Interview with Lucien Shapiro

May 11, 2015

Sculpture is a truly unique artistic medium largely because of its main feature – its three-dimensionality. Allowing a completely different visual experience to the viewer (compared to painting, for example), sculptures have always had a special place in the world of art. To understand contemporary sculpture also means to examine all complexities that are linked with this medium. And, it is not just about aesthetics when it comes to contemporary sculpture. Conceptuality plays a significant role in sculpture practice (maybe even a crucial one). What materials does an artist use; how does he or she mix materials while creating a piece; why does an artist use specific material? These are just some of the questions that help us understand sculptors and their artworks. When we look at amazing works by Lucien Shapiro, we pose exactly those questions. Apart from their beauty, Shapiro’s sculptures also ask the viewer to think, to contemplate and to examine its surroundings.

Lucien Shapiro is an American sculptor who uses raw materials correlated to various forms of addiction such as drugs, violence, and collections. Shapiro’s sculptures are usually made of collected objects and waste discarded on streets and in fields. He uses objects that are no longer being used for their original purpose to create genuinly amazing and beautiful sculptures. By transforming forgotten objects into nostalgically interesting and beautiful relics, Shapiro makes relationships between the past and the present, between memories and their present artifacts. Lucien Shapiro has been exhibiting widely since 2003. We recently wrote about his show named The Wore that was organized by CES Gallery.

In his interview for Widewalls, Lucien Shapiro talks about his motifs, subject-matters, about the process. Lucien also shared his thoughts about the position of sculpture in contemporary art scene and on art market. Finally, we asked him about his plans for the near future. For more on Lucien Shapiro, and his amazing art, be sure to visit his website.    

On Consumerism, Art Market and Sculpture

How would you describe the position of sculpture, as a medium, in contemporary art scene? Do you think sculpture is a bit marginalized at art market?

Any artistic medium is as important and relevant as the idea it is intended to express, although personally I think sculpture can draw you in more than a two dimensional work. I believe it asks more questions because it is an object you can tangibly touch, hold, and walk around. To me sculpture is always impressive; it creates more feeling. If you walked into a room and saw a painting of a 10 foot by 10 foot black square, and in another room had a sculpture of a 10 foot by 10 foot square which would evoke more feeling or show any difference in the marginalization of that object? All art and its relevance is subjective, the only difficulty in the marginalization of sculpture is finding a large enough space to house it. For me, sculpture is more than object; what I create is more than a sculpture. It is a part of my life, a documentation of my bleeding heart and sensitivity.

Many of your works are dealing with the questions such as consumerism and consumerist society. What aspects of consumerism are you particularly critical about?

We all are consumers; I use the bones and shells from consumerism as an integral part of my work. You could call me a recycler. Consumerism is happening and will not slow or stop.  My work has never questioned or criticized consumers; rather it has always has embraced them. I need consumerism as it needs me.

My work is a slow collecting and building process through the craft of multiples; utilizing discarded items recognizable in our society and giving them new breath.  Through Performance and ritual I use the masks, weapons, and vessels I create to fuel my addiction to creating art, much like the addiction consumerism initiates in many.

Do you believe that art market is also characterized by consumerist spirit?

I believe it is a market that has no control or rule and like everything once anyone or any thing is deemed to be worth something it will become valued. What I hope I am doing is giving people a chance to interpret the things in their own lives that can help them grow, process and change to make themselves a better human being outside of material gains. I make art to remind people that we all have fears, pain, and growth and that we should embrace knowing the darkness and weakness inside. Acknowledging these two things and rising above them on a daily basis to me is the importance of this life.

On Materials and Sculptures

Could you tell us something about your process? How long does it take you to create a piece?

My process depends on the elements I am using There are many production phases beginning with collecting the materials.  People have nick named me the raccoon because I'm always looking for sparkling bits on every street corner! I then prep the bottle caps, Baggies, or street diamonds; the part of the process that is a repetitive meditation for me. Then its piecing them together, which is the time my creativity gets to really start, as it is the beginning of building the main structure to which will attach all of the other elements. I work on multiple pieces at a time and the time they each take changes depending on the work being made. I could construct a whole piece, tear half of it down, and then rebuild at any moment if it does not feel right. So it's hard to say how long it will take to make a piece; anywhere from 40-400 hours can go into it.

Could you tell us something about material you use? You often use found objects for your sculptures. Are there any objects that you are particularly interested in? 

It all started with the Bottle caps, which represent the circle and the belief that everything you put out comes back. I like circles. Plastic Baggies become fans of feathers to pattern and adorn other masks, and the street diamonds are recycled pieces of pain or loss turned into a growth of positive movement.

Is there a historical reference in the world of sculpture, or art in general, that you find inspiration from?

Humanity has been using objects for thousands of years. I am most inspired by things you can touch and use for ceremony or process. I started out as an abstract painter, which shifted into 3D modeling and animation, but once I started making sculpture by hand, crafting materials, I knew this was what I wanted. To create an object that can be viewed from all sides and be worn, or used to immortalize feelings, wants and needs is the ultimate.  I work heavily with my subconscious and without purposefully intending to, my work became part of a bigger idea. I wanted to make something to gain insight into the highest level of myself. I wanted to grow, change, and become a conscious, kind, giving, person, and through my rituals I believe I can help myself and others achieve this. Like any culture from the dawn of time ceremony and ritual was a huge part of society before machine and computers came along. I am trying to reconnect with these early traditions now in our current society, and hopefully help my viewers to do so as well.

On History and Future

You are usually represented as sculptor. However, your works are also dealing with the question of time, identity and memory, something that is being usually connected with conceptual artist. Would you agree if someone labels your work as conceptual art?
Yes, you could call me a conceptual artist, but I believe the creation and time behind the art I make paired with the final result is equally important. I consider myself a contemporary artist using hand made craft to create.
"In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art. "

Sol LeWitt

What are you working on at this moment? What are you plans for the near future?

I just finished a live performance on stage at Coachella 2015 that consisted of a 10.5 foot sculptural vessel form that spun when pushed, and masks worn by myself and partner Minka Sicklinger. She also designed and styled the wardrobe for our performance. We are currently working on a 20-foot by 20-foot installation sculpture for KAABOO, an art and music festival taking place in San Diego in September. I am working towards a window installation at the RVCA window in San Francisco for July, and have a group show coming up at Subliminal Projects in Los Angeles. I also have some other projects I cannot speak about but please stay tuned.

For all the latest interviews, sign up to My Widewalls!

Featured Images:

Lucien Shapiro - The Curling Praestes Mask

Lucien Shapiro - Spotted Scurra Mask, 2012

Lucien Shapiro - Pellentesque Furs Eighth Calvariam Mask, 2014 (©Shaun Roberts -

Lucien Shapiro – Sentibus Watching Mask

Image in slider:

Lucien Shapiro - The Light Collector

All images used for illustrative purposes only.

Follow These Artists

Follow These Galleries


San Francisco, United States of America

Spoke Art Gallery

San Francisco, United States of America

Read Other Interesting Stories

One Thousand Thank Yous painted by the Wilson family
Exhibition Announcements   |   Balasz Takac

The Jupiter Artland sculpture park reopened for public with a new exhibition focused on reinterpretations of seminal works by Allan Kaprow.

Exhibition Announcements   |   Balasz Takac

The Schlossgut Schwante Sculpture Park in Germany will open this Summer with a show featuring the works by a group of renowned international artists.

Exhibition Announcements   |   Balasz Takac

At the Swedish Nationalmuseum and the Finnish Ateneum is an exhibition Inspiration – Iconic Works that features an array of international artists.