Ziran Muse: Lucien Shapiro
Artist Lucien Shapiro is my ongoing muse and a deep source of inspiration. He has influenced the evolution of Ziran in many ways, from being more intentional, adapting a DIY mentality, focusing on craft, and embracing boundless creativity. I feel like before I met him Ziran was always trying to chase and grab things above, with arms flailing. Then after, Ziran is more focused on spreading roots, grounding and growing deep into the earth.
Lucien, if it isn’t obviously known, is also my husband and baby daddy. The last 9 months we have been fortunate to live in Roswell, New Mexico as part of the RAiR artist residency. This has been a monumental experience for our family, specifically giving us the time and space to learn how to be parents, explore what is important in our respective practices, and cement what we value as human beings.
So, I wanted to share Lucien in his studio, which is his haven. If he could be in the studio 24 hours a day and just take a pill to eat and sleep he would. I have never known anyone else to be so focused, so inspired, and have so much energy towards their work. He has carved a unique, deeply admirable practice for himself. And yet with the arrival of our daughter Meilu, he has opened up even more and given her a beautiful space to live and thrive in too. He is a wonderful father and we’re so lucky.
It’s also his birthday today so this is a celebration of a remarkable human!!
You have begun referencing our daughter a lot in your new work - why is this important for you? Is it conscious or subconscious?
I always reference what is closest to me and whatever it is I’m processing or living through. It’s hard to not want to honor our great co-creation. During the early stages of my recent show, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was making until near the end. Subconsciously and consciously, it was about my family, specifically our daughter. The self-examination of becoming a father… what that means, and what kind of father I want to be. And us as parents - or pillars - to guide this new life through this often disgusting yet beautiful world. I think referencing Meilu gives a gift through an object. It’s a relic of love that continues to live in the world.
If you lived on an island with only 2 snacks what would they be?
Watermelon and salt/pepper chips with ridges.
How has fatherhood changed you? What do you miss about your past life/what are you looking forward to in the future?
Fatherhood has instantly changed two things about me: I am no longer the most important, and nothing else is more important than her. It’s hard to say if I miss any part of life before. I suppose I often long for a moment of space and time, but I know that will come, so I don’t want to miss all the tiny wonderful moments between. I’m looking forward to relearning life through new eyes. Watching and teaching Meilu to be a strong, smart, independent human.
What are your hopes for Meilu?
I hope she sees a world willing to change, people willing to love, forgive, and create actual community. Above all I just want her to be happy.
Art for art's sake versus art for commerciality and making a living. How do you balance and work through this inherent tension?
Art for art's sake always, which eventually in this world becomes commercial. I guess at the moment I've been incredibly lucky to have had the support to create and make a living. I know for many of us it’s a small window of time, so I am just grateful for the last decade where I have been fortunate enough to freely create, and grow, and eat, and live. The whole “making art with the goal of selling it” has always been difficult for me. In less modern times, the artists in villages, tribes, or other cohabitating communities were chosen at a young age and not only were they artists but were healers, seers, intuits etc. Call me a dreamer but I miss these traditions and ideas.
If you could make and exhibit any show (with unlimited budget, location, materials, etc) what would it be?
Easy, it would be a
What do you love about sculpture specifically?
I began art college doing 3D modeling animation, and switched to sculpture and fine art during the first semester. It felt comfortable and safe working around a space and creating an object/form. Really I love creating textures and small moments within each piece. Almost like tiny escapes from reality. Sculpture has just been the thing that always keeps me curious, open, and obsessed. It’s definitely one of my greatest loves. Because at the end of the day sculpture can be and is whatever you want it to be... it doesn’t ever have to be anything.
What is your favorite material to work with?
Recently, its earth, salt and glue. Something about all aspects of its creation feels good, fun, and free. Most of my other materials are favorites too but pose more of a strict role guide.
What are you looking forward to as we leave this residency?
I’m looking forward to continuing our search for home. Exploring new places with you both. Visiting the mountain. Seeing friends and family. Eating good foods. Writing. Not having a large studio constantly whispering nothings to me will be nice to slow down on creating, if that’s possible.
Anything new/exciting you are working on in your art practice?
I am currently finalizing work I’ve coined Earth Spells or Land Maps… they have many names. After a couple years of trying to figure them out, I think I'm close. It would be nice to create a large scale series for a show. Also we are working on doing some home goods that hopefully get dialed in by the new year. I’ve also been revisiting some figurative busts that I've been meaning to explore. Just having fun really. Who knows when I will have the space to do this again.
Who is Lucien Shapiro?
I have been relearning this question over the last few years. First and foremost I am a husband and father. These are interchangeable and equally gold. I am artist, creator, wanderer, explorer, student, human, raven, rattler, lion, hermit, mischievous, curious, lost, found, humble, proud, unsure, confident. If I were to know who I am fully, I may already be gone.
Creative Direction: Kelly Wang Shanahan (@theziran)
Muse: Lucien Shapiro (@lucienshapiro)
Photography: Brad Trone (@bradtrone)
Sidekick: Meilu Astra Shapiro
Shot in Roswell, New Mexico. April 2023.