Frame 61

Megan Lindeman

Frame 61
Megan Lindeman

Background/education: I’ve been making art since I can remember. When I turned 11, my mom gave me a pad of newsprint and a box of chalk pastels and from there I just had a natural desire to understand how to draw and bring my ideas to life on paper. I got my hands on those “Learn how to draw books” and I would analyze them from cover to cover and since then I just never stopped looking at things artistically. I also remember as a young girl being really drawn to stories about the lives of artists. My father was in the U.S. Air Force so my family and I moved around a lot during my early childhood, basically like every 3 years. I didn’t have a particularly “artistic” upbringing but I was exposed to a great variety of cultures at a young age, having lived in so many places. This influenced my understanding of the world and how I felt in it, and I turned towards art to work out such feelings and questions and understandings. 

As a teenager I decided I wanted to go to art school and become a painter, as I suppose I wanted to continue to work out how I felt and fit in the world by exploring various modes of artistic expression. I ended up studying Painting and Art History at Rhode Island School of Design and pursuing my Masters of Fine Art at Claremont Graduate University. After receiving my MFA, I co-founded an artist run space in Los Angeles and started showing my work along with the work of my peers. I also began showing my work in other independent LA galleries and various organizations around the U.S. and a few in Europe. I continue to feel what most likely is a never ending (well until I end) desire to create and defend this thing we call art.

The oval and mirrors: Mirrors allowed me to address the subjective quality of art, and my own tendencies to make meaning that is self-reflective in the sense that it questions how itself is made. I made and series of hybrid objects that I call “Painting Mirrors.” They function as part painting, part furniture. The viewer can actually become co-creator by determining each work’s orientation, as the 84” oval paintings swivel 180 degrees on walnut wood stands. The round shape, which became more specifically an ellipsoid, first appeared in drawings that I called “bomb drawings.” They were made in reaction to the Madrid Train bombings of 2004.

I felt a need to give the bombs halos and I was particularly inspired by the witty way divinity was implied in Early Christian Byzantine mosaics, so I decided to use tiny gold squares to create floating above each bomb. I was using the halos to change the identity of the bombs. Then for my next project I decided to paint only in the space of the halo and from that came my first oval painting. How the ovals function in terms of symbology now changes from project to project, but what remains consistent is the kind of floating or swirling space that I aim to create. I also just don't like painting in corners so the oval suits me very well.

Shapes attached to the canvas: I came to use these additional shapes because in my eyes these paintings were not enough just as standard formatted paintings. I have a hard time staying within the traditional parameters of Painting in general. So I think the colorful shapes allowed me to stay within the two dimensional, still, pictorial world linked to while letting me work outside of it and add something to it. In these works I also add oxytocin to the paint. Oxytocin is a hormone used in complex brain activity like bonding and trusting. I work with a neuroscientist in California who grants me access to the hormone, which subtly affects the look and feel of the paint over time. To me it acts as a little fact or reason within what would otherwise be an ambiguous yet emotionally charged, swirling, abstract form.

The viewer: I hope the viewer is intrigued by what they see, maybe a bit surprised even. If they read the title or come to understand the materials I think they will be intrigued even more and the connections between material, meaning, image, and current cultural and art historical references may start to form in their minds. Then maybe they do a dance about it. Just kidding. If my viewers dance that’s great, but I don't actually think about them dancing while I am making the work. Though movement is very important to me, if I can create the tinniest bit of movement in my viewer be it in their mind or body then that’s a good thing.

Process/inspiration: I am often moved by current events; things I read about in the news which can include politics or new understandings in neuroscience. This often brings up new ideas for projects, as does recalling my past. It’s usually a kind of meeting between outside sources and inside sources that occurs in my process. Inside being the more personal and highly emotional qualities of life that require time to feel and even time to unpack in order to fully understand. So I guess I usually start with something whether it be a shape or a phrase that is like my own little secret or just something I feel very personal about and then I relate it to something outside of me. For example I’ve been working on a multimedia project that includes photos, sound, and installation titled “My Freedom Is Too Big.” It is an on-going project that started from a realization that my personal freedom just simply couldn't be contained. I came to this realization in part by relating to what was happening at the time in Egypt and Tunisia. One sub-piece that came out of this project is titled “Whoa, You Guys OK?”. It consists of a sound piece and a text piece and is essentially making visible and audible my concern for protesters who have been subjected to on-going oppression half way across the world from me.  

Studio/routine/swing a cat: I’d love to swing a cat in it perhaps one day I will, but as for now it houses just me and my work and currently my boyfriend’s dog. It’s attached to where I live on a residential street in sunny Los Angeles. I usually have the main pieces I’m working on tacked up to a central wall and various words and phrases and lists of things I need to do taped up to another wall. Right now the phrase “Just Know” is taped above the door to my studio. The phrase is painted in a kind of 70’s disco rainbow font. (Well it’s actually just painted in my natural handwriting but I loaded the brush with all sorts of colors so it turned out, as many of my text pieces often do, to have a nostalgic, rainbow-like, 70’s feel to it. It’s also loaded with oxytocin, which is the hormone I mentioned earlier.) The floor and table tops go through various phases of being landing places for grids of drawings and scraps of paper that I’ll save for later works. When I get to spend solid consecutive days in the studio I just dive right in to where my last idea left me. I’m always sorting through ideas, organizing them, categorizing them, and then deciding which ones to see through to a finished end.

Titles: Often I write out a title or part of a title before I make the work, almost to function as a guide for what I want the colors and shapes to evoke emotionally. Sometimes my ideas for a painting are inspired by a certain phrase, which to me is also always accompanied by imagery and a certain feeling. Impulse also plays a big role in how I get to where ever it is that I end up in a painting and the titles act as an anchor in that organic journey. They serve as indicators and further set a tone for the viewer to follow or to return to. 

For instance in "Army Green Y’all, Laura Ashley Coveted Flower Print, It’s Even Worse Than It Seems and The Richness of Darkness", 2015 the title in part allows the viewer to know that within the dark swirly mess of color and form the green color that emerges is in fact Army Green, or so I call it. It’s not just any green. The reason for this is related to how that painting came to be, which happened to included interaction with the U.S. Army, and remembering a popular flower print from the 90’s that I once coveted as a little girl.

Influences: Some of my biggest influences really come from outside of art, they include big personalities and scholars like Peter Sloterdijk and neuroscientist Antonio Damasio.  They exemplify people that have paved the way for change in various fields and have introduced what might be seen initially as radical thinking and doing. Music plays an inspirational role in my life. One band that comes to mind is The Talking Heads. My dad played them around the house a lot when I was growing up, the band members also coincidentally dropped out of the art school that I ended up graduating from. Mainly it’s the content of their music (which I find to often be about place) and the thread of Dada throughout their music that I find energizing, creatively speaking. Artistically I’d have to say I am a huge fan of James Turrell.

My brother and I went on a rogue mission to find his Roden Crater in the Painted Desert of Arizona back in 2001 and I travelled to see all three exhibitions that together created his recent retrospective that spanned Los Angeles, New York, and Houston. The expansive nature and the work’s ability to access something that sits at the base of humanness and seems to be shared by all who experience existence is an extremely moving quality that I almost always experience when I view his work. Also I am very interested in the phenomenon of perception so being interested in Turrell’s work sort of goes without saying. Plus I live in Southern California and we attended the same graduate school whose architecture I believe influenced some of his earliest sky spaces. My father is a pilot so I feel a particular affinity to the sky as does Turrell as he himself is a pilot. 

I also have to mention Richard Serra as I ran a gallery with his nephew for a few years so I became familiar with Serra’s particular breed of thinking and need for total control in not only creating his work but also controlling the dialog that accompanies his work. I also spent some time working for Los Angeles based artists Laura Owens and John Baldessari. Laura maintains a feeling of total freedom in the studio that I naturally identify with. I share a kind of need for things to feel easy that Baldessari’s work, (specifically his uncanny compositions and handling of text and image) really exemplifies. I also want to mention Tracey Emin because she’s a badass engaged in an art practice that at times makes her very vulnerable and exposes her extreme sensitivities, which is something I both strive for and fight to “manage” in my studio.

Future/shows: I’m currently working on a series of paintings with colorful shapes attached to them and with oxytocin mixed into the paint. Theses works are similar to my most recent paintings though a bit brighter and they employ slightly more suggestive shapes. I hope to show them in LA come Spring 2017. I also hope to complete additional sound and visual sub-pieces associated with my on-going project titled “My Freedom Is Too Big” at a residency in Florida this Fall. 

Artist website

Publishing date of this interview 29/04/16