Andy Nasisse & Lauren Gallaspy | Local Artists

12/14/2012 | Amy Tibbals
Cody Derrick

Andy Nasisse & Lauren Gallaspy are ceramic savants. Wizards, virtuosos...a hundred other terms that mean the same. Their individual works speak for themselves, really, and the additional - yes, additional - talents are far-reaching; photography, sculpture, and painting are just a few within bounds. Having landed recently in Sugarhouse, we can't say enough how thrilled we are that SLC is their new home. It's quite clear that these two love what they do. Each piece is as intriguing as the collection is impressive. Full disclosure, we find it decidedly tough to find the words that match the talent. They're each well-known and highly-respected artists...and just like that, our city's up two creative geniuses. Big, fat, happy 'welcome' to you both.

We love the work you each do, and quite frankly, we're thrilled to have you as recent Salt Lake imports. What was it? How did you make the decision to move here?

Andy: About five years ago, we were here for the Outdoor Retailers show. We had been on a rock-climbing road trip in Colorado, Moab, Maple Canyon, and finished up here. My son, Carlo, who lives in Austin, was in a competition at a rock gym called "The Front". We really liked Salt Lake and thought that we could live here sometime. When a teaching job in art came up at the U, Lauren applied. She also applied for jobs in Madison and in Montreal, and got interviews at both, but we were thrilled that they offered her the job here because it was our first choice. Carlo was about to graduate from high hchool and was accepted to UT in Austin, so it just seemed like a good time to make a change. The town we lived in for many years [Athens, GA] is a great place, and we loved many things about the south, but we felt like a big change would be exciting. Lauren was having a lot success with her art and she loves teaching, plus the faculty at the U seemed really friendly and supportive, so here we are!

Lauren: I was hired about a year ago as an Assistant Professor of Fine Art in Ceramics at the University of Utah. Andy and I and our son, Carlo, had spent a few days in Salt Lake City previously, and we were struck then by its unique beauty and positive atmosphere. When the opportunity arose to start a new life in SLC, we were excited by the possibility, and, after 7 months of living here, we haven't been disappointed.

As newbies to the city we love, are there qualities/quirks/details that you're pretty excited about?

Andy: I think Salt Lake is the perfect city. It has all the great things that cities offer; good restaurants, museums, a solid music scene, film, dance, art, a youthful vibe, and it's surprisingly progressive, but without many of the bad things associated with big cities like traffic and crime. It is incredibly easy to get around and the people here seem really genuine, friendly, and non-judgmental. I love the way people here take such pride in their homes and I love seeing so many creative solutions to renovating these older places. Of course the natural setting, being on the cusp between the desert and the mountains with that exotic lake, canyon lands, sking, climbing, biking, all make this one of the most amazing cities in the world! For me, living here is like being on vacation all the time!

Lauren: The mountains, the sunsets, the ease and accessibility of the city, the snow, Sundance and other cultural events, the uniqueness of the houses and neighborhoods, the restaurants, the enthusiasm for nature and being in nature including, of course, the skiing; there's a lot to be excited about.

How about the things that are confusing you? We're good at answering state-specific, 'embarrassing' questions, should you have any...

Andy: Having lived in the deep south, the heart of the "bible belt," we are used to seeing the effects of passionate faith, and how religion can inspire and inhibit the creative imagination. Organized religion, like society in general, can be hard on those individuals who don't fit the norm, but Salt Lake seems to be truly and surprisingly diverse in many ways.

Lauren: I've got this weirdly shaped freckle on my shoulder…oh, wait…that's probably not what you meant by 'confusing'. The only thing that confuses me about SLC is why everyone wouldn't want to live here, but I'm happy that, at least for now, it's still a bit of a secret.

Your place is incredible...especially the collection of ceramics. Do you have any favorite pieces?

Andy: We have a lot of wonderful examples of folk or outsider art and some great ceramic pieces. We try to buy work that has humanity, depth of meaning, and real power. We love having utilitarian art be an intimate part of our daily lives, and both of us make some functional pieces, as well as sculptural work. We see our house as an installation of art objects that hopefully add up to more than the sum of the individual pieces.

Lauren: It's hard to pick a favorite because many of the pieces we own have a personal history, and all of them contain some presence of the artists who made them. Moreover, good work changes as you change and continually offers new ideas and provokes new reactions. The few pieces of Andy's that we have been able to keep are constant reminders of the power and profundity of intuitive art-making to me; the mystery and humanity of his work never fails to move me. We both deeply value the outsider art that we live with and around, and these are often the pieces that provoke the most questions from visitors. The portrait of Andy by the folk artist, Howard Finster, is a personal favorite because it possesses all of the warmth, intelligence, and fervor that Finster epitomized, while beautifully depicting the kindness, humor, and generosity of my husband. We have an old Mexican piñata mold in the shape of a teddy bear that feels a little like a third pet, and the afghani grain storage chest, cut down to fit in front of our fireplace, is beautiful in its delicacy and complexity.

Can you tell us a bit about your work, focus, etc.?

Andy: I think we are both grateful to be able to explore and be curious in all aspects of our lives, not just in the studio but with music, film, literature, food, etc. We both work on our art all the time and are lucky to have a great dialogue between us regarding our work. Although making art can be one of the most self-critical things to do, it also offers moments of revelation. We're lucky that our work seems to mean something to others, as well.

Lauren: My work is largely about the vulnerability of living things and the consequences that can occur when bodies and objects in the world come into contact with one another. I work primarily in porcelain, making small-scale sculptures and vessels that are elaborated with complex, painted patterns and images. Having lived in the South my whole life, I like to think of myself as a storytelle.  I am always pleased and touched when others are interested in what I have to say through the things I love to make.

Our pal, Dalton, did a bang-up job on your creative/studio space. How does it feel to have that just 10 feet from your back door?

Andy: Yeah, thanks to cityhomeCOLLECTIVE, I was introduced to the great creations of Domain and found working with Dalton and crew to be a great experience! I love the space he built for me and I am spending quality time out there.

Lauren: As it's Andy's studio, I'm jealous, of course! Dalton and the Domain team did outstanding work on it.

You two are kind of a big deal in your field. We like when the crème de la crème migrate to SLC. Would you recommend it to other creatives?

Andy: We do and we have! Even though we have only lived here for about six months, we are strangely proud of this place. We are working on a number of friends to move here!

Lauren: Absolutely! While it seems to me that SLC is in an exciting transitional phase at the moment, it is already rich with energetic and active creative people of all kinds--dancers, visual artists, filmmakers, photographers, poets, etc.  The more we are able to communicate as artists, the more powerful and diverse the culture of Salt Lake City will become. I'm particularly proud of my colleagues and students at the University of Utah, and hope that the relationship between the SLC community and the school of fine arts continues to strengthen; that kind of energy can be an amazing asset for a city, and we should value and cultivate these connections.

Working on anything that's got you smiling at the moment?

Lauren: 90% of my smiling is initiated by our dogs (Remus and Elsinore), by Andy, and by my students. In the studio, I probably look more stern than I feel -- the joy around and engagement with my work exists as more of a suspended stimulation than a full-on smile. That being said, when something that you've made surprises you, it's hard not to smile.

Any particular event/thing/project that's keeping you up at night?

Andy: We have a geriatric bull dog named Ellie who snores so loud I am afraid the neighbors will complain!

Lauren: Thinking about my students' work, their progress and potential, and how I might better communicate an idea to them always keeps me thinking. And…our bulldog, Ellie's, snoring, which is a seven-wonders-of-the-world level of spectacular.

Andy Nasisse | Lauren Gallaspy

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