Join the Elephant Room, Inc. gallery for Chicago-based visual artist Lindsey Claire Newman's mixed media show, “Use Your Seaside Voices!” exhibiting August 22nd through September 20th, 2014. Enjoy wine and rumination at the opening reception on Friday, August 22nd from 5 to 8pm. Chat with Newman at her artist's talk on Thursday, September 18th at 6pm. Elephant Room is located at 704 S Wabash Avenue in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago.
You've mentioned Kurt Vonnegut's writing and observing sea life on its "personal journey of dying." Can you elaborate on these thoughts as they relate to the tone and content of your paintings?
Literature has always been a large piece of the conversation that happens during my creation process. I often talk about the world that my paintings are drawn from, which is very real as well as fantastical. I think I could describe it best as a world perceived with a completely open mind. Vonnegut, Haruki Murakami, as well as others, have had a part in my defining and confirming this world. I am constantly elaborating on this mental image of this existence, and I find it absolutely amazing when I find this place being described to me, in accurate detail, in a novel, or as with the Blue Footed Boobies, I find myself literally standing in the midst of a story I've read. These writer's are just writing about their experience in the world. I just want to paint mine.
Can you talk a bit about your series of artfully altered books and your inspiration from literature?
The books relate more to my appreciation for beauty, even when it isn't fully understood, than my love for literature. Directly, the idea comes from my experiences in bookshops around the world. Often, there was nothing in them in a language I could understand. I found myself pouring through these foreign books anyways. There is so much I love about books aside from the words, or the stories. I love their weight, their smell, their wear from being read over and over and over. I also had a lot of fun messing around with dictionaries while traveling. You'd think a dictionary definition is a pretty standardized thing, but they're not. They change in the language you read them in, they change from book to book, even in English. I started writing down words I meant to look up and over time just started making up the definitions on my own. I got home and had all of these pages of conflicting and poetic definitions and I kind of lost track of which ones were real. My favorite was climacteric: the heart rate of fruit just before full ripening. I'm pretty sure that was from an actual dictionary too. In the Oxford book climacteric is way less exciting : ) The whole situation kind of ended up being a comment on everything in the world just being someone's interpretation anyways. That makes me feel more confident in my own interpretation of things. I wrote this poem a day or two after I got back home, while sitting at my parents house. I feel like it really encompassed the surrealism of my adventure around the world while still being an honest account.
The piece "My other-world counterpart" depicts a young girl holding hearts on a kabob amidst dangling apple cores and compass-like geometrical forms. Can you explain some of this context?
Ha, I didn't read these ahead of time : ) Like that poem, this really happened! My paintings are, in my eyes, an unchronological series of events and experiences that shape themselves, much like my human brain. It's funny, the things that stick in the forefront of your brain. You can't possibly remember everything, but somehow it all integrates itself into your personality. I prefer not to give a direct explanation of my paintings, because for me, the painting is the explanation. I know a painting is done when all the colors are balanced out and I really feel like it solves some part of myself.
I will say, that this painting is the truest self portrait I've accomplished thus far. And, that the compass forms are a reference to the fact that we (humans) have absolutely zero grasp on what this existence entails. There were a few days in Turkey, where I was sitting in trees picking olives and listening to podcasts all day, where I came across a podcast about Brian Greene's multi-universe theory. It ends discussing that it is more possible than not that we exist in a synthetic universe. I didn't believe in anything for days and I actually despised looking at the stars. It wasn't just this podcast but I feel like some reset button got pressed and after that I really stopped believing in the things I had taken for granted. That was pretty monumental for me.
You've talked about a desire to forge a feeling of connectedness between viewers through your mixed-media pieces. How do you hope to achieve this goal?
I'm not interested in actually forging this feeling of connectedness. I believe the question that that was the answer to was 'what do I want viewers to get out of my work.' I have a hard time with that question because my work is very personal. It is ultimately my expression and my way of going through life. My mom is an artist. This is how I grew up. I was taught to sort things out through art and journaling. The fact that people enjoy looking at my work, and have their own reactions to it, is absolutely thrilling and insanely humbling. I brought up the feeling of connectedness because when I see art out there that blows my mind, it's that feeling that I love. Like, you can see someone's art and completely relate to their expression of something without ever knowing the person or even how they felt about anything. Even if the artist and I are not even close to talking about the same thing, something got zapped in me. The passing along of information, no matter how accurately translated, is really important in my eyes. That's how a culture grows. I think the best part about making and showing art is that I'm doing what I do and throwing it out on the table. It's everyone else that comes around and has their own experience with it. I absolutely love that.
A sincere thank you for sharing such personal memory and reflection with your visual audience.