Now Featuring Lindsey Lyons

Painter Lindsey Lyons addresses landscape with such affinity that her materials seem to mimic weather and geology itself; washes glide like fog, collected objects accumulate as if sifted by a receding tide.  Based in San Francisco, Lindsey is pursuing an MFA at California College of the Arts. In addition to her print series with LPP, she has two Bay Area shows coming up: John Baldessari: Class Assignments (optional) opening January 19th at the Wattis Institute in San Francisco and Is: Reykjavik and the Icelandic West at the CCA Oakland campus January 18th.

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MH: Your paintings are deeply abstract, but with a hint of landscape popping up. I understand you’ve lived in Florida, the Northeast and now California, and you have a show opening soon with work from your summer residency in Iceland — can you talk about the way landscape affects your way of working?

LL: Landscapes greatly influence my work. The ground is an archive of geologic change. I grew up in Sarasota, Florida, where the Gulf of Mexico beaches were a twenty minute drive west and orange groves and cow pastures were just east of our neighborhood. Tropical storms, hot, humid weather, and lightning were fairly common. I was lucky to dig and sculpt in the sand at a young age. A huge part of the culture there was going shopping – to the mall or the outlets, sunning at the beach, and spending time at theme parks like Disney and Universal. There was a huge disconnect for me between these Florida pastimes and nature. In middle school, a classmate turned me on to horseback riding and for ten years, I worked at barns mucking stalls, teaching lessons, and riding. I think this really connected me to the natural world. Going to college in the Northeast was my chance to live where seasons exist. I loved it. Snow completely altered the landscape. I was blown away the first time I went down the coast of California and walked on Pfeiffer Beach. The seaweed, sand, water color, and jutting rocks were all vastly different from where I grew up. The more I travel, the more I recognize my fascination with the terrain, light, and flora in a particular place.

Two summers ago, I took a road trip with my dog to the Southwest. After living in the city for a few years, the desert presented horizons I forgot existed. Iceland was similar in its vastness, but more alive given its volcanic activity and geothermal energy. Most recently, I took a seminar at CCA about the sublime, which included an awesome camping trip up to Glass Mountain and Lava Beds National Monument in Northern California. Access to the outdoors and new places is crucial to my process.

MH: What kinds of projects do you have coming up? And can you talk a bit about the work you’re exhibiting in Is: Reykjavik and the Icelandic West this week at the College Avenue Galleries at CCA in Oakland?

LL: I’m excited about my work in John Baldessari: Class Assignments, (optional) at the Wattis in San Francisco. Students in CCA’s Graduate Program in Fine Arts were given the opportunity to create work based on Baldessari’s assignments, which date back to 1970. I was able to experiment with silk and linen stretched over old works to make new paintings without paint. The opening reception is January 19 from 6-8 p.m.

My piece in Is: Reykjavik and the Icelandic West Exhibition is acrylic on wood panel. The landscape in Iceland is vast and the air thick with quiet in an overwhelming way. I created this painting a few weeks after I was back in San Francisco. For me, it conjures black holes, waterfalls, light, and dark. The opening for this show in Oakland is January 18 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

This week, spring semester also kicks in, so I’m gearing up for classes again at CCA in addition to having a job. It’s busy, but I do best with structure in my day and it keeps my art practice fresh because I can’t get stuck for too long on a piece that isn’t working when there’s other stuff going on. Experimenting with new materials is the plan for the next few months.

MH: I love the range of tonal weight in these images, from super-light to super-dark, and also the shifts I feel in depth, from enclosed close, tight-feeling views to airy, atmospheric and infinite.  Can you talk about what inspired the images and the materials you chose for drawing/painting them?

LL: I’m constantly collecting old or natural things that influence the work. Relying on instinct is really essential to fueling this process. I try not to question why something resonates. Items might sit for a long time before I figure out what to do with them, but their proximity to my work definitely impacts the colors and water-based materials I use. I want the works to resonate with viewers on a variety of levels. There is no single way to interpret any one of these pieces.

MH: How much preparation do you do for your finished work?  I appreciate how impromptu your paintings feel, but they’re also carefully related to each other and feel like part of a continuum.

LL: Shaun O’Dell, whom I’m working with at CCA, was saying there’s a natural history within my work. All the pieces fit together while allowing room for more, in a non-scientific classification sort of way. Years of sifting through rocks at the beach and staring out plane windows has influenced what I do. That’s part of the preparation for me–lots of thinking and looking both out in the world and in the studio. The piece that actually gets made is a document of all that preparation. But a document can be fleeting, vague, mysterious. It doesn’t have to be finite. Recognition and awareness are really present in my process right now. I mean, knowing when to slow down, to stop and look at something, and not care what other people think. That’s the freedom and challenge of being an artist. I am able to go with a decision because it feels right and looks right. I can decide a work finished even when it looks weird or neglected. I want to reveal process, thoughts, hesitations more than I want to present something slick or a little too done up.

MH: What is your next big project?  Are you planning any more travel or site-based work?

LL: Figuring out my thesis is my next big project. For the summer, I’m hoping to find a short residency where I can bring my dog. He’s an awesome studio mate, but it makes for trickier travel planning. I graduate in the spring of 2013, so there will be plenty more travel ahead. In the meantime, those volcanic mud baths a bit north of SF sound intriguing. Art research that doubles as leisure is too good to miss.

Site-based work? Yes! I need to start thinking about spending more time making work outside and documenting it. Actually, I buried unmarked Yupo paper in a muddy lava field in Iceland over the summer, and went back for it a few days later. It took a couple hours to find them all. The search was preparation for paintings made back in the studio.

1 comment

1 Leland ByrdNo Gravatar { 02.02.12 at 6:59 pm }

Hi there love your dog and the preparations you do for your paintings, your meditations are profound but bringing them into physical reality via painting is definitely going to be a work in progress as you already know. Keep at it love to see the progression. Leland

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