Kija Lucas is an artist and educator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She uses photography to
explore ideas of home, heritage and inheritance. Lucas explores how ideas are passed down and how
seemingly inconsequential moments create changes that last generations.
Lucas received her MFA from Mills College in 2010 and her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2006. Her work has been exhibited throughout the Bay Area at The Walter and MacBean Galleries at the San Francisco Art Institute, The Euphrat Museum at DeAnza College, The Headlands Center for the Arts, The California Institute of
Integral Studies, Altar Space, Intersection for the Arts, Luggage Store, Mission Cultural Center, Root
Division, The Bedford Gallery, Pro Arts, The Asian Resource Center Gallery, as well as The Museum of
Northern California Art in Chico, CA, Venice Arts in Los Angeles, CA, The Wassaic Project in Wassaic, NY,
La Sala d’Ercole/Hercules Hall in Bologna Italy, and Casa Escorsa in Guadalajara, Mexico.
Lucas has been an Artist in Residence at The Lucas Artist Residency at Montalvo Center for the Arts, Grin City Collective, The Growlery, and The Wassaic Artist Residency. She is currently the program manager for The Growlery in San Francisco. She has been a member of 3.9 Art Collective and Southern Exposure’s Curatorial Council since 2018.
How did you discover art as a career path?
I am a quiet person. An observer. I learned how to communicate when I learned how to make pictures.
When I was nineteen, I inherited my father’s camera, and out of respect I wanted to learn how to use it. So,
I strong-armed my brother into taking a beginning photography class at the local community college. It was
the first class I had finished since age 15. After that, I would take photography classes at night after work.
Eventually, I decided to go to school and pursue art full time. It was a couple of years into taking classes
that I started making work that was based on ideas. It took me a long time to feel comfortable claiming the
title of Artist.
Who has been an influence in your career?
My parents always encouraged me to question. When I would come home from school my dad would talk
to me about the parts that my teachers left out. Mildred Howard, Carrie Mae Weems, and Adrian Piper are
a few of the visual artists who have made work that speaks to me. Mildred, who was a professor of mine in
undergrad and is still a friend and mentor to this day has been a huge influence through conversations as
well. Storytellers who helped me to think critically about the world are Octavia Butler, Zadie Smith, and my
When you hit a creative block, how do you move forward?
When I have a creative block, after I am done panicking and am completely convinced that I will never
make anything interesting again, I clean my studio. I do my best to forgive myself and then return to older
bodies of work and ideas that I have not had time to pursue. From there I make new pictures. I make
anything, even if what I make is not good.
How do you define success?
One of the most exciting parts about being an artist for me is that there is no defined path. I make
decisions that keep me moving in what feels like the right general direction, and when I veer too far off, I
correct my course. I am lucky to be able to be able to spend my time doing something that calls to me, to
be around some incredible, interesting people, and to live an unexpected life.
What message do you hope your work communicates?
I hope my work inspires people to question where their beliefs and ideas about what is natural, beautiful,
and useful come from. And how their seven generations back grandmother’s life experiences have
influenced their own.
What has been an important lesson you have learned during your career?
The importance of community is central, as is taking care of physical and mental health.
Finally, what advice might you give to your younger self?
Find your people and keep them close, trust yourself, work hard, rest, exercise, see a good therapist. Save
your money where you can, don’t go into debt for school. Don’t get distracted by other people’s
expectations of you.
Find out more at www.kijalucas.com