Space Between Places – An Interview with Artist Morleigh Steinberg

Storyland Studios’ writer, Freddy Martin, sat down with Morleigh Steinberg to talk about how creating unique spaces for people to interact can positively affect human creativity and experiences. Morleigh Steinberg is a dancer, choreographer, director, filmmaker, lighting designer, and is married to U2 guitarist, The Edge.

When I first met Morleigh Steinberg, artist and co-owner of Arcane Space, a bodega studio in Venice, California, I asked about her “gallery.” She politely corrected me.

“It’s not so much a gallery as it is a space,” she mused.

That caught my attention. As a Spatial Storyteller(sm), I’m fascinated by the ways people use space to express something of meaning or significance. Whether in cathedrals, office cubicles, or amusement parks, creative people are able to transform space to express something about themselves and the way they see the world. So I had to go see Arcane Space for myself.

“I think ‘a gallery’ is very defined,” Morleigh later explained. “There’s a certain structure that a gallery has to set up to present artists.”

The entire gallery… er, space is surprisingly small and painted stark white, from the floor to the ceiling. It gives one the impression of a blank page or canvas to be used freely for artistic expression.

“We want it to be a place where we can share,” Morleigh said. “And give (artists) an opportunity to present work, or make work, or explore work, or push work, but not in a defined gallery. But just in the space.”

Lines In The Sky

Arcane Space’s first installation was a collection of Morleigh’s own photographs entitled “LA Sky Lines.”

Each piece featured the blue, California sky criss-crossed with telephone wires and poles, double-exposed for a disorienting kaleidoscopic effect.

“I’ve always been fascinated by the connections that these wires make above our heads. We live in this very detached society. There’s something so tangible and so real about these wires going from pole to pole to pole to pole.”

True to her intention to allow the space to guide the work, the photographs weren’t hung on the walls. They were on the floor, leaned against the wall to create a sort of blue baseboard that followed the walls’ hard angles wherever they led.

This unusual arrangement allowed visitors to view the images, not as individual pieces, but as part of a larger complete work. The space itself had become the work of art.

“There’s purity in putting a picture on the wall,” she said. “But you never just put a picture on a wall, do you? You always put a picture up in the relationship it has to the rest of the space.”

The Space Between Places

Exploring and interacting with new spaces and places has always intrigued Morleigh.

“There are several places in LA that are so unique, but you’re going to have to drive to them. You’re going to have to get in the car to go to them.”

Morleigh grew up in Los Angeles alongside the city’s vast and notorious freeway system. But traffic and distance couldn’t keep her from seeking out the unique experiences the city has to offer.

“I lived in New York for a time and there you don’t have to drive to experience a lot of different things. Here, there’s always somewhere to go. That comforts me more than having the same places within reach all the time.”

One Southern California place she rediscovered recently was Disneyland. Walt Disney’s cartoon kingdom in Anaheim might not be the first place an artist thinks of when seeking authenticity and genuine inspiration, but Morleigh went into the experience with eyes wide open.

“I was so impressed by it. I was really impressed by the landscaping, all California drought tolerant. But then in Tomorrowland, the landscaping was all vegetables, like kale, and chard, and herbs and it was quite remarkable and I was like, ‘Right on!’”

“Then, going into the haunted house, all the things that held the chains they were all these beautiful kind of patinaed bats. And they were real! They weren’t like plastic fake stuff. They were real materials.”

While Morleigh seemed genuinely surprised at the authenticity achieved in Disneyland’s fantasy worlds, she agreed wholeheartedly with the premise that creating space for people to respond to produces genuine emotional results.

“I think how we make space and interact with space has an effect on our positivity, on our outlook, on the whole human experience.”

Outside, It’s America

At the time of this writing, Morleigh is putting the finishing touches on Arcane Space’s newest installation; The Joshua Tree – Photographs by The Edge, the first public showing of her husband’s series of desert photographs.

In 1986, Irish rock band U2 visited Death Valley in California to capture images of America for the cover of their groundbreaking album, The Joshua Tree.

But band photographer, Anton Corbjin, wasn’t the only one taking pictures. The Edge, Morleigh’s husband, and U2’s revered lead guitarist and atmospheric sound architect, took up his own camera to capture the wide open spaces he saw.

Morleigh recognized that displaying her husband’s never-before-seen photographs of the same brilliant landscapes would be unique and intriguing for many people. And the timing isn’t bad either. The band just finished a worldwide tour celebrating the album’s 30th anniversary.

“It doesn’t make sense to do it 6 months from now,” said Morleigh. “That would feel like going back, you know? So let’s kind of catch the end of this magnificent tour and commemoration to that album, which meant a lot to a lot of people.”

With the confidence of a woman at the vanguard of creative exploration for her family, Morleigh convinced her husband to do the unexpected, to use the space to explore and share his own story. ”Let’s not make this about the band. Let’s make it about the landscape. And the landscape that you saw at that time.”

Arcane Space is the collaborative effort of Morleigh Steinberg and singer/artist Frally Hynes.

The Joshua Tree – Photographs by The Edge runs from November 22-December 17, 2017.

100% of the proceeds from sales supports the Go Campaign, which funds grass roots organizations that serve children and youth around the world.

Visit ArcaneSpaceLA.com for more information.

Read the full, uncondensed version of this story at FreddyMartin.net.

Arcane Space in Venice, California. Image originally posted by @arcane.space on Instagram used by permission. © 2017 Arcane Space, all rights reserved.