March 9, 2018
Manhattan, New York
Interview and photographs by: Amelia Haney
Our momentous inaugural interview in our Muses series took place with the exquisite Morgane Richer La Flèche, an astoundingly talented visual artist, vital Thalia contributor and illustrator, and current Yale Law School student. We meet at the Gagosian in Chelsea on a blisteringly cold Friday afternoon and burst through the gigantic glass doors of the gallery. The Cy Twombly ‘In Beauty It Is Finished Drawings, 1951-2008’ exhibit has only just opened—less than 24 hours prior—and our excitement, both for the unveiling of his collection of unseen work and, in my case, to embrace my dear friend, is so evident that even the stone-faced receptionist raises an eye. Dressed in what I have always known and admired as Morgane’s signature look, a colorful array of textures, patterns, and undoubtedly historic designer vintages, Morgane carries with her the same elegance and playfulness as her unmistakably recognizable work embodies. Fashion has always been an essential point of inspiration for her, personally and artistically. After fawning over her most recent watercolors, I can’t help but draw an immediate parallel between her bold prints, embellishments, and textures and the colors, patterns, and shapes carefully scattered across the paper pages of her sketchbook. As we peruse our way through the delicate pencil drawings, iconic red strokes, and massive flower-esc forms of the great American abstract expressionist, a conversation on inspiration, artistic sensibility and intention begins to unfold.
Can you talk me through your process of what inspires you, how you begin a piece, how it evolves, and when you decide it’s done?
This series on place was born out of a deep, overwhelming desire to create and share positivity. At the time, I was in the midst of a massive shift in my life, both personally and professionally, and I was having great trouble finding direction or creative inspiration. A friend of mine persuaded me to draw “anything, your bathroom or living room—anything!”, so I did. Instead of abiding by all my previous rules and rigorous realist techniques of finding the perfect line or drawing the perfect chair, I let myself explore new shapes and exciting distortions of the interior. The translation and formation of a space is an incredibly intuitive process for me and because of that I rarely ever do more than one sketch. I’m in control but I’m not in control, you know? I want my work to be free-flowing in terms of color, form, and idea.
Do you go through phases of working with one medium or subject matter in particular? What’s your preferred subject/medium now?
As we spoke about earlier, I went through a serious phase of concentrating solely on female form—figure drawing and hyper realism—and now I want nothing to do with that. I’ve made a massive transition in terms of my use of color and my preferred medium, which is now water color. It was my grandmother who showed me the technique of using water colors in a similar way one might use oil paint—extremely saturated and layered, and without much water to illuminate as much color as possible. (The correlation between the loose, uncontrollable characteristics of water colors and Morgane’s artistic vision and intent is not lost on me.)
Can you explain one of the challenges of working with your medium. What’s something you want people to experience when they interact with your work?
Perhaps the biggest challenge in using the assortment of colors, playfulness, and two-dimensional perspective is that people can struggle to see anything past the immediate playfulness—which is, of course, a limitation. I think because the aesthetic of my work is so youthful and energetic people tend to grow accustomed to that and have difficulty accepting or appreciating anything less-so.
What is your ideal space to create in?
I love the solitude of this work, it’s just delicious. As an adult, having alone time to just think and create in absolute peace is the closest to any fantasy I can imagine. I love listening to podcasts, music, and watching Netflix while working. I’ve found it’s the most concentrated state I find myself in. Perhaps, it’s that idea of creation being therapeutic and acting as a sort of off-switch for my mind which allows me to concentrate on the world around me more intently.
In terms of imagining my ideal physical space to work in, there is of course a piece of me that wants to say a sun-drenched warehouse studio with 30-foot ceilings and windows overlooking the river, but I know that I would be incapable of creating the same work I am creating now. As a student, and commuting to and from New York to see my husband, I am working constantly within the parameters of a sketchbook-sized canvas and utensils that can easily fit in my bag. Working within these constraints is actually crucial to my current concentration and gives me the freedom to pursue the inspiration I am chasing now, which is place. Given a lofty studio space and endless work space, I would be creating entirely different work, and I feel no need for that now.
What’s the highest compliment someone could pay you?
Someone once told me that I am a “thoughtful observer and interpreter of both people and the world”. As an introvert, I can struggle to find that intimate connection elsewhere and took great pride in being recognized for my perspective and interpretation.
What brings you peace? What keeps you up at night?
What gives me the most peace is maintaining a selfless sense of the importance of detachment. Letting go and understanding the lack of permanence, consistency, and stability in this world has definitely provided me great solace.
What keeps me up at night would have to be the worry of not being able to live up to people’s expectations of me and the responsibility to truly be the best version of myself I can be. I think there is a responsibility that is woven into any opportunity or privilege and I feel an incredible desire to honor that.
Are there motifs or symbols that you find yourself frequently returning to? Why?
Definitely. Fashion, textiles, style, and patterns/textures have always given me a consistent form of inspiration. In terms of objects, chairs have been a fascination of mine, and have always been a great source of joy and amusement. I feel a funny longing to provide them with personalities, which is unlike any other object I’ve ever come across.
How does your work interact with the here & now?
It doesn’t. My work really provides a fantasy-like escapism that lacks a timestamp or mark in history. I think I have actively rejected the use of female form and resisted reference to time period. In response to everything happening today, I think that speaks to a certain kind of fatigue.
What’s your personal paradox?
I’m a prickly person who seeks out harsh environments but who really just craves and respects softness.
Who’s your girl crush?
Maria Berrio, a Colombian artist from Brooklyn is definitely my greatest girl crush of the moment. Her work represents much of the relationship we spoke about pertaining to beauty/depth and fashion/texture and she works within the constraints of only what is available to her.
After looking though Berrio’s most recent series, I can immediately understand Morgane’s fascination and admiration for her magical realism. The