Interview and photographs by Steve Simorka
November 26, 2016
Brooklyn-based artist , Lindsay Taylor, on the realities and rewards of making art as a form of meditation, what she’s learning from exploring new processes and using her installations to further a meaningful conversation with herself and the audience.
Tell me where you got your start.
I got started in painting young. I was emphatic with all the art classes I was taking in school; I think specifically I started taking oil painting young. (Laughing) I don’t know if that was smart because it’s more hazardous than acrylic paint but I started oil painting when I was in middle school. I had some great art teachers that help me to become as excited about art making as I am now. I would take after school classes; I would do some nude figure paintings.
What was it about painting, rather than other forms of median, that drew you in?
I guess to be totally honest, I found it to be the easiest to begin with. Drawing at that time when I was real young and trying to understand art and art making, it just seemed like it was a precursor to a final peace. I don’t feel the same way about it now but drawing never felt like a finalized form of art making when I was younger. Painting was the other main tool that my teachers taught us, so to me it was just a natural progression. I found it to be the most calming.
What were your works like back then?
(Laughing) I mostly focused on figure work, I did a lot of Sailor Moon drawings and I had to be perfect at them! Figure work has stayed with me ever since. I was naturally interested in the human figure, so from copying cartoons I started realizing “hey there are human beings I can draw upon and hone my skills.” When I was younger, I focused on being the best I could with my technical skills and that is what led me into doing figure work. (Smiling) I’d also have to do the occasional landscape but I wasn’t happy with that.
How was the transition from Sailor Moon to a more natural human form?
I’ve always been an observant person so it was almost like an expansion of knowledge that I already had. When I was doing Sailor Moon drawings, that was in like 4th grade and I didn’t understand that there was other art beyond that because all I had at my disposal were my brother’s comic books. So it was an eye-opening moment for me, like “oh shit! I can draw the person sitting in front of me. That’s pretty cool!”
Did you use this new expansion of knowledge to help you with your education?
(Laughing) Yeah and I also didn’t think I was good at anything else. But I remember thinking about college back in high school, that it was my turn to pick what I want to learn about every day and art was the only thing I cared about doing. So, it was a no-brainer that I was going to do my undergrad in art and painting. It even carried on after college into my residency programs at School of Visual Arts, so it never really stopped.
How was the transition from college to the residency programs?
It was hard at first but the residency programs proved to be the most valuable experience that I’ve ever had.
Well, it was in the context of real-life. I was meeting other professionals that were going through the same experiences or had already gone through it years before which they shared with me. Also in school, there’s this bubble where you’re trying to make everything pristine and I always had it in my mind, that I was going to be this great artist. After graduation, there I was and it didn’t happen! But I joined the residency program and I met other people that were so real, honest and were just as confused as I was. That was inspirational to be in that kind of environment where everyone was exchanging ideas and being creative together.
Being in the residency, how do you feel that experience has changed your process?
It totally changed, like a 180. Two days after I graduated I moved to the city and started my residency at SVA. I was super depressed that school was over and I still had that undergrad mentality. I felt like I should keep making projects with an objective, that are due on a certain date and I was going to get it reviewed by someone. But it wasn’t until I started doing work at the residency that I realized that I don’t have to do that anymore, I don’t have to make projects for a professor. I can make whatever the fuck I want!
After this realization, what kind of work did you start making?
It’s funny because I feel like from the moment that hit me, up until about a year ago I was struggling with what to make. I focused mostly on process, my work from this realization has been about getting to that place where I care deeply about what I’m creating. Or trying to understand why I’m creating something. I focused on a lot of art therapy, meditation and trying to work intuitively.
You were working with art to be more of a meditation?
I would use the act of making art as a type of meditation and I was taking the extra step of meditating before starting to work. I wanted to have a freeing experience without my own objectives, without my own perceptions and work in this place of subconscious to see what happens. From there I would fine tune the work and kind of investigate where I was going with it. I think that was freeing and I honestly needed to do that, otherwise I was just going to sit in my room doing the same thing I was doing in college.
You have done your residency; you have explored your process.
What is the next thing that’s got you excited?
I’m super excited to make more installation work. It’s been something that I have been a little hesitant about doing at first but I’m excited now because it’s new territory. My work has never been so encompassing, but I have always made large paintings to be expansive and to fill a room. I want you as a viewer to feel what I’m feeling. It was just a natural progression that led to thinking more about the space I was working in.
Moving off the canvas and into the space itself, how have installations changed your process?
I feel like it hasn’t, (laughing) maybe isn’t the best thing...
Well I guess the one aspect that has changed is; I neglect the fact that painting is on a static surface. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I started to feel that the conversation I was having with myself was getting too expansive for a static frame. What I’m doing now is painting on Mylar Sheets and when I’m done, I then cut it up. I do this a couple of times with other paintings and I’d use the pieces to create a new narrative in the space. I’m making a conversation that has meaning then cutting it into pieces with no meaning and finally making a new conversation with those pieces.
Elaborate about what you mean when you say “conversation.”
Well I just sit in my studio and I have a full-blown chat with myself! (Laughing) “Lindsay, what are you doing? This looks like shit!”
No, it’s more of an internal conversation with the personal things that are going on in my life or what is going on in the world that I need to get out. How can all these things that are important or have meaning in my life interact with each other. I’ll ask myself, “what are the major players in the painting right now?” I’ll cut those out and from there I’ll ask “what are the less important ones?” And I may go back in and work over it or cover it up with paint. After that those pieces will get cut out and I lay everything on the floor and start piecing things together. I do everything temporarily so I’ll start taping things to the wall and see how it’s all interacting with each other. I may change or move it, the installation in my studio has gone through 7 different iterations because the conversation I’m having with it is never the same.
Do you consider the viewer to be a part of the conversation?
That’s a great question. As I was saying before, my work right after school was more of a meditation or a tool to understand what to make. Now that I’m getting more into installations and it’s all about the space your building, I’m trying to think more about what the dialogue between what I show the viewer and what I try to cover up.
See more of Lindsay's work here.