Inside the Studio: Carrie Lynn Certa
Based in Los Angeles, Carrie Lynn Certa is a mixed media artist who utilizes unique materials to create visceral works that intend to move viewers both emotionally and physically. Certa combines the use of burlap and paint to create pieces that jump off the canvas and represent the complex journey of life. Because of the way these works jump off the canvas, their appearance can change based on the angle that you observe them. Certa’s works draw inspiration from the ups and downs in life, which are reflected in the “waves” created by the tedious placement of paint and fluffed burlap on the canvas. This characteristic of Certa’s pieces draws viewers in and almost begs for them to reach out and touch the work. In addition to her pieces on canvas, Certa also is an experienced line producer, director, photographer, actress, potter, and entrepreneur.
We recently connected with Certa before her worldwide art debut on April 20th at Art Market San Francisco. She will be showcasing her pieces in Alessandro Berni Gallery’s booth.
In our conversation, Certa spoke about her background, journey with mental health through art, and the artistic process that inspired her to use burlap to tell her story of resilience and growth.
The real story about why she chose burlap was one that she shied away from telling for years, but Certa has decided to come clean and reveal the special truth behind her decision to use burlap.
Can you speak about your exposure to art growing up and who influenced you to create?
Art has always been a part of me but I never thought of it as a money-making career. I'm from the midwest where you get a job you hate, do that for 30 years, get married, have babies, retire and gift everything to your kids. That's the generation I grew up in, art was viewed as something you do for fun.
I've always dabbled in art. My mom was definitely the artistic person in the family. She had that creative side and taught me how to paint my first flower. She was constantly doing something crafty or painting, and she didn't do it for any other reason other than the joy of it. She always encouraged me to follow my dreams and what makes me happy. So to get to where I'm at now, even though I lost her at a very young age, I know she’s proud.
A couple years ago you spoke in a video about anxiety, depression, and how making art can help alleviate those. How has your journey with mental health been over the last 3 years since you have been more focused on art?
So much better! In my journey, because I knew I had to do something with my hands, I knew that I had to be creative. I couldn't just be doing numbers anymore because it was driving me crazy [In her work as a line producer].
My logical side of the brain was working overtime with no creative outlet. It was like, I have got to do something else to fulfill my life.
I went to my therapist and said, ‘I have a good life, why is it hard?’. Then after going to therapy, I learned I have the highest level of ADHD a person can have. I was only diagnosed a year and a half ago with ADHD and just having that knowledge has opened up a window of bright sunlight where I can manage it.
That's what I’ve been struggling with my entire life and part of ADHD is anxiety and depression, which has seemed to have gone away! I know that I have to fulfill the logistical and artistic side of myself to keep my anxiety at bay. All day today, my schedule was completely full and I made sure that I was bouncing back between logistical and artistic, and it's been an incredible day! Another way you can let go of that anxiety and depression is to get your story out there. Put it out in the universe and see what happens, and here I am at an art gallery.
What made you decide on using burlap?
I’m a very tactile person and I knew that the medium I used had to come off the canvas. That's all that I knew had to happen when I was making this [Story of 43].
I always loved pointillism. I did this art piece that's in pointillism in 3rd grade and I still have it to this day because I love it so much. I came across it last week and was like, ‘wow this still looks good’. And so when I had the chance to design an art piece for my office, I was thinking about how to do pointillism without paint. I knew that I was going to make an incredibly personal piece and the material had to really be me.
I believe every artist puts a bit of their soul and essence into their pieces. So, in order for the piece to mean something and hit somebody else looking at it, you’ve got to really mean what you're doing. So, I picked burlap because I did not have a very happy childhood, to put it mildly. I wanted to take stock of my life and how far I've come from that place. And so burlap was really it.Then I looked at how people, how I, represent myself in life. I love being a woman and putting on makeup and dresses for a fancy occasion but sometimes makeup or pants were necessary to hide scars or bruises or the brokenness inside. So I wanted to use burlap as the material for the pointillism to tell the story, and then put the paint on it to cover the scars. So, me on the inside is the burlap, but on the outside this is what you see, this painted burlap.
You can read more about Certa’s decision to use burlap in her blog post here:
Can you speak about some of your pieces and what they represent?
All of my pieces are about the journey of life.
So “The Story of 43” is my life, coming out of the darkness and finding my own light, knowing that I can beat the odds.
“The Hollywood Series” is anybody’s story who comes to Hollywood. People come here with dreams of being a star, so who are you? Do you change for the industry or are you the one that stands out? Hollywood is flooded with people who think they’re the one, are you? The fabric in this series starts dense and then it lessens because after being here for 23 years now, I’ve seen so many people just go, “I’m done” .
And then there is the “Traveled Road Series”, which I'm premiering in San Francisco, I took on how other people's paths crash into each other. Like white caps on the ocean, how do they interact with each other, affect us, and change our direction in life. On a daily basis things come at us like our career, love life, family, and our health. So I purposely made those pieces very dense.
You've previously mentioned that creating a unique style means establishing your own rules for the art. Can you describe some of the specific "rules" you've created for your process of using burlap on canvas?
I knew from the first piece that I wanted it to come out of the canvas. So, once I had that in my mind, I had to think about how far each piece of burlap is going to come off the canvas. All the burlap pieces have different widths, but the length stays the same. I’ve visually found what I like, so once I established that, then that’s the rule for the piece. I do vary the length at which the burlap comes off the canvas, between pieces. So, “The Hollywood Series” pops off the canvas the most, compared to others like the “The Traveled Road Series”. Recently I was playing with gold foil on a piece and it turned out to be one of the pieces I'm showcasing at the gallery. So, to me it’s just playing around with it and seeing what works!
What made you decide to showcase your pottery and art under the name ‘Art by Mistake’?
When I was taking pottery lessons, I was trying to make a bowl and it fell. My pottery teacher told me to throw it out and start over but I was like nope, this is what I made. It was an interesting shape and I was going to finish what I started. I end up firing the thing, put it up on etsy, and Ben and Jerry’s reaches out to me asking, ‘can we buy this for our commercial?’. I had made fun of it in my shop
like I do with all my other pottery because I know I'm not very good at it. Like this is a bowl? And they’re like, "why yes it is!" In the final ad, Ben & Jerry's ended up naming the bowl ‘The Artist’ and they are the reason why I named my shop ‘Art by Mistake’. I make all of my art, by mistake, because I purposefully make something that touches me but, unexpectedly, it touches other people too. And that is the true meaning of art.
Carrie Lynn Certa is truly an inspiring, multi-talented artist with a child-like curiosity when it comes to creating. As her art journey is only beginning, there is unlimited potential for what she can achieve, and we can't wait to see what's next!
You can see more of Certa’s works and learn more via the links below: