Atlanta has a strong and growing creative economy. Everyday, we meet women who are on the ground working to break down barriers, build community, inspire, inform, and entertain the people of Atlanta through the arts.
For National Women’s History Month in March, C4 Atlanta will be curating a Leading Lady blog series celebrating the women in the creative economy of Greater Atlanta. Over the last several weeks, we have asked the public to nominate women in the creative sector who inspire and have positively impacted the Atlanta community through their contributions.
We are proud to introduce the Next Leading Lady for March 2018 : Morgan Lugo
Where do you work and what do you do?
I always have multiple balls rolling at the same time and love to stay as busy as possible. My 9-5 consists of working in the metal shop at the Inferno Art Foundry, where my day to day work consists of pouring cast bronze sculpture, welding, and metal chasing. For those who are unfamiliar with metal chasing, it is basically re-sculpting welds in cast metal sculptures to make them look like they never existed. We do anything from small scale sculptural works to large scale public statues. Recently, I have been helping out with mold-making as well. Besides this job, I am always working on commissions– from helping other artists, to making personal sculptures for patrons, building furniture/lighting, and even home repairs. In addition to all of this I am also a full time artist traveling nationally and internationally with my sculptures. I mainly work in cast and fabricated metal.
When and how did you first become interested in the arts? How long have you been in your line of work?
I have always been creative, but it took me a long time to actually figure out how to apply my creativity to a tangible form of art. I grew up playing ice hockey religiously. I am sure that the last thing you would expect from a Puerto Rican/Sicilian girl from the south is to be an intense ice hockey goalie, but I was on the ice five days a week for twelve years. I was always on multiple teams and usually playing with all guys. Between sports and school, I never really had a chance to explore my artistic side, but I knew it was in there somewhere. When I graduated from high school I took my hockey scholarship and decided to go to art school. This seemed to be a huge change of gears for me, but I was so excited to make the leap of faith and try something I have never done before. After my first two years of college I thought I had made a terrible mistake, I was floundering in my intro drawing and 2D design classes, nothing seemed to click with me and I felt my passions slipping away and anxieties creeping in. Finally, I took intro to sculpture, followed by ceramics, and then eventually mold making. Everything starting making sense to me — once I got into metal casting it was like my soul had caught back on fire again. I had craved the adrenaline and camaraderie that sports gave me, and this couldn’t have been a more perfect outlet. Metal Sculpture is very much a team sport and something you can’t really do alone. Once I saw my first 500 lb ladle of molten iron flow, I was completely hooked. This first contact with metal working was about 4 years ago now. Since I graduated GSU in May of 2015 I have worked at art foundries in the US and Berlin as well as worked as a fabrication welder for a multitude of different projects. I have also done freelance mold making and clay modeling work. I have been officially employed as a full time metalworker for about a year in addition to my personal work.
What did you want to be or think you were going to be when you grew up?
Never in a million years did I expect to be a full time artist and metal worker. In fact, I expected to still be involved in ice hockey. As a little girl my biggest dream was to be in the NHL and also compete in the olympics as an ice hockey goalie. If not that, I am honestly not sure… I have always been someone who lives very much in the moment, and I don’t think my young self was much too concerned with anything other than just doing what I could to be a little bit better tomorrow.
If you could have lunch with any woman from history who would it be and what would you want to talk about?
This truly is a loaded question, there are infinite options all perfect for their own reasons. As of now, I have been infatuated with the historical figures of the 15th and 16th centuries in Europe. So, I think this adds as a big prelude to why I would pick this specific woman. If I could have lunch with any woman from history I would choose Queen Elizabeth I of England. Not by any means because I agree with everything England has done as a nation, but because I admire Queen Elizabeth’s tenacity and quick wit, being in an even more male dominated society than we are today and the turmoil she dealt with in her rise to being Queen all before the age of 25. I would ask her how she stayed so strong in her beliefs ruling for 45 years without a husband even though the world demanded it of her. What would her main points of advice be on a steady road to success and how she grew England to be one of the worlds super powers all while becoming one of the greatest monarchs history? I would ask how great it feels to have accomplished this all on her own and doing it her way. Then, of course, I would talk to her about some random questions about life back then and the opulence of being a major world leader, about the wine, clothes, and crazy parties, because of course who wouldn’t want to hear about that? All and all, I think that she is a great role model in the sense of being a strong, independent, and successful woman who didn’t let the pressures and stereotypes of her society force her into a life she didn’t want.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
As cliche as it is, the biggest influence on my life has always been my family. I come from generations of hard-working, resilient people who have defied all odds to become successful; most immediately, my parents. My dad, for instance, has always shown me the perfect example of patience, perseverance and passion. He has worked through so much adversity to be the entrepreneur of a successful marketing and communications company. I know it was not an easy feat, but he always seems to rise to the occasion and remains unmoved in the face of defeat. I most certainly could not forget my mom– I am not sure if anyone is capable of more multitasking than this woman. She is always two steps ahead of the problem and seems to succeed in any job presented to her, from interior design to special education to Public Relations, she can really do it all with a “take no crap” attitude. So between my immediate, extended, and past family, I have had the “never say die” mentality instilled in me since I have been a little girl. I feel so unbelievably blessed to have this experience, because I know that many don’t.
How is art a passion for you?
Art is a passion for me because it creates and magnifies the beauty in the world. From painting, to sculpture, to architecture, to fashion, to culinary arts and more, what would the world be without it!? How would people really be seen for themselves without these wonderful forms of expression?! For me personally in my practice, I am so inspired by creating sculpture. The very idea that I can physically manifest my ambiguous thoughts into a tangible reality is mind blowing to me. The opportunity and limitlessness of this is enchanting and inspiring. In a way, I am physically sculpting reality one piece at a time. Honestly, I am not sure if the magic will ever ware off for me, we can all change the world—- even if just one sculpture at a time.
What are your thoughts on equality and the representation of women in the creative workforce?
Well, obviously I have a strong opinion on this because I work in a male dominated industry on a daily basis. Over the years, I have had experiences all over the spectrum from good to bad, empowering to belittling, people getting so excited seeing a young woman in a metal shop and people who do not even want you to touch their work because they cannot even fathom the fact that you would be capable of doing it. It gets really hard sometimes to constantly feel like you have to prove yourself 3x more than all of the men you work with because you happen to be a woman with long flowing hair . I think that I have a unique perspective because I have been dealing with sexism since a very young age when I started playing Ice hockey. I remember not making teams and one time the coach specifically told me, “You didn’t make it not because you are not good enough, I just can’t trust having a girl on my team.” But those years were honestly the most defining moments in regards to shaping my character. It didn’t matter if I was bloody, bruised, or defeated, I always got back up because I was determined to show people what it was like to “play like a girl,” eventually becoming a nationally ranked goalie, winning national and state championships, and scholarships that helped me pay my way through college. From ice to fire, I understand how I got to where I am now, but I would love to help pave the way for younger women to have a less turbulent journey.
I have been extremely lucky to work with and for some amazing people who have really believed in me and pushed me to keep going. Also, there are many more women metalworkers out there than you think. We are spread thin, but we are not small in numbers or in hell to raise. I would LOVE to see more women get the opportunity to even be exposed to “stereotypically” male things. The problem is that women are so conditioned to not even realize that they are just as capable, if not more, than their male counterparts. As a woman, you are a powerhouse; capable of handling so much physical and emotional turmoil with grace. We need to relish in that, we need to celebrate that! I think that as generations grow and fluid ideas progress we will see a lot of men and women holding jobs that are not deemed “normal” for their gender. All that we can do is help lead by example, exposing the ideas of equal representation on all work fronts–the more barriers we break today, the more opportunities there are tomorrow.
What most excites you about the arts in Atlanta?
The Atlanta arts scene is growing so rapidly it is hard not to be excited as a young artist on the scene. You have opportunities, you can find work or mold into any type of scene, from pop-up show in a warehouse to fine art gallery to outdoor sculpture on the beltline. The city is so prime for a creative explosion in all mediums, I am just ready to take the ride and see what we can make of this amazing and expanding canvas.
What do you hope to contribute to the Atlanta arts community with the work you do?
I have big plans for the future, but all I can speak to is what I hope to contribute now. I hope to help give a light of hope to women who are interested in working outside of the norm. I hope to inspire people with the work I make and to push them outside of their comfort zones, and to get them to think critically about our place here on earth. I hope I can help make the community realize there is nothing wrong with being feminine and working in a masculine field. It’s ok to come home from work and trade those steel toes out for a pair of heels. It’s ok to worry about not chipping your fresh manicure while cranking up a blowtorch. And it’s ok to just relish in the daily grime of a job well done, because craftsmen are a dying breed, no matter the gender. I hope to contribute to the conversation of living outside of other people’s stereotypes of you and standing proudly in your truth. Because the more limitless we feel as an individual the more limitless we feel in the ways we can create and motivate our communities.
Where can I learn more about your organization/business and work (websites, social media, etc.)?
My personal website is www.morganlugosculpture.com, this is the best place to see finished work and read about my inspirations/achievements.
My instagram- morganlugosculpture, this is the best place to keep up with my progress and see my work in action.