In a word, artist Evan Segota is an explorer. He is an avid traveler, discovering inspiration in the natural world, international cities, and his own backyard of LA. He is navigating how an artist can remain respectful that we are limited in our resources, but still satisfy the desire to constantly create. And as is embodied in the name of his studio “Rough and Smooth,” all of Evan’s pieces explore the play of opposites.
His art juxtaposes hard and soft, feminine and masculine, light and dark, elegance and durability. This marriage of two seemingly incompatible things results in pieces that are stunning, original, and in his words, “sometimes, curiously compatible.” In his Venus Vase, soft feminine curves are sculpted out of hardy polypropylene rope to create a functional vase that also brings to mind the famous sculptures of antiquity. In his Hair Chairs (which are even better and more fun than you’re imagining), excessively flowing locks of synthetic hair are fixed onto a sturdy utilitarian stool with practical, no-nonsense brass hardware. A spinning hair chair in motion is visually mesmerizing, so much so that one can imagine a video of it playing on a loop at a modern art museum. But it’s also sturdy enough to sit on day in and day out, without feeling like you’re going to “ruin” it.
Evan’s art that continuously explores how to bring together the realms of fine art and everyday life is the fascinating result of a creative mind that never stops. And it will be a joy to see what he dreams up next.
What is your favorite thing about being an artist?
No one has ever asked me that. I’d have to say the continuous curiosity. I’m never bored – there are too many things to learn, ideas to pursue, mediums, processes, and variations to try. I guess another favorite thing that makes me happy is to be able to create something that makes people happy, or at least provokes some emotion.
What’s your least favorite thing about being an artist?
Maybe not being able to turn off. My mind is consistently whirring with concepts, processes, solutions, existential crises, fate of mankind, the usual… I get easily caught up in the nuances of a project and sometimes will have to put it on the back burner. I have a lot of projects on the back burner.
What does your typical day look like?
I work full-time as a furniture designer as well as designing and building my own work. A typical day would be to wake up around 7am, make coffee, play with my dog Gideon, read a bit. Sometimes I do a little studio work in the morning, or some gardening. At my nine-to-five job, I design custom furniture and lighting for a high-end furniture company based in LA. When I get home I usually need a minute, otherwise I’ll go straight to the studio. I do a lot of woodturning and carving with hand tools for practice and as a meditation. I’m usually working on multiple projects at the same time, so I’m back and forth between them. Then I’ll usually do some gardening, watch a movie, do a crossword puzzle, read, sketch, play with Gideon and my cat Bones, things like that.
I love that you describe yourself as having a background in woodworking, ceramics, and “material experimentation.” Can you elaborate on that last part?
Yeah, I do a lot of work with a lot of different materials. I fool around with cast stone, resins, silicones, epoxy, as well as experimenting with different construction materials. I work a lot with rope, both natural fiber and polymer-based, which was partially the result of said material experimentation. It’s a playful process.
Where do you find your materials? Do you really chase down tree trimming trucks?
I get materials from all over really – some I buy, some I source, and a lot I do get from dumpster diving, tree trimming trucks, or street finds. I don’t like to use unnecessary resources for products or prototypes. The more I can reuse the better. It’s much more gratifying to turn a material that would otherwise be wasted into something that could bring someone pleasure.
Can you explain a bit about your process? Do you find the materials first then create an object based on what you have, or does the idea or concept for the object come first?
A bit of both. I explore shapes I see in life, taking inspiration from nature, architecture, science, and daily life. Shape and size of the materials often dictate the design, but the concept is usually hashed out beforehand. I generally work with what I have. I like those parameters. I also place a lot of importance on utility and durability. What I make is almost always utilitarian and is meant to last a lifetime. I play with the idea of making everything I would use on a day-to-day basis. Maybe someday I’ll have a house full of furniture, objects, lighting, dishes, tools, and art that I designed and built. That, to me, would be very satisfying.
I have to ask about the hair chairs! How did those come into being?
They came about from experimenting and exploring different materials and utilizing them in an unorthodox way. I had been using rope quite a bit already and was exploring the structure of woven synthetic rope, which is similar to that of synthetic hair. I liked the flow and femininity of the material in motion, like a long-haired whirling dervish, and the moment the rotation changes direction. I have some more hair work coming soon too.
It’s clear that you have a deep love for the natural world. How does nature influence and inspire your work?
Yes, definitely. I love the natural world and I will always be exploring it. I am a big proponent of keeping as close to sustainable as possible. We are limited in our resources, and I try to live as peacefully within that realm of thought as possible. I take cues from the natural world, and often it influences what I create, from texture, to color, to shape.
It also looks like you love to travel. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever been?
I have been all over the U.S., Mexico, and China for work and fun, but would love to travel more internationally. I’m a big fan of the American southwest, the history and the landscapes. Though, I’d say my favorite city so far was Rome. It was such a magical place to explore, and so many details in the art and architecture were extremely inspiring. I also love New Orleans, which is one of the most odd and amazing places.
If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I don’t know, dead? (laughs) Maybe something in the biology realm – a botanist, entomologist, or arborist or something.
What’s your favorite piece you’ve ever made?
I’d have to say the Meso Pot, which is part of an ongoing experimentation with ancient anthropomorphic sculptures using modern materials. The base structure is melted polypropylene rope, then it’s coated with an epoxy, and finished with a rubber coating. It’s pretty much indestructible. Still a lot to explore in that realm and variations of it in the works.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I was a motorcycle washer and detailer for a summer at Harley Davidson. Customers would ride their bikes in after long road trips and I would clean the bugs and grease off. It was all indoors, and the bike’s engines were piping hot. The steam from the hot engines made it almost unbearable, like a sauna of grease and grime. I was soaked, filthy, and miserable at the end of each day. I got to ride some cool bikes though, so it wasn’t all that bad.
Do you have any ritual before you begin a piece? Any superstitions?
No specific rituals necessarily, but like I said, the materials often dictate the piece and I ritualistically examine the material beforehand. There is a personal touch in every finished work, a definite fingerprint that I like to show in some way. I am also interested in the occult, religion, anthropology, symbology, numerology, psychology, language, and mythology, which I think you can see influence my work.
When not working on art, where do you spend your time in LA? Your favorite restaurant, bookstore, coffee shop?
You will often find me at a Huntington Gardens, meandering through the cactus gardens with a camera. My favorite museum is Norton Simon. I try go to a lot of gallery openings as well. I often go to the library for books, though I do love Hennessy + Ingalls and Skylight Books. I do a lot of gardening and collect rare plants, so I go to nurseries like Sunset Nursery, Lincoln Ave Nursery, or Fig Earth Supply for veggies and herbs. I do a lot of hiking in Angeles Crest, and fishing in Malibu. I camp often in Los Padres National Forest. I see shows at Zebulon often, and I go to Footsies to play pool. Favorite restaurant is a tough one, so I’m just going to say Avenue 26 tacos, which is more of a taco stand.