According to Hammer Museum curator Aram Moshayedi, who chose Morris for the exhibit alongside fellow curator Hamza Walker upon visiting her studio, this year’s selection of artists was stricter than “Made in L.A.” iterations of the past. Those chosen are especially well-liked by the curator duo.
“But each of those 26 contributions by artists are quite deep and heavy and substantive,” said Moshayedi to the Los Angeles Times. “So often with these biennials, the ambition gets confused with the addition of more and more artists, and we really wanted to hone in and concentrate to create mini exhibitions within the exhibition.”
Morris grew up in a creative environment, her dad working as a composer and her mom working as a potter. When Morris’s parents saw how she thrived in drawing at an early age, they encouraged her to pursue art.
“I was always interested in art, even as a young child,” said Morris. “My parents sensed this and they gave me materials. I had a little place in the kitchen at a small child’s table, so as my parents were cooking I would just be sitting there, drawing. My father drew with me often. The atmosphere was very conducive.”
Morris received a BA from Smith College and went onto attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she earned an MFA. She later attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and graduated in 1994.
When Morris was still finding her voice as a creator, she was inspired by painters she discovered in museums, such as Piet Mondrian, Mary Heilmann, and Moira Dryer. Today, Morris has work featured in museums all over the world, from Chicago and New York to Germany and Switzerland.
“It’s a real honor to be in a public collection,” she said. “Your work gets seen by the general public and then it’s put in the context in the history of art, and that’s pretty spectacular.”
At the moment, Morris is creating the biggest paintings that she has ever attempted, which will be on display in the “Made in L.A.” exhibit. One piece in particular that she is working on is 10 feet tall by 8 feet wide.
As the creative process leading up to the exhibit is still underway, her experiences are turning into stories.
Last summer when Morris was looking for something in her studio, she came across a rolled up canvas on a high shelf. Taking it down, she discovered it was a half-finished painting of a black-and-white grid.
“It was very strange to find it again because I had only a very dim memory of making it and couldn’t figure out why I had stopped on it, because looking at it now, I thought it was great. It was like a time machine gift to myself. So I finished it right away.”
Morris has received numerous awards over the years for her contributions to the art world, a few of which include the Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008 and the City of Los Angeles Award in 2013. She has lectured at a wide variety of colleges, a few being Columbia University, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, The School of Visual Arts in New York, and Cal State LA.
About 15 years ago when she was working at a temporary job so she could support herself while painting in her studio in Los Angeles, a close friend recommended that she should look into teaching at PCC. She now teaches classes in beginning painting and foundation drawing.
“The structure of teaching and being an artist are fantastic, because you don’t work from 9 to 5, five days a week, and you get summers off,” said Morris. “This is hugely beneficial if you’re really doing another job.”
Morris’s work can be seen at the “Made in L.A.” exhibition at the Hammer Museum from June 12 through August 18.