Riley Gunderson: A lot of your work seems to do with self identity, I was wondering if you could talk more about this. Especially “LOLA world” and how you seem to use your name and body in a lot of your work.
Lola Dement Myers: I’m self obsessed. In my beginning of undergrad I was kind of trying to realise this idea of iconic branding. I’m dyslexic so I operate through visuals. When I was younger I used to memorize commercials and take brand tests to see how many logos I could recognise. I was playing with that idea a lot. Then I became infatuated with self-branding and watching people build their career and lives through this 2D identity. I think every single person who engages with social media does this. The people who do it to the fullest extent are the people getting paid for it. I wanted to explore that and make this super saturated version of LOLA. Every time I engage with my digital self I feel like it’s a digital performance where I’m enacting LOLA. She’s a little bit mean and superficial but also like “let’s do it,” “let’s go.” I love commercial marketing but I don’t have ties or connections to do that. So, whenever I’m reading something and I have an idea for an editorial, I have to use myself. I become the subject.
R: Do you ever find it difficult to have that performance online be separate from yourself?
L: I think that’s another reason I have to have LOLA. For a while, I felt so anxious about the difference in identity. Having her, “capital LOLA,” makes me feel a lot better, safer, and allows me to distance myself from this futile person. But sometimes it does get in the way, there is Instagram etiquette that she doesn’t follow, such as following people back. I don’t think my friends necessarily enjoy following me because I am not posting about my life, it is just this intense identity. That gets in the way sometimes where people are like, “I don’t like you online, but in person you’re different.” What counts, what matters anyways?
R: You were talking about commercial imagery and how that inspires you, does that show up in other ways in your work?
L: I think it used to, especially in my illustrations. I would have really branded objects or during fashion week I would make a personal illustration but include new pieces of clothing. So I think it doesn’t so much anymore, but there was a time where I was like, “let’s put this brand in this, let’s create a narrative with this brand.”
R: Do you have a favorite medium or mode of working?
L: I just like making objects. I like objects and I like images. At the end of the day, if I get an image or an object, that’s what I am happy with. I started when I was 12 in photography, so I think I just held onto image making. Trying out new mediums creates more images and different kinds of images. My favorite… maybe photo, I do really like photo.
R: Does the way you perform online also influence your work? Do you think that you have that same interest in the internet in your physical works?
L: I think that I do, but I don’t think that it’s very relevant in the physical works. There is kind of a similar meditation. I think I am just very intense about whatever I do, whether it is this intense identity or this very intense process to get to a final object. But maybe not conceptually, I don’t know if there is conceptual crossover.
R: Can you talk about the lunch trays that you make?
L: They started three or four years ago when I was taking a mold-making and casting class in ceramics. I have just always loved the forms.
I’ve tried to put so many different narratives onto them. For a while I was making them while thinking about school lunches for children. The first time I had school lunch was the first time I was aware of class differences. At my school, they regulated the price by your family's income, which is crazy. I just remembered in 2008 when there was the crash, seeing my lunch price change every week. I was putting that narrative onto it for a while but then I started to think that maybe I’m forcing it. I like useful objects and I love the form of lunch trays so now I think of them as photos that I can manipulate in any way. That's the narrative that I’ve been going with, they are forms that I am obsessed with and that I can keep manipulating.
R: Do you still make them out of molds or do you design your own lunch trays?
L: The first six were from existing lunch trays from my personal collection. Now I fabricate them myself. I design them in Illustrator and then I cut them and make molds of them. They’re my designs.
R: I noticed that you work a lot with white and light neutrals. What role does color play in your work?
L: I’m still working on my color theory. I think I am not ready to let go of color. When I was doing photography when I was younger, I remember thinking that my work would be more serious if I had no color, if it was black-and-white. I was obsessed with this. I’m thirteen, to be a real artist I need to do this, this, and that. I still think I have that narrative. With my trays, I think that to be serious, and also because there is so much going on already, no color. I don’t want any color. Some of my photo work too, no color: keep it simple, hone it in, make it fit. But then if I am with all of my markers and pens, I think “this is amazing, I have to use all of these colors.” I don’t wear any color so I don’t know, I think it’s infatuation with the physical markers.
R: You just graduated from SAIC. How has your artistic practice changed since graduating, especially with the pandemic?
L: I’m very lucky, definitely the luckiest person I know. I just try to live freely and whatever way I can do that I just do it. I have been nannying, which is a great gig for an artist and for many people, it is a good thing to do. I have that and then I make my work on the side and go to my studio 3-4 times a week. I just got a residence at another studio, so now I will be at the studio full time. Honestly, it’s been great, I am just lucky that I found that nanny family. It is a very safe job, I can go to it, do what I do, and still live my life and be safe in COVID. I just got into a residency that I am super excited about in Ecuador. COVID is nice because you are just at home, sitting, so you can apply to whatever you want. It’s been fruitful in that way.
R: Has your art changed at all since graduating?
L: No but it should. I feel like I really just graduated even though it’s been half a year. It’s become more centralized and I do a lot more commissioned work. Now I know how to make a logo, now I know how to take these steps to make a more realised image. I think it’s progressing, but still in the same vein of thought.
R: You have mentioned how commercial imagery inspires you. Would you ever be interested in working commercially?
L: Yeah, I love it. I like control, so as long as I have some control. I do kind of work commercially now, honestly, with some of the stuff I am doing. Yeah, of course. That is kind of the goal, for me, is to have my own practice. Live and do that, but I love all fashion so working in that vein on singular projects would be really fun. Yes, that’s where the money is.
R: What are your current sources of inspiration?
L: Everyday I have an obsession. I have written it down for like nine months. My obsessions today are Karla Laidlaw and Merritt Meacham. They are two people who are just making wonderful garments. Saying what you’re influenced by always sounds stupid, so now I’m thinking about what is not stupid. I am influenced by my sibling’s approach to the internet. It is so raw and possessive and obsessive that it is just wonderful to me. It is something that I have admired about their personality forever. That is a huge influence too. They are younger but with a total older sibling personality. Always much more put together.
R: What are you working on now?
L: Now I am working on my third collection in ceramics of trays. The girl I nanny, I really want to make her a cookbook because she has really intense dietary restrictions. I am handing the job over to my friend who I want to prepare for all of the dietary stuff. That’s something fun that I am using my newfound design skills to do.