LUNA SHEN, ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE
Luna Shen is Generator’s Current Artist-in-Residence. From drippy, flowery sculptures to detailed geometric prints, Luna’s work encompasses many materials, styles and forms. As her artist-in-residency program draws to a close, Luna reflects on her experience, her artwork and lessons learned.
Luna Shen comes from an artistic household. Her mother attended a highly selective art school, and creativity was all around her growing up: “I wasn’t afraid of creating things.” As a teen, art school felt like an exciting possibility, but Luna decided to pursue a Sociology degree at Middlebury College instead. Despite her mother’s experience in a cutthroat art institution, her mother emphasized to Luna that she could be an artist without a formal education, and art could fit as part of a balanced existence. “I wanted to have a container for my creative processes.” In 2019, artist and educator Estefania Puerta took her students on a trip visiting Burlington artists and their studios. This introduced Luna into the Burlington art scene, and later connected her to the artist-in-residency opportunity at Generator.
Prior to her residency, the idea of working on her art for 20 hours each week was daunting, especially given Luna’s familiarity with a lifestyle of working full-time as a case manager at a homeless shelter. When she applied and accepted Generator’s residency, she shifted to working part-time as a case manager so that she could dedicate more time and energy into creating. Art had always been a hobby, the opportunity at Generator would allow her to test out just how she would find balance as she made art a bigger part of her life.
Until her residency, much of her work was guided by what was financially feasible and practical, her art dictated by her access to material and space. Before her residency, Luna largely focused on making prints at BCA; sculptures had yet to be a part of her portfolio, as space was limited. The potential to explore new mediums, learn new tools and connect with other artists at Generator opened up Luna’s art world: “The support of knowledgeable people, the space, and the material stipend have allowed me to be playful and experimental.” Luna’s experimentation has led her to combine her experience in the metal shop and in printmaking with new mediums, including incorporating materials like expansion foam, spray paint and braided hair into some of her latest sculptures. As Luna puts it: “An emphasis for me has been trying to transcend materiality. I want people to look at my work and not necessarily be able to read what it is.” Part of her creative process has been learning the “personalities” of different materials–how they drip, stick, and solidify. Observing the preferences of different materials played a large role in directing the evolution of each project. “My sculptures, or creatures, have a life of their own. Often they are informed by how they want to exist in space, what they might want and what they don’t want.”
Luna has also used her time as an artist-in-residence to connect with the Burlington art community, even hosting an open-mic, pop-up gallery for her friends and fellow artists in May. The event was a huge success: a chance to display completed pieces and works in progress and a time to celebrate. As Luna puts it: “I’m always curious about what people are thinking about and making. Final pieces are interesting but I’m also just as interested in pieces that are in evolution, so it felt really fun.”
Luna has valued the relationships built with fellow Generator members during her time in the space. The logistical, technical and artistic guidance she has received from fellow members has allowed her to navigate challenges within her artwork. Asking for help isn’t just OK, it’s the norm. Luna recalls one example of this, on a rainy day at Generator, when Eric Roy helped her gather materials and pitch a make-shift, garbage-bag tent so Luna could continue to work on one of her sculptures outside, sheltered from the down-pour. As she puts it: “It’s great to ask for help here because a lot of people like problem-solving, and a lot of people like helping others in problem-solving, like making literal tools or brainstorming creative workflows.”
Luna’s residency has made it clear that art can and will fit into her life moving forward. As she continues her work as a case manager, she is excited about the possibility of what her next creative pursuit might hold. Although she will be phasing out of the residency program at the end of the month, she will continue to work and create in Generator. We can’t wait to see what she creates next.
Connect with Luna at linktr.ee/lunashen.