Student Spotlight – Louisa Edwards

Meet fourth-year undergraduate researcher Louisa Edwards!

Louisa Edwards majors in Studio Art and minors in VAPAE and is in our Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). The title of her project is “The Sky.” Her project will focus on the natural phenomena of the sky and how information including binaries are permeable. She hopes that her project is generous to the viewer and can give to and receive from people in the ways that they need. Her best piece of advice to just do research as it is a great opportunity!

How did you first get interested in your research project?

An interest in the ways systems of space, time and persona are formed and organized has long been evident, in my practice. The investigation of the sky is a continuation of ideas about the dichotomy day/night. On the New Year of December 2018/January 2019, in the Mojave desert, I danced as the sun/moon moved from one side of the Earth to the other. Cradled in darkness, and kept alert by the 50’ degree air temperature; the night moved through a small sea of bodies. I watched the sun slip away in the West, and emerge in the East. This experience of watching sunset/sunrise, for the most part uninterrupted, got me hung up on the oppositional view of these two transitionary periods. At this point, I was most interested in how this experience of sunset/sunrise related to the concept of a mirror. When we look in the mirror, we see a reflection and we presume it exists as a replica of what is being reflected. However, it is a reversed version. Fascinated by this, I created a diptych of painted tapestries, that hang facing each other with about 5 feet between them creating a portal like effect for the viewer, that suggests dusk/dawn as mirrors of each other rather than opposite transitions, subsequently challenging the dichotomy of day/night. Branching off this idea of multiplicity, I began creating schedules of activities that defined time-period specific identities. I was interested in the multiplicity of identity, which often (falsely) feels unmoving and stubborn. The aim of this exercise was to single out this stimuli and culture that created my identity in five year periods. The most direct way I could track the influence of the world around me in congruence to my identity, while simultaneously exploring time, was by using the rigid format of a calendar; A calendar is both profoundly personal and distinctly public.” Additionally, I began to document my dreams; In doing so, I realised I was living as much while sleeping as I was while awake. It became important for me to incorporate my dreams into these drawings, as a part of my daily life. After exploring how my surroundings and the microcosm I existed within had influenced my identity I wanted to think about universal elements that shape the reality of all human beings. Thus, I was led to focus, once again, on the sky.

What has been the most exciting aspect of your research so far?

The most exciting aspect of research is also the most difficult. Recently, I have been thinking about the limitations of my imaginary. Earning to make art objects that do not add to the colonial and capitalist agenda, from the ground on which we stand, is nearly impossible. In this entirely interconnected world we live in, what actions can take that are benevolent; humans are harmful; existence is violence. So what is left? I want honesty but not despair. At times find myself very frustrated and at times very driven by this predicament. The main blind spot I am encountering in this project as with countless other artworks, is about the aestheticization of nature and how by aestheticizing something you are enforcing a certain gaze of and control over said form. I mean, how do you say I love you to a living thing? You can of course, but it is really only self serving. Nature as framed as separate from humans (which it is not) would be better off without the human hand. In doing this project about the sky, I find myself avoiding discussing the sky as a ploy to muddle this issue. For the most part, I only talk about things surrounding the sky and when discussing or using the motif of the sky directly I earn to make it evident that this is from and for a human perspective. I suppose, I have never decided on if I am entirely on board with humanism and this research project is throwing this debate right at me.

What has surprised you about your research or the research process?

The amount my project has transformed in so little time has been exciting, nerve-wracking, and surprising. When I proposed this project in Spring 2020 I felt I had a definitive idea of how it might take shape. It has been difficult to be okay with not following my agenda to a T when the project is taking me in a different direction.

What is one piece of advice you have for other UCLA students thinking about doing research?

I am not sure I have any advice, really, other than to do it! It is a great opportunity; when I applied, I thought I had no chance of getting this opportunity. I would definitely recommend applying even if you think your project is petty or not doing enough to change the world. If it is important to you and you are keen to commit the time, apply!

What effect do you hope your research has in your field, at UCLA, in your community, or in the world?

I hope that the work I make is generous to the viewer. I hope it can give to and receive from people in the ways that they need. I hope they feel understood, or confused. I hope it is interesting and curious. If the sky could be proud, I would want the sky to be proud.