With the upcoming gallery show, Women, opening at Rare Device on Friday, May 5th, we’ve been catching up with a few of the artists participating in the show. I recently had a chance to sit down with local San Francisco artist, Lindsay Stripling, at her Sunset studio. Lindsay is predominately a watercolor and acrylic artist who creates images that blend reality with fantasy. Lindsay’s studio is filled with earthy colored paint pallets, large unfinished oil paintings, and open sketchbooks filled with black and white drawings. Stepping into her quaint studio is like stepping into another world entirely, filled with moody blues and fantastic creatures in the making.
Dave, our photographer, and I sat down with Lindsay for a deeper look into her creative process.
KC: What’s your background in painting and how long have you been creating art?
LS: I studied photography at UC Santa Cruz, but also took some oil painting classes while I was there. I was painting a long time even before college, but probably not as much as most artists. I feel like a lot of artists I listen to say they’ve been very creative and drawing since they were very young, and I did a little bit, but not in a way that I took myself seriously.
KC: You mentioned oil painting, but it seems you mostly do watercolor now. Did you just pick up watercolor and teach yourself?
LS: Yeah, I went back to school in 2001 to SFAI, and at the time everyone was doing oil painting, but paper seemed like the easiest medium for me to work with. Especially living in the city, I don’t have a ton of space in my studio. Although recently I started doing oils and acrylics again so I have panels everywhere. In general, having one or two flat files in my studio is way easier.
KC: I’m really impressed with the amount of work you’re able to put out and share on social platforms like Instagram. Do you paint everyday?
LS: Instagram is really deceptive, but I do paint everyday. I work a full-time job and I recently made a post on Instragam about the realities of being an artist. Especially an artist in an expensive city like this. I work a full-time job in the city, but I also work full time as an artist. I do paint everyday, and if I have two or three days where I don’t paint I start to feel really anxious. I think what I’ve been really excited about with my acrylic and oil paintings alongside my watercolors, is that there is always something different for me to be working on. When I become frustrated with oils for instance, they then become something fun and different that I’m ok with being bad at. It’s fun learning and re-learning how to paint with oils after being so tight and controlled with my watercolors. Sometimes I get home from work and the last thing I want is to be painting tight and controlled and all I want to do is be ugly and loose and think about color in a different way.
KC: Your use of color in your paintings is always something that sticks out to me. I know you teach classes on color at Case For Making. Have you ever thought about going into teaching?
LS: Yeah, I teach a class at Case For Making with Alexis where she teaches you how to make your own watercolors from scratch, and I teach you how to use it and think about color mixing in general. I have thought about teaching at a college level, but I’m not interested in going back to school for my MFA and increasing my debt.
KC: Can you tell us about your creative process?
LS: At this point it is all building off of itself. Most of the things I look to for inspiration are books, or artists I love like Amy Cutler or Marcel Dzama who are dealing with similar content. I’m also always thinking about the things I’m listening to or reading, and how that applies to that type of technique. Usually, I’ll do some sketches and make an ugly painting, then make a similar but different painting building on itself. My tendency used to be to create something and then be done with it, but I actually had a professor that said you should never feel like you’re done with an idea. There are always so many different facets to it, so I force myself to use the same content in a different way, or do it again, and I find when I do that it tends to be more interesting because I’m thinking about it for a longer period of time.
KC: A lot of your work echoes folklore and fairytales. Do you take inspiration from books and other stories, your imagination, or somewhere else?
LS: Definitely all of those things. My work before I started doing this body of work was based on my memory of events. It involved taking old photographs and altering them with paint to build on that idea of legends and lore and how we create our lives and how we think about ourselves in the world. I went to see Amy Cutler’s show at Virginia Mocha while driving across the country, and it blew me away how she created her own world that discusses all sorts of topics, not just memory and folklore, but politics and women's rights. I realized I wanted to create that type of vernacular for myself, so I used what I had been doing to create something new. In doing that, I’m definitely reading fairytales and folklore, but also just thinking about the symbols and things I’m using over and over again as a type of visual vocabulary.
KC: A lot of your work features what I consider to be these somewhat androgynous characters in situations where they very much seem to be in control. Do you think your work delivers a message of female empowerment?
LS: I love that that’s how you see them. I’m always so interested in how people perceive the worlds I’m creating and the creatures and characters in them. I use a lot of animal heads and masks, and I really hope all the characters I create can be read in multiple ways. I’m always interested in representing more than just white women, as a middle-class white woman myself, I’m not interested in furthering the discussion around just that character. I would like for everyone to be able to look at the characters and identify with them in some way or another. In all of my paintings, I’m hoping that the narrative is slightly mysterious or lost so that everyone can recreate it each time they look at it. I’m hoping that it’s not just women that look at it and identify with it, but I’m hoping that it’s transgender people, or bisexual people, or anyone that can look at it and connect with it, even men, and if that happens that I’m being slightly successful.
KC: I know you donated a portion of your sales to Planned Parenthood recently. What do you think the role of art is within the current political and social climate?
LS: I think the arts are so important and I just read a really empowering letter from the editor of Juxtapoz Magazine about the dissemination of the arts in a time when we need to be creating conversation around things that are very controversial. I think art can pose a place for discussion to be created, and sometimes I’m not sure what my viewpoint is, but I hope that through discussion of the imagery I’m creating, or the discussion of other peoples imagery, that we can get to a place where conversation is happening. I think especially right now in our country it’s very divisive, the things that are happening politically, and when that happens the discussion gets lot in everyone's anger and they are not able to find their voice or why they're upset or how to move forward. Art creates a bridge there. For me, I definitely have a clear idea of what’s upsetting me and bothering me, but art creates a place for me to personally figure it out also. It’s really cool that I can use my art to gather funds for something I’m excited about, or passionate about, or hoping to support. I think a lot of people are doing that which is really cool because artists are notoriously broke, but somehow all of these people who are creative are taking funds from something they could use to pay rent and survive, and instead putting it towards something they are passionate about.
KC: What do you want viewers to take away from the pieces you will be exhibiting at the gallery show, “Women” at Rare Device?
LS: I’m doing a bonfire piece that I kinda think of as a feminist bonfire, but also as an activist bonfire. I think the word “feminism” is really rough, but I think having a conversation around it can create discussion that’s less about just burning books and more about larger concepts of destruction in order to create new discussion. Because the word “feminism” is so problematic, and discussions of feminism have been problematic in the past and present, we can use discussions to give the term a new voice for what it should be and what we want it to be. I’m hoping that my pieces speak to that a little bit.
You can find Lindsay's pieces, along with the work of A'Driane Nieves, Sarah K. Benning, Katie Gong, and Kristine Vejar at the opening of "Women," Friday May 5th at 600 Divisadero Street. The show will be up from May 5th - July 3rd.