Kyla Hansen

Kyla Hansen is a Los Angelesbased sculptor who combines found objects, handcrafts, and Hollywood prop-­house materials in a scrappy language from desert suburbia. She received her Masters of Fine Art from Claremont Graduate University in 2012 and her Bachelor of Fine Art from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2009. Her work has been exhibited throughout the Greater Los Angeles Area, including Western Project, Torrance Art Museum, WEEKEND Space, the University of California, Long Beach, Raid Projects, UCLA New Wight Gallery. Her work has  been recognized in several publications including Modern Painters Magazine’s 24 Artists to Watch in 2013. Hansen lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.

Kyla's studio in Los Angeles.

Kyla's studio in Los Angeles.

Artist Interview

What role does text or language play in your work? 
Formally, I think something interesting happens to text, which is inherently two dimensional, when it is turned into something three-dimensional. Letters become shape and form. They move back and forth between being abstract and narrative. I see a comparison with the way objects move back and forth between being inanimate, and imbued with meaning. Objects and text in my work are both slippery in that way.

For me, objects, landscape, and language are tied. I was raised in, a rural, working-class part of Nevada. There is a lot of space, which is filled with scattered piles of objects. There is a lot of silent space too, that fills with familiar people talking in familiar phrases and stories. There was a nostalgic, heightened way of describing ordinary objects or places, through their associated memories. Those piles of objects, when voiced through stories, or language, give a layered history of a specific “place” in time. It’s archeological in a way.

I feel like my work is a jumble of objects, spaces, stories, and text that pile up to become new forms; possibly revealing something about the way one makes sense of their environment. Language is an important part of that equation.

Can you describe your process for creating titles for work? At what point in the creation of a work does it receive a title?
Sometimes the words come first. Most of the work that includes text starts with a word or phrase, which is used for the physical structure of the piece.

Generally though, the titles for work come at different times for different pieces. I keep a list for possible future titles, which includes crass rural colloquial phrases, song lyrics, or other words that share some sentiment with the western landscape.

You have been able to capture an array of fascinating effects through your use of resin. Have you always worked with resin and what interests you most about it as a material?
Thanks. I have been using resin for the last 3-4 years. For a while I lived within walking distance to an industrial manufacturer of rubber, plastic polymers, and other mold making and casting materials. I could go ask questions, look at samples, and try out various materials, which was really helpful. I ended up liking a specific epoxy resin that can be used on Styrofoam, cures clear, and fortunately is much less toxic than polyester resin. I am constantly surprised by what the resin and pigments decide to do. I only have control over it to a certain extent, which probably makes for a more interesting sculpture in the end.

I like using resin and other Hollywood prop-house casting materials for their ability to transform. That never really gets old for me. I also like using them for their obvious reference to props. It’s an important part of my content.

You use a great deal of found objects in your work, but the final sculptures very successfully exist as their own entity—is this important to you?
It’s important to me that they exist as both. The found objects have their own histories and realities, which we construct for them through associative meanings, nostalgia, mythologies, memories, class etc. I want those things to be a present part of the final sculpture. 

I try to make sculptures that exist as their own entity, but can be easily visually broken down into their component parts. Ideally they are slippery, moving back and forth between the two. I don’t aim for a surreal shock to the environment, but rather for a more generous compilation of objects that rhyme with rural inventiveness, tied together by logic of form.

How did you become interested in the form of the Geode?
I had been working with imagery from the rural western desert in my previous work, so the geode form was a pretty fluid shift. Geodes have a physical reference to the landscape over time. They are also supposed to have all these metaphysical properties, which I find interesting. Regardless of weather or not I believe in their elusive magic, there’s something fascinating about an object that permits that sort of belief.

Can you describe your process and how you begin to build your sculptures? Do you sketch or do you tend to work more intuitively?
I start out with a general end in mind, but some strangeness inevitably develops along the way. Sometimes it’s a slip in my process, the material, or the mold. Other times the sculptures just start to look really interesting when they’re half way finished. At a certain point I just start following that strangeness, and let the original idea morph and change. The result is always much more interesting. I try to embrace the makeshift qualities of rural aesthetics when I’m making sculptures. Sometimes things just look so good when they are just functional enough, with little initial care for the aesthetic outcome.

I rarely sketch. I write lists. I also and keep images handy of interesting things I see on my walk, in my hometown, or online.

A review of your show The End and Shit (great title by the way) in Las Vegas Weekly described your sculptures as “distant future artifacts,” is that a description that you feel corresponds to your body of work as a whole?
I like that description of the work. It was used specifically to describe the geodes, but I think it can relate to most of my sculptures.  I think there is a sense of new archeology in my work. Things look like they’re falling apart, coming back together, or both.

Where do you find most of your materials? Do you tend to keep a lot of objects around your studio for potential future use?
Yes. I do keep found objects in the studio for future use. If I see a piece of junk on the side of the road, in a thrift store, or in the desert that looks interesting I’ll usually drag it back to the studio. Some things get used right away, and others hang around for long periods of time. I’ve learned to be more selective about the things I bring in. There’s only so much space.  I also keep a general stock of damaged wood cut offs, thrifted afghans, notions, and foam.

Are there a few artists that you are looking at currently?

  • Wendy White
  • Betty Woodman
  • Michael Jones McKean
  • Ree Morton
  • Folkert de Jong
  • Lynda Benglis

What do you listen to while you work? Any music or podcasts we should check out?
I’ve mostly been listing to music while I work lately. A few on my regular rotation are The Abigails, Father John Misty, Grimes, and Best Coast.

If I have something task-based, I’ll turn on a podcast. I love listening to The Moth. It’s just people telling true stories in front of a live audience. This American Life, and Radio Lab are my other go-to podcasts.

Is there anything else you would like to add? Any upcoming shows we can keep an eye out for?

I keep a section on my website for upcoming events, so you can check back for updates.

Thank you so much for sharing your work and talking with us!