Lydia Greer: Learning and Making

greerLydia Greer, visual arts faculty member at Lick-Wilmerding High School, spends her weekdays teaching Film, Animation, and CMA at Lick, and her weekends working as a puppeteer, animator, filmmaker and fine artist. Greer’s work (according to her website on September 20th) “explores themes of allegory and euphemism in narratives,” while “appraising the visual and linguistic languages of theater, history, psychology, ecology, beauty, and material culture.” The narrative elements of her work are evident in her animations and works on paper, which are reminiscent of fairytales in both their subject matter and appearance, with dark woods, frightening animals, and rough, imperfect lines. Her work feels warm, yet it can be slightly disturbing. In an installation piece at the Berkeley Art Museum, titled A Self-Made House, Greer created a tent where the viewer would enter and watch a video of her stepfather performing “reflexive improvisation.” He told a family folktale about a murderous pig, two sisters, a living house and a “successful bad witch.” Greer’s work is both enticing and repelling, engrossing the viewer and challenging them to interpret it for themselves. “Letting the viewer construct the meaning, that’s really important to me— making them work a little bit,” Greer explained.

Ms. Greer's work on paper

Ms. Greer’s work on paper

Greer was born in Savannah, Georgia. Her father was an artist and art teacher, so she and her sister learned early on to value creativity and art as an essential part of life. She recalls him giving them big blank books and boxes of materials, so they could “try out” everything and fill each up book with their own pictures and stories.  “I actually think when I was like 6 years old I was like ‘I’m going to be an artist when I grow up, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, and I’m really gonna fight for it, forever,’” Greer said in an interview with the Paper Tiger, “it was a long struggle to get to that point where I really felt like I could call myself an artist.” Later, Greer moved with her mother and sister to a “small town, kind of dismal” in Texas. When she visited her dad in New York, Greer was always sure to spend time in the MoMA and other museums. She was particularly attracted to the works of Louise Bourgeois, Louise Nevelson and Kiki Smith (“there were only a few women artists you could choose from anyways,” she explained “so it’s like, you know, you glob on to these women”). Greer was also inspired by the work of Cy Twombly, Robert Rauschenberg, De Kooning and Anselm Kiefer. “I do think anybody can be an artist if it calls to them, if they do have exposure,” she asserted. “I feel like it was a privilege; it was an educational privilege that I did have a few people in my life that actually said that ‘that’s a possibility’ because some people don’t have that, they say ‘you can’t, it’s not possible, what is that?’” Greer’s father was an artist, but she also received additional support and encouragement from a high school art teacher in Texas. “He was just the most fabulous man,” Greer recalled, “and I’m still friends with him, I go back to see him– so when my students come back to see me, it’s just so wonderful.”

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