In this conversation Sanderson Morgan talks with Bachrun LoMele about design and his new prints.
Magazine Illustration, ca. 2003
Morgan: After you graduated from Art Center and U.C. Santa Cruz as a young man, you went to New York City to work as an Illustrator. You had such clients as New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Gourmet Magazine. These are significant accounts, so you must have had some success while doing this. What made you decide to become a full time fine artist in 2004?
Magazine Illustration, ca. 2003
LoMele: My intention all along had been to pursue “fine” art. I had chosen the illustration career thinking it might be a way to support the fine art path, and free it from any constraints of practicality. As it happened, I came into the illustration career exactly before all the world changes brought by computers, and needed to make a choice between shifting accordingly onto screens, or moving on. So, as I found the prospect of developing illustration/art on computers unappealing, it seemed that it was time to simply embrace my primary interest in an art free of practicality. This coincided with Mahalia and I deciding to move from NYC to the California mountains, pretty far from any city, town, or even gas station. Not practical at all.
Los Angeles Wilshire Center Cafe Gallery, exhibition view: Endpaper, left, and May Rain above doorway.
Los Angeles Wilshire Center Cafe Gallery, exhibition view:
Every Night I went to Sochi
Morgan: In your current exhibition at the Los Angeles Wilshire Center, through May, 2022, you installed a selection of works but the newest of them were prints from your new Heyday and Morning Paper series of prints and the earlier triptych entitled Endpaper with the left panel entitled Cucumber and the right panel entitled Acorn.
Here viewers could get a good look at these newer works for the first time in Los Angeles. Then there were a selection of earlier work, one such was Every Night I went to Sochi from your Understory series.
What is very clear to me with all these works, including the earlier illustrations, is your excellent sense of design. It seems most elemental and essential as it pervades all of your work.
LoMele: Design is very much a motivator and guide for me, but not exactly consciously – I just take it for granted, as fundamental. Being so pervasive it’s difficult to define. Speaking only for my own art efforts, design represents an individual’s attention, effort and energy, manifested in a physical object. It represents that individual in a way both particular and universal, I think – universal in that many others may connect with these traces. Wind and water, ship worms and bowerbirds, all leave their traces, and we humans have many such ways. So, in this sense, design is a trace of our human, and communicable, attention to worlds both inner and outer.
The Age of Fable (5)
Acrylic on illustration board
Morgan: In your series entitled The Age of Fable as seen on your website BachrunLoMele.com I am seeing here in # 5, a tableau of a world where trees grow in the air, a large bird rules the sky and a human toils with a vine on the ground. All this is wonderfully organized, the pictorial elements work to move us effortlessly around the scene, but we also need to deal with what all this might mean. What were you working for in this series?
LoMele: I began by thinking of these designs as terrariums, into whose preset rectangular “page” blanks I could set my own notions of nature, to grow over and around each other – notions influenced by direct experiences, fantasy, nature clichés. These notions could grow into the design from any of the sides of these terrariums. I spent enough time on each design to enable the notions to grow and affect each other. With these designs I was thinking about human caused climate change – so these are a kind of human-nature bio domes.
Woodblock print on stained paper
Morgan: The prints entitled Endpaper, presented as a triptych, seems related to the Age of Fable except that here nature is becoming seen in more emblematical forms. To me this a work that is celebrating nature, a composition of its many elements. Was it made after the Age of Fable images?
Lomele: Actually, I designed Endpaper first of all these pieces here, when we first moved to the mountains. I wanted something decorative and a bit old-timey to decorate a vacation rental cabin. Smoke is a pervasive element in the design, as I was increasingly aware of the risks and changes in this environment. So, I was responding to this environment, and choosing an aesthetic reminiscent of old book illustration.
Morgan: A recent series of prints entitled Morning Paper also seems to refer to early 20th century illustration and design. What is the geneses of these symmetrical designs? And how did the series title come about?
LoMele: I wanted some decorative pieces for our two vacation rental cabins, with images of the local Sierra creatures. I chose the small square format to fit into easily obtainable and inexpensive IKEA frames. I designed them for single color silkscreen printing, and with an Arts and Crafts aesthetic in mind, and also thinking of ceramic tile designs. The name for this set (and for more designs I am developing) – “Morning Paper” – is intended to evoke nostalgia for an ostensibly gentler and quieter pre-screen era.
Morgan: Then there is the new Heyday series. These feature animals in environments, some symmetrical, others not and all seem to have a papel picado inspired design.
This bear suggests Ursa Major descending from the stars, using clouds as steps, to visit the mountains.
LoMele: Yes, I was influenced by the party spirit of papel picado designs with these. Again, I was responding to the local flora and fauna, though not at all realistically.
Morgan: Owls is a complex design and of all in the series, the most representative of the cut paper technique. In Hey Day you are depicting animals that are living in the area of California you reside. What is your affinity with these neighbors?
LoMele: For the purpose of these types of designs, which I’m actually making to please people, animals are familiar and represent this natural environment. They bring stories with them.
Morgan: How did the series come to be called Heyday?
LoMele: I was thinking of the party spirit of papel picado, but at the same time of how quickly this natural environment is changing and degrading. So, there is some nostalgia for a past/passing world in the name.
Morgan: Of all the prints we’ve seen here, Treasure Report is the most singular and illustrative. There is quit a process being shown here! Subud members reading this might draw their own conclusions as to what that might be. Is this an instance where we leave the viewer to their own interpretations?