Lorna Simpson uses combinations of image and text to examine the processes through which meaning and understanding take place. Here Simpson shows TateShots how she arrived at this methodology and why her surroundings are so important to her work.
I love New York and I love Brooklyn particularly. I just like the vibe of it, I like the intensity, I like that it's open all hours of the night. It's a great place to live because of its diversity, and it's a very international city. Popular culture, music, sports, entertainment, the art world – I think all of it for me is of an influence, beckoning me to steal or admire.
The work takes these different genres and goes through them but there's kind of a thread there so you say the same thing in many different ways over the course of one's life. Everything that I would choose to do comes from the same sort of impetus, the same sort of desire.
I have a bunch of Ebony magazines, actually, that were my grandmother’s. One day I was just looking through them and, I don’t know, I just came up with the idea of making collages with them and then started collecting them and finding them.
A lot of the ads from that period were before and after shots so they're very funny because the women don’t look like before and after, like they needed make-up or improvement, it's more like their attitude changes in some kind of weird way. Even this piece here, it's a silkscreen on felt piece and it too is a before and after shot about…it's a kind of beauty ad.
Five Day Forecast was done at a time where I had secretarial jobs and all these different kind of receptionist jobs to help support myself as an artist, and the different experiences of being in different work environments influenced the work. So Five Day Forecast is the events or forecasting what could happen within one's week.
Really it’s about being inspired by something and looking at it and saying to myself, what would make the piece interesting, or, what would be an interesting conceptual approach to a particular idea? Sometimes the answer to that is something completely that I've never done before. I just have to succumb to that and go, okay, so now I'm going to do drawings? Great, I don’t really draw, but we’ll try that.
More recently I've been doing stuff on analogue photography in the ’30s to about the ’70s of basketball players. Different images that have crop marks for reproduction in a newspaper. I just think all these different kinds of marks are really beautiful.
You know, it's all risk at the end of the day. I am never sure that a piece works. I think my relationship to process is such that, if the process of making it and thinking about it is interesting and challenging, then that’s 90 per cent of the way. The end product, well then, that’s whatever it is.