How Dance And Design Paved The Way For An Arizona Artist


The artist stands in front of a large gray-white-and-black painting.

The lines and palette of artist Loren Yagoda’s paintings, such as “Colorblind,” nod to her passion for architecture.

For some, the path to becoming an artist is a straight line—think of a pint-size Pablo Picasso painting Le Picador as a boy. For others, it’s a more meandering affair, whereby the process of making art provides a second or third act in an already rich life. Phoenix-based painter and ceramicist Loren Yagoda sits in the latter camp.

Four headless figurines on top of a dreser.

"Belly Button People" is a collection of paper clay figurines that nod to the imperfections of the human body.

One gray painting on the left and a black-and-white painting on the right.

"Shades of Gray" hangs on the wall of Yagoda's studio with "Freedom of Form" leaning next to it.

Black-white-and-gray dishes with ragged edges.

Yagoda hand rolls paper clay for her "Memory Bowls."

Five rounded clay bowls with black shapes on them.

"Stepping Stones" nod to both the linear and non-linear.

When she was 11, Yagoda left her Michigan home to attend a small boarding school in Tucson for health reasons. “Because I was sick a lot as a child, I was often put in bed with art projects, so I was always creative,” she says. After graduation, she attended college before going on to study interpretive dance under the late Barbara Mettler, jétéing under the stars in a space designed by a protégé of Frank Lloyd Wright. The experience awakened her senses not just to the power of movement but also the impact of great architecture and design. Still, it wasn’t until age 40 that she pursued a visual arts degree, receiving her BFA from the Memphis College of Art. Today Yagoda sees a correlation between those early days as a dancer and her current studio work. “In both there’s a focus on form, shape and freedom,” she says. “I’ve often mused that I dance my lines onto the canvas.”

Committing those lines is the first step in a creative process she calls “20 layers of torture,” since a single painting has that many iterations in its evolution. Inspired by her fondness for architectural forms, some of her works resemble minimalist site plans; others are studies in repetition. Stripes, both freeform and precise, are a favorite motif. She cites Agnes Martin as an influence, and her paintings draw comparisons to Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline.

A similar monochromatic aesthetic guides Yagoda’s ceramics. Employing the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi, she’s interested in the beauty of an object’s perceived flaws. Her paper clay shallow bowls and figurative works take hours to build. For the bowls, she hand-rolls the coils, modeling them into the circular base of the vessel. “I like the coils and ragged edges to show, then I use washes to dirty them up,” she explains.

Soon Yagoda’s work will reach a broader audience: She has an upcoming show at Grace Renee Gallery and is also part of RH’s roster of artists participating in Portia de Rossi’s art curation startup General Public. A series of her paintings will be reproduced as synographs, which use 3-D printing technology to mimic layered paint. For an artist who’s spent her career exploring texture, it’s a fitting new venture.