Sculptor Karl Lagasse

Karl Lagasse: ‘Our Ancestry Plays a Role Even if We Are Unaware’

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By Artsvi Bakhchinyan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

YEREVAN/PARIS — French painter, sculptor and photographer of Armenian descent Karl Lagasse began his artistic journey with his collages when he was 7 years old. French sculptor César Baldaccini inspired Karl to continue developing his work. In 2003 Lagasse prepared his first exposition in Paris. His first solo show, presenting his “Building” sculptures, was in 2006 in Brussels. Two years later, at the Theatre Espace Pierre Cardin in Paris, Lagasse showed paintings and sculptures with added elements of videography and photography.

In Deauville in 2012, Lagasse offered the city his bronze “Cryptogram One” with a message of peace and love, which has been installed at the entrance of the city. In 2012, he created a monumental sculpture for the 65th Festival of Cannes in cooperation with Corbis. Since 2017, Lagasse has been the creator of the trophy for the American Film Festival in Deauville. Winners of the American Film Festival trophy include Johnny Depp, Sarah Jessica Parker, Morgan Freeman, Elle Fanning, Kate Beckinsale, Darren Aronofsky, Jason Clarke, Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, Michelle Rodriguez, Pierce Brosnan, Robert Pattinson, Sophie Turner and Woody Harrelson.

In 2009, Artprice named Karl Lagasse as one of the top 10 sculptors under 30 in the world. In 2012 the New York publishers Farameh selected Lagasse for their book, For Which It Stands: Americana in Contemporary Art, in which he is represented as one of the 50 best contemporary artists who found inspiration through traditional American icons.

During the 2016 Art Paris Art Fair, the President of the France personally congratulated Lagasse for the success of his 2-meter bronze “One Dollar” sculpture displayed at the Grand Palais.

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Dear Karl, in 2009 you came into prominence with your “One Dollar” sculptures. Let me start our interview with a joke – how many dollars bring your “One Dollars?”

I am humbled to be able to make a living with just a $1. I started out with the idea because I was intrigued with the notion of making art from just a dollar. But really, what captured my attention was the phrase on the back of the bill, “In God We Trust.” I was awestruck that such an admirable expression, so far from what I supposed commercial trade to be, would be seen on a bill. This led to me exploring more of what it would mean to have the dollar as an art piece.

You successfully cooperated with film festivals – Cannes and Deauville. What can a sculptor offer to contemporary film world?

I know my skill as a sculptor has been heightened with exposure to the film world. All art forms are tightly woven together whether it is film, music, painting, sculpture, music, poetry, dance, architecture. It is hard for one to thrive without the assistance of another art form. A sculptor has the ability to quite literally set the scene, be it for film or other occasions. I have collaborated with Maserati on several occasions, one of which, I created an installation called “A Piece of Heaven on Earth.”

“Cryptogram One”

Your works bear a message of peace, which is urgent for our troubled times. Do you believe in having a special mission and the influence of art on the world?

Absolutely! We, all of us, possess gifts. My gift is in artistry. The more I have grown as a person and artist the more I’ve seen the importance of sending out into the world positive messages. I choose to share my gifts with the world in a positive way, if only to shed a little light in the darkness. We can have a great impact for the good if we all just give a little of our gifts.

Please tell us about your parents.

I have been influenced by many great artists, my parents included. I choose the things I admire in their characters and I implement them not only in my professional life but personal as well. Thanks to my parents, I was able to see that art can be more than just pleasure, but also a profession. I might not have chosen to be an artist if I hadn’t been already exposed to the notion.

Although you deal with painting, collages and photography, you consider yourself more sculptor. Maybe working with stones comes from your Armenian genes?

It does feel as if I was always meant to do what I am doing in sculpting. Our ancestry plays a role even if we are unaware. The path I’m on in life was laid out for me long before I came into being. The journey that led me to where I am today, started in Armenia with my ancestors. There might have been even another sculptor in the mix. I feel the importance of the steps taken by those that came before me, as do I feel the importance of the steps I take for the generations to come.

Have you any idea where your Armenian ancestors came from and is anything Armenian in your personality and art?

One of my kids has a birthmark thanks to his Armenian ancestry. It is endearing. I am sure there are a lot of Armenian traits that I possess that I am not even aware. I have been to Armenia in search of answers to many questions, but I still have much to learn.

The art field is quite active and interesting in Armenia and the Diaspora. Do you have any Armenian inspirations?

I must say that music is very inspiring and important in helping me create. This is how I met my wife, who is a singer. I enjoy the Armenian singer Liz Sarian among many others. I would love to visit more and discover more of the art scene.

The “One Dollar” sculpture

“One Dollar” is a kind of symbol of American dream. What about creating “Armenian Dram” – as a symbol of Armenian statehood and desire for increasing of Armenia’s economy?

The symbolism within the “One Dollar” is universal that is another reason why I chose it. I believe it represents us all. Strength, freedom, and the self-made man are just some of the powerful messages I wish to communicate to the world as a whole. Honestly, I would love to be the artistic mind behind the creation of a real currency. If I could do this for Armenia, that would be an honor.

In 2014 you traveled to Armenia. Do you think about returning with a special project?

I have many projects in the near future and some of them will impact the Armenian people directly. I immediately fell in love with the country and its people. I felt very alive and inspired during my last visit. I will bring my family the next time I come and look forward to my return very soon.

 

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