Lindsay A. Hall draws inspiration from (seemingly) everywhere. Over the course of our interview, she references Crayola Crayons, My Little Pony, McDonalds, erotica and Tim Burton, just to name a few things. The result of this mishmash of art, culture and childhood objects, is beyond otherworldly. Her sculptural pieces manage to evoke the past (the childhood nostalgia is strong here) and the future. Her pieces mix childlike colors with sensual adult imagery. Even the name of her current Hillyer show, “Luscious and Pluscious” (run, do not walk, there) feels both familiar and removed. It’s like stumbling into another dimension and feeling right at home.
When did you first start making art? What did it look like?
I have made art for as long as I can remember. I feel lucky that I found art at a very young age and I knew it was important to me. All I really wanted to do as kid was paint and draw and create things. It didn’t really matter what it was or what materials I used, as long as I was caught up in a creative process, I was truly happy and I felt most connected to myself. I am also lucky that my family recognized my artistic proclivities and they fully supported and encouraged my pursuit of all things artistic. They knew how central art was to my life even before I did and they always made sure I was surrounded by it.
The art I made as a child was very colorful, highly saturated and playful. I used a lot of craft materials – glitter, crayons, puffy paint, paper mache, clay, markers and oil pastels. Interestingly but not surprisingly, it has a lot in common with the art I make now. My childhood aesthetic, experiences and perspective are important to me as a person and as an artist. I covet my childhood because it keeps me centered and reminds me of what is important in life – appreciating the little things that seem like precious secrets and staying in awe of the wonder of this life. My childhood was magical. It was the kind of childhood that every kid should have. I was very lucky. So I bring that into my work and my adulthood because I want to share those moments and memories.
How did you get into your current style? Was there anyone / anything that inspired you?
My current style comes from everything I did before. Little pieces of everything I have tried exist in my current work as remnants of thoughts and feelings I had. I have always been in love with sculpture, especially soft sculpture. I will never forget how I felt and how my mind blew up a little the first time I saw Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures as an undergrad. I remember thinking that was what I wanted to do someday.
Growing up I also had a passion for sewing and textiles. I took two fashion design courses in high school and I really got excited by the idea of designing and creating clothes and accessories as a profession. I took those courses really seriously and I paid close attention. I loved threading the machine, sketching out my ideas and seeing an article of clothing become wearable and three-dimensional when it started out as yards of flat fabric. When I realized I wanted to make soft sculptures I reanimated this part of myself and I fell in love with sewing and fiber all over again.
I’m also inspired by the human body, color, glitter, vinyl pool toys and inflatable furniture, confections, translucent objects, Ernesto Neto, Eva Hesse, Henri Matisse, Tim Burton, claymation, Fantastic Voyage, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, My Little Pony, Popples, and the colorful, plush toys and plastic food from my childhood. I had a 1989 Fisher Price McDonald’s Drive Thru with the fake hamburger patties and buns, ice cream sundaes, fries and pickles. It has fed a lot of my fantasies.
I also get a lot of inspiration from films. I absolutely love movies. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of other worlds, other times and other realities, so for me watching a movie is an opportunity to go somewhere else or see from another person’s perspective for a while.
What’s your process like when you’re preparing for a show? What was the impetus behind “Luscious and Pluscious”?
When I’m preparing for a show I become really focused and more introverted. I’ve always been an organized and self-disciplined person, but I get more caught up in the details as I prepare and over prepare for a show. I make lists and cross things off (very satisfying) and do a lot of sketches and mockups for how I want the exhibition to look and where the pieces should be placed. But no matter how much I prepare or how well I familiarize myself with the exhibition space there are always surprises and things that happen during install that I didn’t expect. I’ve learned to be very adaptable and to see these things as opportunities and happy accidents and seize them to make the result even better than I imagined.
“Luscious and Pluscious” was motivated by many ideas and fantasies I have had for a long time. When I first conceived of this exhibition, I imagined an indulgent and immersive wonderland brimming with brightly colored and supple sculptures lavishly arranged in provocative postures and hanging in animated suspension. As I developed the show concept and vision I realized I wanted to combine my 2D and 3D work. I fantasized about suggestions of doughy flesh and fluffy confections stuffed into fiber casings and depicted in glitter-crusted paintings saturating the visual field.
As I fell back into the curiosity of my childhood, I recalled moments of candy collecting, marshmallow hoarding, gummy sucking and the tacky smack of precious residue on an overly stimulated brain. The body, food and squishy toys inspired ideas for shapes, textures and colors as youthful amusements played back in fluid rotations, evoking candy shops and toy stores overflowing with piles of goodies, generous puddles of neon slime, the gyration of pearlescent water wigglies and Saturday mornings filled with Candy Land, My Little Pony and Popples. I was suddenly surrounded by plush forms bouncing and colliding in an invisible yet seemingly viscous fluid backlit with glowing gradations in a never-ending white expanse.
At its center, the show is concerned with pleasure, desire and intimacy in relation to fantasy playscapes of the body and beyond. This show, as with all of my work, is very sensuous, emotive and transformative. I was interested in oversimplifying and abstracting bodily imagery – turning a penis or a shoulder into a wonky noodle and a vagina or a mouth into an asymmetrical donut. In this way, sexually ambiguous pieces and parts become representative of a universal body, forming a framework for individual experience and inviting recollections of salacious moments and awkward discoveries.
Bodily pleasures such as food are overtly inserted into the work as another source of inspiration, layering spongy flesh with gooey, sticky-sweet intimations. The alluring components and scenes are amalgamations of both the foreign and the familiar and can be interpreted as both micro and macro, internal and external, corporeal and temporary, tugging at the seams of dream like realities.
I pull from palpable memories of things innocent and erotic, tasty and visceral, and playfully reinterpret these personal experiences through an intuitive process that results in each candy colored morsel. Deliciously digestible sensuality and shameless humor are blended, whipped and drizzled over each juicy delicacy.
I wanted to inject as much of my childhood joy and wonder as I could into “Luscious and Pluscious” while merging these ideas with adult fantasy and pleasure. It was important to combine high-quality mediums with inexpensive craft materials, mashing my mature and sometimes sophisticated sensibilities with my childish sense of fun and accessible excess. Crayola paints combine with the smell of vinyl pool toys and translucent inflatable furniture, conjuring earlier days punctuated by the thrill of crafting followed by pool parties with cupcakes and ice cream. Rainbow colored tulle packed with iridescent cellophane mimic icing, pastel sherbet and gelatinous jigglies as after-school shenanigans resurface in dizzying proportions.
Most of the materials I choose to work with are very malleable and transformative. I enjoy using something in way that it was not intended or incorporating found objects into my work. I repurposed a lot of materials to create the work for “Luscious and Pluscious,” making regular stops at second-hand stores, recycling older work and scavenging local parks for special trinkets left behind from celebrations. The materials used to construct each piece in this show are representative of specific objects, products and sensory memories tied to my life experience, but they are also relatable as shared experiences. It was important to me that “Luscious and Pluscious” be inclusive and welcoming.
What was it like to show at the Hillyer? Or in D.C. in general?
It has been a wonderful experience to have a solo show at Hillyer Art Space. The staff there are very supportive and warm. I feel incredibly lucky to have been selected for a solo exhibition there as it is located in the heart of D.C. in a vibrant neighborhood and Hillyer supports emerging artists so well. I am proud to have a show in D.C. since it was my home for a while and where I took my first steps in my career after the insular security of grad school. Like anywhere new, it took a while to establish myself but I soon made new friends and valuable connections that I cherish to this day. D.C. has a thriving and diverse arts culture and I’m really excited to be a part of that.
What kind of environment do you create in? Is there any specific kind of music you play? Do you prefer day time / night time?
Currently, I work out of a home studio that is sprinkled throughout my house. I utilize my bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, office and backyard. I think of my studio as an idea rather than a concrete location, so it exists in more than one place simultaneously as an “anywhere and everywhere” philosophy. It moves around with me as a nomadic concept, meeting the needs of a specific project or a component for a certain piece at a specific time.
Sometimes I listen to music, but more often I work with a documentary, a movie or a podcast playing in the background. The silence can be distracting to me, so I have found that background noise is a good way to let my mind trail off and get lost in what it is I’m working on. I have eclectic taste in most things. I love Sufjan Stevens, Philip Glass, David Bowie, Empire of the Sun, War Paint, Lindsey Stirling, Nico Vega, Stevie Nicks and Led Zeppelin (among many others).
I prefer to work during the day because I like to work from natural light. I have daylight lamps that I use if I decide to work at night, but I can never see as well and the colors don’t translate the same in the dark. Sometimes I get a second wind at night. I have found that my mind opens up in strange and exciting ways in the middle of the night where I’m liberated from criticism and self-doubt, so this can be a wonderful time to work things out. I do a lot my writing at night for this reason.
You’re about to show in Italy (which sounds amazing), but what does your dream show look like? Where would it be? Who would it be with (if anyone)?
I am very excited and overwhelmed at the opportunity to have a solo show in Italy. This will be my first international solo exhibition and I feel very grateful to have been invited to participate in the XIIth Florence Biennale 2019, which will take place in October 2019.
Although participating in this international contemporary art event is a dream of mine, I do have many other fantasies about shows I plan to have in the future. I want to go bigger. I would love to involve all of the senses and create much larger installations that swallow and consume. These installations will be adaptations of what I have done in past installations and recently with “Luscious and Pluscious,” but more exaggerated and involved to truly pull participants into alternate environments where their sense of reality is rooted in fantasy playscapes indicative of other worlds and fantastical landscapes.
I would also love to reconceive of some of my current soft sculptures, making them more monumental. I can compare my concept of scale to the movies Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Fantastic Voyage where the people are made tiny and enter normally familiar environments that taken out of context become alien, whimsical and curious. I’m not sure where it would be. The location is not as important as what a space offers. It would have to be a large, open and indoor space with white walls and a neutral floor not to distract from color or soak up the light. My dream exhibition partners are Ernesto Neto and Pip and Pop!