Artist Interviews 2022

Laura Siebold
(Photos and Poems)
By Johnny Otto

Photo by: Lena Wagner

You were born in a small town outside of Cologne, Germany, is that right? What was life like there and how did it inspire you to become a Writer and Photographer? 

That is right. I grew up on the countryside in a small village. We only moved once, to another village 1.5 miles further down the road, before I started elementary school. My parents had built a house there. It turned out to be a very quiet country life, so books were the ultimate escape for me. As a teenager, I was very introverted and shy. I loved reading and writing; my German and English essays were usually three times longer than they were supposed to be. I loved making up stories and put all of my passion into writing. My dad was very influential in evoking my passion for writing and photography, as well. As a kid, he would always read me bedtime stories and I would participate in reading competitions in elementary school. In high school, I started writing poetry, and did an internship at a local newspaper during my undergraduate studies. I really wanted to become a writer for as long I can think but stopped actively writing for a few years during my undergraduate and graduate studies.

Everything changed when I came to California in the summer of 2014. I met this tour guide (Armond Kinard) in Hollywood who was also a writer and read him my first poem I had written in a long time, about El Matador State Beach. Our conversations really inspired me to continue writing. I just felt that flame again. I have been writing ever since, but my mind mostly needs to be freed of distractions for new creative ideas to emerge. I was thrilled when Julia asked me to join you guys as a writer at Art Squat Magazine after the idea to found the magazine was born in 2021. Photography has always been an equal passion for me. Both my grandfather and my dad loved taking photographs of nature and people. My grandfather passed a few years ago, but my dad is still actively taking photos. He even started an Instagram account with his photographs @helmutsiebold

After every summer vacation, I would at least have one film roll completely filled with memories. I loved showing my photographs to family and friends when I was younger. In fact, I am still that old-school that I like to print out my photographs and stick them in a photo album nowadays. After starting with my Master’s in English and American Language, Literature, and Culture, I had felt the urge to give photography a shot, as well. So, I applied at different photography and design schools, and got into Cologne International School of Design (KISD). Sadly, I never finished that degree because of the unique chance to do an internship and later resume with a full-time position in the travel industry in Los Angeles. Working and living in Los Angeles gave me the chance to resume my third passion – traveling. Here, I teamed up with my talented friend Lena Wagner (@lenafound). Although she is much more advanced in photography and editing than I am, we love to shoot and go on photography road trips together. She keeps pushing me to get a new camera, so I am currently saving up for one. I hope to get a Sony Alpha and finally get into the editing game a bit more.

Read: Malibu, August 9, 2014

Of all of the places you've travelled, what was your favorite location/adventure?

In general, I have to say California. I love it here, and I left a lot behind in Germany (family, friends, and a former relationship) to make it out here. I have a number of favorite spots in California – Santa Monica Beach (will always be my favorite), Point Mugu State Park (beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and great hoking opportunities), and my ultimate number 1 travel location is Big Sur and Highway 1. The scenery is just breathtaking. Even though I’ve done the drive up and down the coast quite a few times by now, I can’t help but stop at those most beautiful vista points every time. There is something new to discover every time I go. Outside of California, I really love the architecture of New Orleans in Louisiana. It reminds me very much of European cities like France and Italy. In Europe, my favorite adventures have been the trips I’ve done with my family to the Aeolian Islands. It’s a group of Islands in the Mediterranean which can only be reached by ferry from Sicily (or from Naples). It takes quite some time to get there, but it’s so worth it. Lipari is the main island with cute little alleyways, and then there is Panarea which still hosts an active volcano called Stromboli. When I was 17 years old, I did a guided hike with my dad to the top of the volcano, and we could see the lava flowing inside. It was definitely one of the most special experiences and travel memories of my life and one that I will never forget. I am also very excited to be visiting Hawaii for the first time this summer and can’t wait for the creative products of this trip to emerge.

Is there a focus to your poetry or do you write about a variety of subjects?

I write about a variety of subjects, but I think there are some recurring themes like love, relationships, loss, and freedom. I write both poetry and essays. I publish some selected poetry on my Instagram @pacificsoul_la and some essays and travel recounts on my blog Lost & Found In LA. A lot of times, writing is a way for me to address what I am feeling on the inside. That may be anxiety, fear, joy, love, or uncertainty. I also like to question life and try to get to the bottom of understanding certain concepts and myself better. I think it’s safe to say that I’ve learned a lot about myself through writing. It keeps me sane and is a way to put my thoughts out into the world as a way of reflection. I like to make people think and question their perspectives on life and humanity.

Read: Look

Read: Up The Hill

Who are your favorite writers? I am assuming you have a many.

Oh gosh, that’s a difficult question. There really are many writers I like. As a kid and teenager, I loved reading novels by the English writer Enid Blyton, Chilean writer Isabel Allende and Irish writer Cecelia Ahern. During my undergraduate studies I was fascinated by the works of the German poets and novelists Johann Wolfgang v. Goethe and Schiller, specifically Goethe’s Western-Eastern Divan and Schiller’s Hyperion. Nowadays, I love Hemingway’s writing. Jack Kerouac’s On The Road is a wonderful introduction to travel writing and pays homage to the nostalgia and freedom of being on the road. Someone once recommended Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist to me, and its lessons have become a very valuable resource for me in recent years. I can certainly recommend his books, they have so many valuable thoughts! Two writers who really defined me during college (and to this day) are Joan Didion and Christopher Isherwood. In fact, I wrote my graduate thesis about Didion’s Play It As It Lays and Isherwood’s A Single Man. Those two novels were introduced to me at a time when I was still struggling to make sense of my sudden attraction towards women. Isherwood’s novel really helped me understand the difficult nature of being gay and how to deal with loss and loneliness of a partner in a heterosexual world. Didion’s novel strengthened my idea of pursuing a life in California and is an interesting testament to the diverse nature of the human psyche and the concept of nothingness. My thesis juxtaposed those two novels and researched the importance of the settings of California and Nevada as places of loss and loneliness. Both novels helped me deal with the personal loss of my grandfather at the time of writing my graduate thesis. Sadly, Joan Didion passed just a few weeks ago, but her legacy as a Southern California writer will remain.

Read: Feeling the Mojave

How has living in Los Angeles affected your work and changed your perspective of the world?

I’ve certainly been much more creative since I moved here, in various areas. I love taking my camera with me locally or on road trips throughout the U.S. Writing is usually my first thought when I need some quiet time for myself. I love driving out to Malibu for a hike in one of its many state parks or just to sit by the ocean. The sounds of the ocean are soothing to me. I love Los Angeles, it’s a big melting pot of creativity and cultures. I’ve met many different people here, from all sorts of backgrounds and nationalities, and most of them have affected my life in many ways. I love hearing people’s stories. Even though I was open-minded before I moved here, I definitely learned a whole lot more about how each of our lives are so different, yet at the same time intertwined with each other in this city. One of the most important lessons Los Angeles and its people have taught me is that you can never assume how someone will react, how a situation will unfold, or guess the story behind a person. You need to take time to learn and to listen. It’s important to look out for opportunities and to take them, and not be afraid to fail. And if you do, it’s important to get up and move on. Los Angeles taught me that you should be grateful for everything you have, yet you should never become too comfortable and seek challenges outside your comfort zone. Most of the time, you don’t even have to actively seek them, they just sort of happen to you. This city does not let you rest for long.

Read: Movement

What are your aspirations for the future?

I want to continue growing and extending my social skillset. I’ve had many amazing and astonishing experiences and made incredible memories in this city, and I seek to incorporate those experiences into my future career. The open conversations with travelers, artists, and locals are some of my favorite things about this city. My current full-time position as a travel coordinator is a great way to pass the inspiration of LA, its people, and artists on to European travelers. I seek to expand my destination knowledge and continue writing about and sharing my passion for Los Angeles.

Read: Mornings

What has your experience writing and contributing to Art Squat Magazine been like?

It’s been a great experience so far, we met and interview so many amazing artists ever since we published our first issue in May of 2021. We will be attending The Other Art Fair for the third time in a couple of days and have extended our coverage to include The LA Art Show (article in this issue), as well as various other gallery openings and special events. Some of the artists I’ve interviewed have become friends, like Kevin Komadina whom I’ve interviewed for our third issue (December 2021). He will be exhibiting again at The Other Art Fair in a couple of days. Other local artists like Ernie Steiner and NY-based Cody TheCreative have shows nearby, or reach out about other interesting projects on Instagram. It’s great to stay in touch with the artists once an interview has been published, and to follow them on their creative journey. Before starting as a writer at Art Squat Magazine, it had been a dream of mine to write for Los Angeles Magazine. Art Squat has definitely opened a door to the LA Art world for me, and I’m so grateful Julia reached out to get me on board with your magazine.

Aside from Writing and Photography, what other things inspire you? Cooking? Music?

Music is certainly a big source of inspiration, especially instrumental and acoustic music. Two of my favorite artists are Sol Rising and Emmitt Fenn. I discovered the music by Emmitt Fenn during my first experience of RISE; a lantern festival set in the Mojave Desert. The desert is a very inspiring space to me, as it’s so vast and seemingly endless, and full of life. The combination of music along with the simultaneous release of thousands of lanterns in the night sky was incredible. A lot of times, I need to be by myself and out in nature to really get those creative sources flowing. That happens mostly on a hike, a long drive, or by the ocean. Sometimes, you need to go inward to discover what truly moves and inspires you. I also love the smell of fir trees and flowers in botanical gardens, it’s very relaxing. Nature is the only place where I really get to calm down and find the calm to write. Weirdly enough, the pandemic also inspired me. I wrote these two collections of poems I titled CORONAVIRUS – Poems written in isolation, and CORONAVIRUS – Poems written after isolation. This whole experience of hiding out at home, and being isolated from family and friends, the whole uncertainty of the situation, and the seemingly endless time filled with sameness, really got to me. Writing helped calm my anxiety. As mentioned before, a lot of inspiration also arises from conversations with people. Hearing people’s life stories, how they’ve overcome challenges, and about their aspirations and plans for the future, are unique sources of inspiration. Naturally, in line with my major profession, traveling is the gateway for many new ideas and thoughts and makes meeting new and interesting people so much easier. Outside of California, New Orleans in Louisiana is a lasting source of inspiration for me. The architecture is very European, and the music is diverse and unique. I love the jazz musicians in the clubs and on the streets, the many street artists, and galleries exhibiting all different kinds of art. During my first visit in the fall of 2019, I met this incredible violinist Wael Elhalaby (@waelviolin, interviewed for the first issue of Art Squat Magazine). He was playing the violin in the city in front of St. Louis Cathedral by Jackson Square. Wael’s music made this trip a very special experience for me. I really notice that art is around us every day, and we just need to open our eyes and ears to see, hear, and get inspired by it.

Read: In Isolation

Read: To The Lost Words

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