*** Trigger warning***
*This article contains sensitive content regarding sexual assault and violence.
A force of insight, this artist is not just a pleaser of aesthetic. Linda Litteral’s art speaks to the weight and importance of her vision, allowing a sense of depth, connection, and light to filter in through each artwork she creates. There is so much to the story of Ms. Linda --as she is affectionately called by some-- that to simply write an interview or straightforward article would do her no service. As we champion the work of individuals, one must not forget that the strength which lies in the conviction of an individual is the fortification of the collective. It is through her voice we speak, even in the most subtle of ways..
Litteral’s story begins in the midwest. Born in Jackson, MI her humble beginnings paved the way for an interesting life. Despite an outwardly idyllic upbringing, tragedy was not too far off. Her younger years were tainted by a secret she only parted with later in adulthood. In her youth, Litteral was sexually abused by a close family member. This incesetual molestation began tragically early and continued until she began her cycles; creating a cycle of secrecy and drawing inward. Like most victims of sexual abuse, the impact of this destructive situation left her with internal wounds that were not worked through until later in her life. As an attempt to distance herself from a world she was not fully invested, Litteral married quite young. At the age of eighteen she left behind her family and the secrets she wanted to keep buried -at this point she had not shared her story with anyone. She went to school and began working in engineering. Finding more challenges to overcome, while adjusting to married life she found that her first husband was violent. Not long after they married a daughter was born, but after three years in the marriage Litteral filed for a divorce. Even after the divorce was finalized, the fear mongering from her ex continued, this coupled with the oil embargo and a lack of jobs in the area left her with a reason to move on, until she finally landed in California.
Once she arrived in San Diego Litteral stayed with a cousin enlisted in the navy and began working in the engineering department at a firm in town. With change and progress in the air, she met her future husband, Lance. This would mark a turning point in the artist’s life and a time that would preface a dramatic change in her career trajectory. As with most servicemen, Lance’s job demanded a constant flow of changing locations and new homes. During this time Litteral settled into a new life, taking the time with her daughter and tending to the home, in addition to working in tooling and production design. After another move took the family to another city, she found herself encountering severe issues finding employment in her previous field; they didn’t want to hire a woman. Coming out of this, Litteral casually stumbled into ceramics and began taking classes at Duke’s Clay and Fine Art. It was destined to be the next chapter of her career, filling her heart and mind with thoughts and ideas that hadn’t previously been a focus. Finding pleasure in the arts, she divested her tenacious energy to this new passion. Litteral began taking courses and eventually completed an MFA from SDSU, with a focus on ceramics. Although it is one of her preferred mediums, the artist does not limit herself to just one. Instead, she uses each new medium as a different point of inflection from which she instills a message that is interred by knowing audiences, as well as those passionate about aesthetic or art simply for the sake of appearance.
Now based in San Diego, the artist continues to create and show work in California as well as internationally. In addition to her time spent creating, she is currently teaching at a state prison, a detention and re-entry facility, and maintaining a Director position with FIG (Feminist Image Group). When asked about future plans in a previous interview Litteral replied, “I plan to continue making art. With the political climate as it is, I shall be a continued voice for those who have a difficult time speaking. Women are habitually attacked and silenced, I will not shut up.”
Please read on for a small snippet of our interview with this enlightening and inspiring artist.
AA: As some of your work is heavily influenced by the weight of the issues you address, do you think it informs how people interact with you work?
LL: Yes, I believe there is a personal connection that occurs simply by looking at it. They understand the imagery although it doesn’t explicitly say that is what the piece is about. It happens more often than you would think. Where people have a visceral response to my work, even lthough it may not be patently obvious it’s about incest. It is obvious to people that have been in that situation, and I find that a fascinating part about it, because I don’t think I have found any artwork that I relate to in that way -other than my own.
AA: You have such a proactive outreach perspective / approach in your life. You are constantly helping and serving people in all walks of life (prisons. Do you think that your impact and influence on these people will create a new generation of artists?
LL: I hope so, I certainly hope so. Especially at Las Colinas Woman’s Prison, the women I teach there, about 80% of that population have been sexually abused at some point. And I think there is a direct correlation to them being in prison to that action that happened to them as children. By interrupting that action in the prison, by giving them access to art classes, that allows them to confront all those traumas. I think it gives them a new view of who they are and what they are, and what they can be. So then they will translate that to their children; that art is important and being creative is important and that being an individual and being strong within yourself is important, and that makes change. Art has some magical and mysterious way of reaching inside of us and finding those things that need to be healed and they just happen while you are being creative.
AA: Woman tend to stuff pain down and grow around it. You had trauma at an early age and went on to be a female engineer (in what was essentially a male dominated field), do you think there is a part of you that liked the resistance of it because you were internally fighting or pushing down these experiences?
LL: Definitely, it’s easier to fight back than to ignore it. Even though I was ignoring the trauma itself, I was fighting against those who had indirectly done it to me. I thought, if you have me in your world, then I am going to be in it, if you are going to make me be in it, I am going to do it and earn some money while I do. I’m not sure if it was a conscious thought, but it was certainly something I needed to heal. AA: Not to diminish the effort it involved to get into the industry, but do you think that being able to excel in the field further empowered you? LL: I think it showed me a way to be successful in a world that was foregin to me. Hm, I had never really thought about it that way. But, yes it did help me heal and grow in a lot of ways because it showed that I was able to be as productive as any man in that field, I could design things or make things work that others couldn’t, etc. I think it was a pretty critical part in my growing into the understanding of being a woman and make things happen in a world that doesn’t want you to take control of anything. Navigating and figuring out how to do it. It’s not so different now than it was then, I mean it is a little bit better I will say; because I know there are companies where women are working in male-dominated fields - I was the only woman- so it is better, but hopefully it can continue to get better.
AA: What role do women play now, and what do you think women can or should be doing to advocate for equal rights (not to diminish men, because men should not have to be diminished for the empowerment of women).
LL: One thing that we can all do without any outside help is to not shut up. Understanding and knowledge is the avenue to change, so the only way that men are going to change their views is by hearing what women’s views are, and the only way women are going to interact in a more cohesive way with men, is to listen to their views. So, until we understand each other and can come together to have good verbal intercourse, there isn’t going to be any change. Until we have some sort of concept of empathizing with your job or your fear of me taking your place because I want my place too, but we can all have places, we just have to make all the places equitable. How can we do that? Through knowledge and learning and understanding, I don’t think it can happen any other way. Someone could force it, but it would only be forced upon us. As artists, I think we have a unique way of being able to make our voices heard, through visual imagery. Sometimes visual imagery can get around, over or through all of your preconceived notions; visual imagery can hit you in a spot that your brain really doesn’t have any say over. And you can respond to that imagery in a way that can change your mind. I think that is the power of what art can do, it can underneath your prejudices or hate and show you a different way. So, artists have a powerful role if they can use it.
AA: Can you give me your takeaway from the incest and all of the things you’ve experienced thus far?
LL: If it hadn’t happened to me, I wouldn’t be who I am right now. I honor who I am right now, so I have to accept what had to happen to get me to the point I am in right now, as ugly as it was and as painful and as much angst that I still have about it. I really think I am supposed to be a voice for others, because I can. And that is why I make the art that I do.. I don’t really know this, because my mom and my aunts did not and couldn’t talk about it but I think it happened to her. I think it happened to my Grandpa who was the person that molested me, I think it was the only way he could figure out how to have any power in his situation, and he perceived it as power because it had happened to him -I think, no one ever said. I’ve asked all my siblings numerous times if they’ve ever touched or done anything inappropriate, and they have all said no. So hopefully, my generation took a stand and decided it would no longer happen in the future. I’m not sure how to address that, other than to say it has given me purpose for my art.. Rather than just being an artist of pretty things, I get to be an artist about important things. And the impact that it has on other people’s lives, those moments when people tell me their stories is very impactful for me. Because those stories are so hard to tell, and they feel safe with me to tell me their stories after they see my work. We have to have it out in the open or else it will never change. I have been thinking about it a lot, I am getting older now, so if I have about 20 years of an active art life left. So what can I actually do to impact lives around this issue, in a stronger or more direct way? What can I actually do to make a difference and make the world a better place? I haven’t quite been able to answer it yet, but it is a daily thought.
See more of Linda’s work at the exhibition listed below or at her website
INDOOR / OUTDOOR
CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT, FEMINISM
Collaborative Swedish American ART EXHIBITION at the Athenaeum Art Center and San Diego Art Institute (SDAI).
AAC: June 8–July 2, 2019 I Opening Reception: Saturday, June 8, 6–8 PM
SDAI: June 21–July 7, 2019 I Opening Reception: Sunday, June 23, 2–4 PM
Athenaeum Art Center I 1955 Julian Avenue, San Diego, CA 92113 I (619) 269-1981
San Diego Art Institute I 1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101 I (619) 236-0011
The Studio Door - Hillcrest http://thestudiodoor.com