If you’ve ever been to Creative Cocktail Hour at Real Art Ways chances are you’ve met local artist and RAW Education Manager, Lindsey Fyfe. Lindsey is also one of our 2016 Featured Artists for the United Arts Campaign and will be exhibiting her oil paintings for the exhibition Cardinal Points at 100 Pearl Street Gallery this spring. I met with Lindsey at her bright and colorful downtown Hartford studio to get a sneak peek of her work up close and get a behind-the-scenes of her artistic process. As an abstract painter, Lindsey describes her process as deeply meditative and calming, allowing intuition to guide her brush strokes to create a dialogue with the canvas. The process is reflective in her paintings as broad colorful brush strokes intersect and diverge to depict aspects of the natural world. One painting that beautifully illustrates the natural landscape of Connecticut is “Talcott Mountain Summit,” which is available to contributors who donate $500 or more to our United Arts Campaign. The painting is inspired by her parents engagement at Talcott Mountain.
Read on to get inspired by our Q&A with Lindsey and join us for the opening reception of Cardinal Points on April 7 from 5-7 p.m. at 100 Pearl Street Gallery. The exhibit will be on display through June 3.
Let’s talk about your exhibit. How did you decide on the exhibition title, Cardinal Points?
I wanted an exhibition title that expressed navigation through the world. Making art is my favorite way of responding to the world around me: I paint “plein air” when I am traveling, and I also paint in my studio, responding to memories of places that linger in my mind. Cardinal Points elicits a clear visual of a compass moving in different directions, or of one finding one’s bearings. There are channels that move through my larger canvases, paths that move up, down, left and right. I want my viewers to be in a mindset of movement and wanderlust as they experience my work, but I also hope that they will settle in and find their bearings within my canvases.
What is your favorite piece from the exhibit and why?
My favorite piece from this exhibition is titled Knock Out. It used to look completely different! I was fortunate enough to have my friend and exceptional artist Power Boothe visiting my studio. I was expressing dissatisfaction with that particular painting. I asked him what he does when he is unhappy with a painting, and he declared, “I paint over it!” At some point he also said, “Why exhibit something that you feel is just good enough?” After our conversation, I re-worked the piece over 2-3 vigorous sessions. I painted until I was happy with what I had in front of me. Because of the history of the piece, I titled the painting “Knock Out”. I knocked out the painting that I wasn’t comfortable with and created something that satisfies me. The piece taught me what can happen when I am courageous.
Your artwork is influenced by the natural world. What places have inspired your work?
I’m privileged to have deep connections to many places in the world. Generally, I find peace and inspiration on hikes and walks where I can consider the earth systems at work all around me. In Connecticut, I love the quiet trails of my hometown of Glastonbury, down by the river where I spent many hours as a child.
The three years I spent in Los Angeles were formative for my development as an artist. I lived there right after graduating from college, and no longer had external studio deadlines or academic expectations. Being an artist was something I really had to want. Fortunately, Los Angeles is an immensely creative and dynamic city. Meeting other working artists helped me commit to making new work constantly, whether or not anyone was asking for it. I got to know many Chicano/a artists and got hooked on the vibrancy of colors that are so common in the traditional style of Mexican and Central American mural painting, featured heavily throughout LA. Geographically, it was inspiring and humbling to live amongst large natural features like the San Gabriel mountain range, vast Mojave Desert and the Pacific Ocean, all within an hour of where I lived in Silverlake. The fault lines and tectonic systems at play intrigued me, and this intrigue deepened after experiencing an earthquake firsthand.
Upon receiving a Rotary Scholarship, I moved to Edinburgh, Scotland for nearly two years. Living in the UK afforded me the opportunity to travel to a great number of countries that were important for my artistic vision, both geographically and culturally. Places like the Outer Hebrides in Scotland and many parts of the Scottish Highlands, the Greek isles, and the city of Rome, Italy continually come up in my mind.
My most recent journey was to the Hawaiian Island of Maui, and I was overwhelmed by this sensation of standing on a volcano in the middle of an ancient ocean. My newest painting The Crater channels some of this feeling.
Who are your favorite artists that inspire you?
I look at my Joan Mitchell catalogue on a weekly basis. She is my painting idol. I also love Helen Frankenthaler. When I saw Frankenthaler’s 1952 masterwork “Mountains and Sea” at a gallery in Chelsea I nearly fell to my knees. I did cry in front of a painting once, which was Sandro Botticelli’s Birth of Venus at the Uffizi gallery in Florence, Italy. I was in front of this image that has become so recognizable, known throughout the world in history books, posters and calendars. I felt this overwhelming gratitude for the stuff of paint, these pigments and oils and varnishes that tell us stories from centuries ago. How exceptional a painting is, really!
Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman and Isamu Noguchi remind me that it is ok, and good, for artwork to have quiet moments and subtlety. They remind me to find the grace in space. The work of Hartford’s Sol LeWitt has had a long-time influence on me. I covet the color palettes of Stanley Whitney and Sean Scully and I find extreme beauty in earthworks by people like Scotland’s Andy Goldsworthy and James Turrell. Although my work does not explicitly incorporate social or political commentary, I value artists who incorporate themes of justice and social issues into their work. Off the top of my head I am thinking of Mark Bradford, Kate Erikson & Mel Ziegler, Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller, JC Lenochan, Michael Oatman and Kendell Carter.
How does living and working in Hartford inform your artistic vision?
Hartford has given me stability. I am productive when I am in a steady place. Alas, the land of steady habits has been good to me. It’s an easy place to get work done and an easy place to build a network. It’s fun to have my studio on a street where I regularly bump into folks from Hartford Prints!, SeaTea Improv, TheaterWorks, the library, EBK gallery. Everyone always wants to know what’s new in the studio. By repositioning myself in Hartford after many years out of the country and on the West coast, I was able to easily find an affordable studio, as well as a job that I love and much of my family within driving distance. It’s easy to connect to people in Hartford. Through my work at RAW, and from involvement in variety of community groups and projects, I have connected to a broad range of people here in my city. It’s an exaggeration, but I feel like I know all the artists in town. Or, I feel like I will know them all eventually! No one is out of reach, and everyone wants to know what’s new.
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