global style. Spending time in several different countries, getting to know artist communities on a larger level.
Q. If you could meet one artist, living or not, who would it be and why?
Louise Bourgeois. I am a huge fan of her delicate drawings/embroideries, large scale sculptural work, creation of environments and beautiful journals. The versatility of her work and the effect her work has on the viewer, emotionally and physically. It would be a dream come true to soak up all her brilliance, while spending time in her messy New York studio!
Thank you, Lukaza.
Slideshow image captions:
1: traces 1, monotype,collagraph, screen print, great grandma sonia’s fabric scraps, desert branches, rope, paper tape, wood, treasures, cherry wood, nails, cassette tapes, wire, pigment from death valley, palm tree bark, titus canyon rock, milagros, 2015; 2: traces 1, monotype,collagraph, screen print, great grandma sonia’s fabric scraps, desert branches, rope, paper tape, wood, treasures, cherry wood, nails, cassette tapes, wire, pigment from death valley, palm tree bark, titus canyon rock, milagros, 2015; 3: a performance that preserves stories, 22 stories, objects, mixed media, 2015; 4: inkwell, indigo dyed santa monica newspaper, historial photos, monotype, watercolor, plastic bags, sand from inkwell beach in santa monica, ca, a blue horizon/dividing line; 5: Rooted America, image from a printmaking workshop at Project Row Houses, Houston, TX; 6: untitled (2), monotype, 2015-2016; 7: story collecting: two-hour sessions, in which the artist will collect community stories about speaking out. with the guidance of the storyteller, the artist will turn the stories into sculptural objects that will then remain on display as part of the exhibition. the sculptures will be returned to the storyteller at the end of the show. tell me a story. 8 hours of listening, 35 stories, mixed media, 2015-2016; 8: places of home, 270 screen printed postcards, metal postcard rack, 2015 the public was invited to take a postcard home; 9: traces 2, monotype, collagraph, chine colle, wrapped packages, 2015