Cm: What are some of your first memories of making art?
LM: I went to a Catholic school and we had an arts class, it was more like arts and crafts and my first memory was making these little baskets out of pine needles and I remember being very fascinated by that. None of my family makes art and I never thought I was creative or artistic.
CM: What was it about those little baskets that you really liked or enjoyed?
LM: I think what I really liked then was that they were a useful thing and I really liked making something with my hands. I like the idea of picking something that is around me, and making something out of it. I liked the utilitarian side of it. I was studying psychology and wanted to be a social worker before I went into art, so I have always been logical about things.
CM: You moved to the United States when you were 14, do you feel that your move had some impact on the art that you are making now?
LM: I think I definitely wouldn't be making art if I didn't moved here because in El Salvador you have very practical careers, especially for women. I wanted to be a doctor when I was little. I wouldn't have had the luxury of making art; my life would have been much different. Most of my friends back home have, like, 3 kids, that's good for them so...
CM: What was your first your first experience with art that made you change your path?
LM: I applied to San Francisco State to be a social worker and I had a year off so I wanted to take classes I always wanted to take. So I took piano, because I have been trying to learn the piano since I was little but my fingers are really fat and not good for that. I took photography because I always loved... I bought my first camera and it was one mega pixel and it was this really fat Kodak camera and I really liked taking photos, and people would tell me they are really nice photos, but I was never really secure with myself and doubted my abilities, so I took a class. I know this is pessimistic but I was hoping that my teacher would tell me that I wasn't good at it so I could get this crazy idea out of my head that I wanted to be a photographer. But he told me that I was really good. My professor told me I should consider persuing this more. We became really good friends and then at the end of the semester I decided that I wasn't going to major in social work. It was a big process because before I went into art, I was volunteering and was very involved in the community and I really wanted to help people but when I went into photography I felt that it was a very selfish route and I had problems making the decision, but I knew it was going to be the right thing for me.
CM: Do you think that your desire to be a social worker and help people comes through in your work?
LM: I think how it comes through is that I am really interested in people. I want to get to know people; I want to have intense relationships with the people I meet. I have always been interested in why we do things, how do we react with others and for me I still struggle with what my purpose as an artist is, and how am I helping the world. I feel like I am not but I am working on it.
CM: How do you come up with your ideas and your concepts? Where do they come from?
LM: They come from the things that I am interested in. One project that I haven't talked about was Online Dating. It was the only project that I dropped because I couldn't deal with the ethics of it. I do a project because I want to figure something out. It the only way I can answer these questions for myself.
CM: Tell me more about Online Dating!
LM: I am really interested in the idea of online dating; I am interested in the idea of trying things on. I'm interested in how people present themselves, the things that they write to get your attention, the photographs they use so to get other people to see them. I was doing this project where I was going to on these dates with these men and I was documenting everything, phone messages, photographs, but it was the first project that my subjects didn't know that they were part of a project and I couldn't deal with that. It has to be collaboration. I couldn't deal with me playing with people's feelings.
CM: It sounds like it was an amazing project! It seems that them not knowing would be the only way to approach the project in order to get their authentic self or it would become something else entirely.
LM: The thing was I went on three dates and the guys were so nice and they were always asking me out again and I was always like. ...Oh... no, thank you...
CM: It seems like you put yourself in a lot emotionally compromised positions. Do you feel like this is the basis of your work; as an exploration of emotions more so then the images themselves or the concepts?
LM: I am definitely more interested in experience. In the end I do get a product out of it. I do get photographs but the experience is number one. The person I am interacting with is number one and then the art follows it after. I am interested in me and people experiencing things together.
CM: Is there a body of work that you would classify as your defining moment as an artist.
LM: Yeah, definitely my Sleeping with Strangers project. I was exploring something I was very interested in and getting the answers I was looking for. I was interested in what happens when you just meet someone and get into bed and talk to them and experiencing things together. What happens when I come to your house, your sacred area, and I am coming there asking you about your childhood, I watched T.V. with them. It was an honest experience that I was really enjoying.
CM: So your work seems to be about humility and intimacy.
LM: Definitely about intimacy. Sometimes forced, but it is genuine at the time. It is genuine in a forced encounter.
CM: Who are some of your influences?
LM: My first influence was Dwayne Michaels. I really like how he thinks that photographs don't tell the truth, like a photograph of someone crying doesn't tell you what it feels like to cry. He says we are feelings not what we look like and how do you explore deep things, how do you explore questions of death and heartbreak. How do you answer those questions? I was always interested in that philosophy side of it. He thought that most photographs were boring. I got to take a class with him and he got to see my work and he wasn't very interested in it. He thought it was boring, but it was an amazing experience, he is very funny and very smart and he changed and still influences the way I see things. Diane Arbus as well, not so much her photographs, but I read many journal entries, and I read many things about the people she would interact with. I was interested in the way she thought that the subject was more interesting then the photograph, more important. I like the relationships she had with the people she photographed and she had a lot of respect for them. Respect is important to me.
CM: Do you have a favorite a least favorite part of your process?
LM: Doubt. I also feel like I do a lot of things by instinct
CM: So working instinctively, that would be a favorite?
LM: Yeah, I do things by instinct, in the beginning I am not sure how to answer why I take certain photographs or why I picked it or why I put them together but I know that's the way it has to go and it takes me a while to justify it and that's when the doubt comes. I do trust my instincts enough to go for it. I can be very doubtful and distracted in my work. That's my least favorite part.
CM: Where do you see yourself in ten years with your work?
LM: I have very simple goals, I think. I want to make art for the rest of my life but I am not interested in the rat race. I want to keep taking from my personal relationships and own life experiences in order to follow something. I am not interested in constantly pursuing something; I just want to keep making art. I would like to teach part time because I really like teaching. I would like to have a family, make art, teach, grow my own vegetables and have dogs... That's were I see myself in ten years.