CYBELE LYLE '07
What comes to mind when you think about your time at Hunter College now?
Hunter was a great experience for me. I think of the amazing students and teachers I got to know and work with. It was such a great place—with amazing, funky, and big studios, and endless amounts of time to make work. I think of being in the studio late into the night, periodically taking breaks to hang out with friends in each other’s studios to talk about life and work. I had moved to New York from California to go to Hunter, so it was a whole new world for me in many ways—an entirely new place and social world. I can’t separate my experience of Hunter from my experience of New York. It was ultimately an incredibly invigorating time.
You mention that much of your work explores the creation of what you call a “safe place.” Can you elaborate on what this means to you?
This is sort of a continuation of the last answer. . . . I’m interested in an inversion of the power of architecture, taking it away from the architect and claiming it as the person experiencing it. In this sense, a space can become “safe” as it can be read, owned, altered, and shifted by an individual experiencing it, as opposed to the traditional kind of permanence and power that a structure might impose. These are some of the things I’m interested in exploring in my work, which doesn’t mean people experience the spaces I create as safe. . . . [It is] more that I’m exploring ways to make spaces feel like my own and to break down some of the traditional rules and roles of walls and structures as they relate to both interior space and the natural surrounding environment.
Much of your work is focused on architecture and interiors. What is your background and interest in architecture?
My dad was a landscape architect and professor with very strong beliefs about the importance of an architect’s responsibility towards respecting the natural environment. He also had a background in architecture. So I grew up with strong opinions about architecture and with a vast exposure to both architecture and nature. We traveled a lot for my dad’s work, and every trip was an educational and historical experience in architecture, gardens, and the environment. I think it’s a huge part of how I learned to see and relate to places and people.
Much of my work has been a combination of understanding who I am based on how I grew up as well as creating a new language based on who I am now and opening up new spaces for the future. During the past few years, I’ve become interested in architecture in new ways—thinking of it as text, as something that can be subjectively read and re-authored by the viewer / reader. Architecture carries a lot of power and I’m interested in pulling that apart to make something much more intimate and personal.
Your studio in Oakland, California, is located in a space built by fellow Hunter alumna Emma Spertus and called Real Time & Space. From the past decade, an overwhelming majority of the 450 alumni that we researched are still in NYC. What has it been like to work alongside fellow artists from Hunter while on the opposite coast?
It has been invaluable to have Emma here . . ., that she started Real Time & Space and invited me to have a studio here. In some ways it reminds me of our studios at Hunter, it has a very DIY feel and a nice combination of shared space (ping-pong) and our private studios. There are fifteen studios, a residency program (with one visiting artist at a time), a wood shop, a communal space, and approximately one public event—usually an artist talk, but occasionally a potluck—a month. The first year or two, it was nice to have someone here with the shared experience of Hunter. It’s always challenging to create a new community of artists in a new city, especially coming from one that felt very strong. RTS helped to bridge that divide and has been a great way to become a part of and contribute to the art scene out here. Now we have a new world we’re a part of out here that feels very solid and separate from Hunter, but that bridge and shared past is a huge part of what got me here.
All images by Cebele Lyle - 'Studio Notes'