Signs of a different way of living lurk among the ruins of Çatalhöyük, a proto-city in central Turkey that flourished around 7000 B.C. Unlike other neolithic settlements, it features no grand shrine. Instead, this egalitarian society brought the sacred into the home, with holy clay figurines found alongside the pots and handwoven blankets of ordinary domesticity. These rites were intimate and personal—and are a profound touchstone and source of inspiration for Los Angeles-based artist Galia Linn.
For over 20 years, the sculptor and painter has excavated our primeval past to reclaim this same sense of innate sanctuary. From ceramic vessels and abstract guardian figures to rune-like paintings and sanctum installations, Linn looks at her work “as relics, objects of ritual,” she says. “I want to create places where you can feel safe to reflect.”
Linn traces her own artistic search for refuge to her childhood in Israel. A witness to both the Six-Day and Yom Kippur wars among other conflicts, she “never felt safe growing up,” the artist shares. “I’m building sanctuaries because I felt like I needed them myself.” But living among the region’s layers of civilizations also shaped her attraction to spaces and objects imbued with history and sacredness. “There are certain places you go in Israel where the stones vibrate because there’s so much energy from the people who lived there before,” she says.
Her pieces, in turn, often feel ancient. Cracks, rips and fissures ripple through her ceramics, metalworks, plaster-coated paintings and textile installations, resembling “something dug up from an excavation, marked by the passage of time.” By embracing their brokenness and fragility, these objects come to embody endurance and healing. “Like humans, these scars are what make us unique,” Linn explains. “They tell the story of our journey.”
Though she uses multiple media, the artist’s forms feel most rooted in clay, her earliest discipline—as well as one of humanity’s oldest. This is especially true for her vessels and guardian figures, emblems she returns to again and again. In her studio (aptly housed in the sanctuary of an abandoned church in South Los Angeles), she coils or slab-builds each piece by hand, preferring to improvise in a tactile communion with the material. In her words: “There is no separation between the clay and my body.”
Linn’s guardians will stand watch over her first survey show, which is taking place this coming January at the Lancaster Museum of Art and History, with a parallel exhibition at Track 16 Gallery in L.A. Assembling decades of work together in one place is “an interesting, out-of-body experience,” she confesses. It is, after all, a culmination of her own history: a creative life spent building havens for all who come.