Woman Behind the Exhibit: Lilli Carré

The artist opens up about her MCA debut

lilli carre!

Filmmaker, cartoonist, illustrator, sculptor: Lilli Carré’s career knows no bounds. Just one year after graduating from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Carré’s first film premiered at Sundance, and her quirky illustrations regularly appear in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate, and Rookie. On the eve of her debut solo show at the MCA, the 30-year-old artist lets us in on her creative process and the encouraging advice she’d give her younger self.q&a!Your father was a forensic animator, which sounds like the coolest job in the universe. Would you agree? And did his work influence yours?
I think you might be picturing something a little more glamorous than his job was, but it’s certainly an interesting line of work. I’d love to somehow be able to re­watch the things he was working on when I was a kid. I bet he’d be really into the work I have chosen to do over the past decade and a half. Being around someone who was so interested in the possibilities of animation has surely influenced my enthusiasm for it.

How would you describe your show at the MCA?
It centers around pairs and the narrative space in the gap between two similar objects or images. There are forms of work on paper, drawn with gouache, ink, and pencil, as well as ceramic sculptures on pedestals throughout the room. Another room is devoted to hand­-drawn animation loops of different lengths, projected simultaneously on opposite walls, creating a shifting, never­-ending conversation between the two animated figures. It is a mouthful to try to describe briefly, so hopefully people will go see it with their own eyes.

lilli carre!

Do you work at home or in an office? And do you have any daily rituals?
I switch back and forth between working in my little office at home and walking to work in my studio, where I can make a mess if I wish and where there are windows and daylight. I don’t have a schedule set in stone or certain hours for myself, so I feel like I’m always on the clock. Since I do freelance animation and illustration in addition to my own projects, my schedule really varies.

Which websites do you have bookmarked?
I regularly go through the archives of 50 Watts, which always blows my mind. I also look at The New York Times, the Comics Reporter, and Contemporary Art Daily in the morning.

You worked in animated gifs long before they became popular. Why do you think people love them?
They help me get little images in my head — like a woman incessantly eating flowers — out of my mind and into moving forms. They don’t have to be part of bigger projects; they can just exist on their own and live forever on the Internet. They’re like little breaths of fresh air.

Any Chicago artists you admire, past or present?
There are too many to name, but I’ll just say a few great ones named Chris: Chris Sullivan, Christina Ramberg, Chris Ware.

lilli carre!

What’s it like to work so closely with your husband, animator Alexander Stewart?
For the most part, we like working independently. But since we generally share the same taste, it’s nice to be able to bounce ideas off each other. Our work is pretty different, but we do end up influencing each other. Last year, we collaborated for the first time on a show at Roots and Culture gallery. In a more curatorial spirit, we run the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation together and just held the fourth annual festival this fall.

You’ve contributed to Rookie, and we imagine many young women look up to you. What advice would you give to a young Lilli?
Please focus on making the kind of work that makes you happy. Keep a healthy diet of books and culture and experience, and focus on that kind of input as much as your own output. Your life will get much better after high school, so stick it out, Lil.

A book publisher said this about you: “Lilli has never struck me as someone with a shortage of things to say.” What is it that you have to say right now?
As a native Californian, it took me twelve years of living in Chicago to realize the value of thick socks in the winter.

View Carré’s work until April 15, 2014, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Avenue (312-280-2660 or mcachicago.org). For more information, go to lillicarre.com.

Photos: Alexander Stewart / Courtesy of Lilli Carré; Courtesy of Western Exhibitions, Chicago

Loading Map...
220 E Chicago Ave
@ Mies van der Rohe Way
Chicago, IL 60611