April 20, 2015
I WAKE UP: WORK, WORK, WORK, & I AM HAPPIEST!
Mario Laplante is a printmaking artist and educator at San Francisco State University. Mario, a French Canadian-American, constructs objects that are collaged with various attachments of printed materials. His works cross the media of printmaking, craft, sculpture and installation and reflects his identity as a multicultural being who is part of two countries and two languages.
Mario has been one of my mentors here at the university. The craftsmanship and detail found in his work drew me closer to his teachings and techniques. I continue to learn and love the practice of printmaking, and I am beginning to incorporate these ‘flat-file,’ or 2D works, within the boundaries of my 3D sculptural works. My sensibilities as a multicultural being coincide with the themes represented in the simply articulated works of Mario Laplante.
Mario Lapalante (ML): How many years have we worked in the studio together?
Dean Levita (DL): About two years or so… I took my very first printmaking class with you when I was on the verge of getting kicked out of the university.
ML: (burst out laughing) and you never stick with the rules either!
DL: haha no I never did!
DL: You’ve guided many students through the elaborately painstaking yet highly rewarding process of relief printing, intaglio, lithography, book arts, mixed media and so on. It would be great to hear the story behind your art.
ML: Well, have you researched me online?
DL: Of course, I have. I’ve seen a few pieces that are in a circular form with a lot of patterns almost like a microscopic view into things.
ML: So what makes you think of microscopic? Is it because of the circling in.
DL: Yes, definitely, so let’s talk about your work.
ML: This [artwork] is called, Dennison. The story behind this one is about the studio that I had in the city and the guy next door had a printshop and he was like in his mid-60s. He decided to close shop because he couldn’t adapt to the new technology. He wasn’t willing. He did some offset litho, did some slight digital work, but he wasn’t willing to convert to the more recent technology, so he decided to close shop.
At the back of his counter he had boxes and boxes of old Dennison labels and boxes of all kinds of paper for printing. I went back there and the smell was aged and old like this man’s shop has stopped in time. I took the entire Dennison labels that are tiny and beautiful. That’s what this red is. So most of this is done with this particular material that is screen-printed and backed with gum (glue). That’s how this piece generated. I wanted to use Dennison labels, the amount that I have, and create a single piece that I would use as a pattern from the center out. The center of it is gilded (it’s gold) like old books; the edge is lined with a tiny bit of gold. Everything in there is printed material. Digital images here, silkscreen print, everything is a major collage work. I’m totally into collage.
The other day, a student came up to ask me to teach a collage and I thought that’s what I do. I gather printed materials and I glue it into an object. At first, I considered myself an object maker, but that objectness turned into pieces that can be hung and experienced from one vantage point as opposed to three-dimensional.
DL: Sign me up on that collage class!
ML: Yeah, it’s bringing it out of my studio and into the class. I’ve always done it, but how to teach a collage class I would have to really think about it.
DL: That change of focus and attention from your personal work and educational contributions are very dynamic. You teach the rigorous process of printmaking yet your work is a transformation of the traditional paper works into a dimensional object. It reflects my sensibilities as a Filipino in America, experiencing duality from a mixture of cultural, political, and social influences. My work as an artist combines multiple media into one, dictating a new change from tradition.
ML: When that works for you. It happens very fast. I’ve always pushed printmakers into sculpture because that’s what my inclination was. If the two of them are coming together then that is pleasant but if it’s not, that’s a struggle I went through. If you go through that struggle yourself, I go through it, right now, and it’s an ongoing struggle how to make paper dimensional.
But I was always eager to work dimensional like that. My journey to that is through Book Arts. I went from doing flat work, which I wasn’t really good at. I felt like I struggled because I was looking for content, and I switched to the format of a book where a narrative can be built. The title, image, and poem I thought I was able to give dimension to the book. I learned binding, gluing, sewing, and all the manipulation of paper and binding rules got me to do the things I’m doing now. I needed to do things with my hands.
DL: What are you doing now? You’re here all the time, so how do you find time to put in your personal work?
ML: I’ve always taught three classes for three days, so yeah I’m here often. It’s the biggest challenge ever, and I’m an art teacher that’s my job. I do it, and it is a challenge that requires a lot of discipline to allocate a certain amount of hours a week to do the work. In the summer, it becomes more regular. I have a month of residency that I sort of do. The rest of the summer is like a daily, go-to-the-studio-everyday, like a job. During the week, when I teach, I use two days that I devote for my personal work. The rest of time is teaching and weekend is social. I have to have a social life. I have to weigh that in, to be with family and friends.
In the summer for one month, I rent this house; it’s not far from the city of Bathe, Maine. It’s at Indian Point. Maine has incredible fingers of land that just spreads out. This house that I’ve been renting for 3 or 4 years now, at the tip, is surrounded by the Atlantic. The windows give way to the ocean. I stay there for a month, and work for a month. I wake up: work, work, work, work and I am happiest! I had medical test results after I did the residency for myself, and the numbers were so much better. It was really good for me, so I’ve been doing this every summer for the past three years going on my fourth year now where I isolate myself just doing work.
DL: Solitude seems to play a major role in your personal process. Does it get lonely?
ML: I do it with a colleague of mine, Diane Fine, I’ve been collaborating with her for about 30 years. We’ve done a body of work that I don’t really talk about, but it exists in the East Coast. It exists when she and I come together and that’s what we do. A portion of the stay, the morning is our own work and in the afternoon, we collaborate. The language that we’ve developed, the two of us, we’ve talked about it, questioned it, it’s intuitive, formal and it’s interesting as I become different when I work with her. We had a show that we did together in Plattsburg, New York at their museum. It is pretty remarkable and I realize that we’ve been doing it for so many years.
It’s really an interesting process to be sharing a surface with another person whose aesthetic is very different from yours. The fact that I use color in my work is because of Diane Fine. She’s color galore, bold, no fear. I’ve learned a lot from her as she’d learned a lot from me. A lot of her work she was doing last year was circular, and I know that I’ve had some influence in her way of using that.
DL: What and where are your most recent shows and exhibitions?
ML: One just ended, Red and Other Color. This summer in June, I’m part of a biennial in Quebec, Canada where four of my recent works is to be shown. Texas National 2015, an annual print show and some juried show that I am in. I’m proud of the Dennison piece which is in a magazine called, Art in Print. I’m also a part of The Contemporary Print 2015 at Big Medium in Austin, Texas.
DL: Mario, thank you so much for your time! The collection of your work and your story is truly inspirational. I’m looking forward to seeing your collection with Diane Fine in the future.
Mario Laplante’s oeuvre as an artist exemplifies his personal adaptation and transformation as a French Canadian in the United States. This duality, reflect his transformation of two-dimensional into three-dimensional works which continually question and explore his being as an artist.
More can be seen here – http://online.sfsu.edu/laplante