26 Questions for Sculptor Lucy Skaer

Detail of Lucy Skaer's "Us to Them," 2012
(Courtesy the Artist and Murray Guy, New York; Photo by Jason Mandella)

Name: Lucy Skaer
Age: 36
Occupation: Artist
City/Neighborhood: Brooklyn

What project are you working on now?

A show for Murray Guy called “Harlequin is as Harlequin Does.” It is about pattern and disruption.

"Scene, Hold, Ballast," your new show at Sculpture Center, places your work alongside sculptures, paintings, and films by David Maljkovic. How would you compare your work to his?

I think we have tactics in common, but to different ends.

Your most well-known sculpture, "Leviathan Edge," incorporates the 15-foot skull of a minke whale, which you borrowed from the National Museum of Scotland. How did you convince the museum to lend it to you?  

Well, they said no initially, so I drove up there and was very present and persistent. 

Another well-known work of yours, "Black Alphabet," recasts Constantin Brancusi's famous "Bird in Space" sculptures in compressed coal dust. Would you consider yourself an appropriation artist? Why or why not?

No, because I use artists' work for what it can do formally. My work isn’t an issue of identity or a challenge to authenticity. It’s a borrowing in the same vein as the original.

In addition to sculptures and paintings, your new show also includes a film about a projector in an abandoned cinema. You've said this film "seeks to exist as the imagined subconscious of the projector itself.”  If the projector's subconscious could talk, what would it say?

Mmmmmmmmmm. Five. Four. Three. Two. One.  Blip.  Mmmmmmmmmm.

What's the last show that you saw?

Rita Sobral Campos at Cage in New York.

What's the last show that surprised you? Why?

I think Tacita Dean’s Turbine Hall commission for how close it came to digital.

What's your favorite place to see art?

Kunsthalle Basel. I love the flow of rooms and the epic feel.

Do you make a living off your art?

At the moment.

What's the most indispensable item in your studio?

Last week it was a custom-built hand-held punch tool I used to cut a rectangular hole in each frame of a 35mm filmstrip. It worked 25,000 times.

Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?

I am in an auto-cannibalistic phase.

Do you collect anything? 

Bikes. I’ve given up counting how many.

What's the last artwork you purchased?

An old penny defaced by a British suffragette. On the face of the king they stamped “Votes for Women.”

What's the first artwork you ever sold?

A drawing, sold to my brother. It was a Venn diagram, and lives on top of my Mother’s wardrobe. 

What's the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery? 

My friend Bob singing at all of Henry VIII’s Wives (our collaborative group’s) openings.

What's your art-world pet peeve?

Printed matter made to predetermine the layout and content of shows.

What's your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?

The looser bar, any variant is fine.

Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?

Not a routine; it’s more fast or feast.

Know any good jokes?

Scotland’s response to its first major hurricane in living memory. They called it Hurricane Bawbag. Google can tell you what that means.

What's the last great book you read?

“The Waves,” by Virginia Woolf.

What work of art do you wish you owned?

The cave paintings at Lascaux.

What would you do to get it?

Attack with a pickaxe.

What international art destination do you most want to visit?

The Hermitage.

What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?

Hanneline Visnes, a very interesting painter in Glasgow.

Who's your favorite living artist?

At the moment I am interested in Rosmarie Trockel in all her forms.

What are your hobbies?

Renovating my half made house in Lewis, in the Outer Hebrides to the west of Scotland.