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The last time I caught up with Nora Simon, we were sitting in her living room / art studio, talking about her ambitious (and rewarding) 100 Days of Cool Shit project. We were surrounded by pastels. There was a skull wearing a Nationals cap. Now when I catch up with Nora Simon, she’s three hours behind me. She’s surrounded by the mountains and might start taking up surfing. She works at a book shop and runs a weekly collage class. The local artist has become the not-so-local artist, but it’s clear that Simon still loves D.C.

So we called her up to chat about why she left the District, how her art has changed since the move and why she wishes there was A Creative DC for LA (I guess, A Creative LA). Reading this will make you want to drop everything and move to LA. Sorry in advance.

Photo by Thomas Jorion

Why did you leave DC?

I really don’t like cold weather! No, that’s only part of the reason. I just really wanted to live somewhere new. I’m from the D.C. area. I’d left for college, I went to school in Savannah, Georgia and then Pennsylvania, but I really wanted to live somewhere that was really different than D.C. I visited LA a few times and I really just fell in love with it and just realized that this was a place I wanted to be.

The whole weather thing is kind of an added bonus. I really don’t like cold weather, so I was thinking, “Well, wherever I go can’t have harsh winters.” I also wanted to be closer to the water. That was a big draw, because of the beach. I just kind of like the culture out here. It feels more relaxed to me. Also, I wanted to be around a bigger arts scene. It’s a bit overwhelming. It’s definitely what I wanted, there’s a million things to see and explore… But it’s a bit much at times… But that’s okay because I’ll never get bored.

How does LA’s art scene feel different from D.C.’s?

Maybe it’s just because of the culture here, but it feels more… I don’t know. I’m not really sure how to describe it. It just has a different aesthetic, I guess. It’s really hard to describe, it’s just something that you feel.


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Do you think being in LA has change your art and the way you create?

Definitely. It something I wasn’t expecting… When I came out here, I thought, “I’ll be inspired by new things and my art will be about different things…” But I didn’t expect my style to change a lot and that’s kind of what happened. I started doing less traditional collages, which is what I’d been doing, and more… I’m not even really sure what to call the stuff I’ve been doing. It’s like colored paper cutouts. I wasn’t expecting that and I’m not sure what prompted that change either. It was sudden. I got out here and for the first six months I wasn’t really making any art at all. I was too busy trying to find a place to live and to find a new job and do all of those things. I didn’t have any time to make art and then, finally, I did. This was back in October, and I realized I have no idea what I want to make.

So I started out with drawing things I’d seen and all these things from photographs and all this stuff I thought was super inspirational. As far as a medium went, I didn’t know what was going to happen. Somehow it morphed into what it is now.

It sounds like you had a hard reset. In D.C. you had that project where you were creating something new every single day.

Yeah, that’s true. That whole project really helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my art. That got me into the whole collage thing in the first place, and this has kind of stemmed from that, I think. Being in a new place that’s so different just kind of jolted me a bit. Also, that experience of not making anything for six months, I think a lot of ideas where just kind of building up inside of me and I wasn’t even aware of it.

Has your schedule changed? 

When I was doing that 100 day project, even though I was trying to make something everyday, there were a few things that I did spend longer than a day on and I would do little things in between while working on the bigger things.

Now, I try to finish something every time I sit down. A lot of times I wouldn’t spend more than an hour on each thing. I think that’s why I started making the things that I’m making with the colored paper, because it can be so fast. I kind of get the sense that if I had the patience for painting, these would be paintings. This is so immediate, you can see how colors work together and then decide, “Oh I don’t like that.” With painting, that would be a lot more difficult. It’s just so much easier to work out ideas. I very rarely sketch everything ahead of time. It’s all just an in the moment kind of thing.

I have places where I store images and what not, so I’m not always coming up with stuff on the spot, but it’s super immediate, which I love. I can make a collage in a half an hour, hour, which is usually as much time as I have anyways. I don’t really have a lot of time. I’m working full time so I squeeze it in at night or on the weekends.


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The images you use as your inspiration, are these things you find? Are these photos you take? Your new work is so dreamy and all most out of this world.

90% of it are photos I’ve taken. I’ve always loved taking photos. I take an insane amount of photos. I feel if someone were to look at the photos on my phone they would be totally confused. They’d be like, “Why did you take a photo of that?”

The landscape out here has been so insane to me. I love it so much and it makes sense that it would pop up in my art. It’s funny, some of the first pieces I made that are in this style seemed generic to me. It was like mountains with the sun over them. I kept making them over and over again and I was like, why do I keep making these mountains with the sun over them? It’s so different from anything I’d ever made before. I never thought I’d be making landscapes. Then a friend pointed out to me, “You have this view from your apartment. It’s what you’re seeing all of the time.”

Are there any artists in LA who inspire you currently? Or someone you would like to work with?

When I first got out here I made a real push to try to meet people and then I realize, LA being as enormous as it is, it’s really hard to get in touch with people face to face. Most likely, they’re going to live on the other side and it will take you two hours to see them.

But I have had the chance to meet up with a few people, which has been really great. I’ve never really been much into collaborations, I don’t know why, maybe it’s just because I haven’t really tried it much. It’s not one of those things that pops into my mind as something I want to do.

In a similar vein, I don’t know what your showing schedule is like, but is there anywhere you really want to be?

I was part of a group show in a cafe in West Hollywood and I’m going to be showing some art at this place on the Venice boardwalk called Small World Books. It’s going to be up during the Venice Art Crawl.

I haven’t really been pushing to have my stuff shown anywhere yet. I think I’m just kind of enjoying the process of making stuff. Trying to get your stuff show is a whole other thing.

Is there anything you miss about D.C.’s art scene?

I felt like maybe because D.C. is a lot smaller… I felt like the A Creative DC blog, I felt like that was such a great source for finding out what’s going on. Out here, maybe because there’s so much going on, there’s a lot of different blogs and people covering what’s going on. It’s kind of hard to make sense of it all sometimes.

It’s mainly just the people that I miss. Obviously, it sucks to be so far away from friends and family.

D.C. does have a really great community of people making art and people in D.C. really look out for each other and help each other find opportunities. It could also be because I’m still new here. I don’t know that many people. I’m still trying to find that community, and I feel like I have found some of that through my job. It’s not quite the same as it was in D.C. I don’t feel completely in it yet.

That makes sense.

And also, there’s so much to do here and explore that has nothing to do with art. I really love being outside and exploring, going hiking, all that stuff. I want to learn how to surf, my boyfriend’s been teaching me how to skateboard. I’m just enjoying all that stuff too. I’m trying to find a balance and not get too sucked into the art world just yet.


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Part of the BYT Art Census 2019 series