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Art October, 13 2009

Curated Q&A | Lori Earley

On Friday (October 16, 2009), Lori Earley’s much anticipated Laments and Lullabies opens at London’s Opera Gallery. The exhibition features all new work, including “The Pinnacle,” a painting that took 6 months to complete. Laments and Lullabies will remain on view until November 14, 2009.

Opera Gallery is located at 134 New Bond Street, London, W1.

Ahead of the opening, Earley took some time out to answer a few questions and grant us preview of some of the work that makes up Laments and Lullibies. Read on to learn more about the artist and her painting.

It has been 2 years since your last solo exhibition, and I wondered if you could tell me a little about your process in producing a new body of work? Do you begin with a set theme?

LE: For this particular exhibition, I actually spent a few months preparing the entire show beforehand.  My original idea for this show was to have all large-scale conceptual paintings with a common theme running throughout… having each painting relating to each other- eventually telling an entire story from beginning to end between the first painting and the last painting.  I started with the middle painting first titled The Pinnacle, thinking it was only going to take me around a month to paint – maybe a month and a half at the most.  Unfortunately though, The Pinnacle took me 6 long months to complete because it was so detailed!  After that, I realized it would probably take me about 5 years to do the show I had originally planned.  It’s fine though because I’ve decided I will eventually paint the rest of them anyway even if it takes me a while, and when I’m done my plan is to put them in a book so people can see the paintings altogether and the story they tell in their entirety.  I don’t mind that I couldn’t paint the other paintings for this show because I had been longing to return to my roots and focus on portraits anyway, which is what most of the show entails.  I absolutely love painting portraits and really enjoyed putting Laments and Lullabies together.  I also think that this show is my best yet and I’m excited about it. The Pinnacle will be on display in the exhibition as well.

To follow, many interviews and articles about you allude to a taxing and time consuming process. This is often conflated with your being a perfectionist. Could you describe what goes into producing a single painting?

LE: A LOT goes into creating each piece.  After I come up with an idea, I have a photo shoot (which I photograph), which is also time-consuming because I have to spend a while trying to find the perfect model for the painting, figure out the lighting I need to achieve for the atmosphere I want, the pose and costume, etc..  After the shoot, I produce a line drawing from the photograph where I then distort the image.  I then transfer it onto my board and start painting, using my photos for reference.  I usually paint about 5 to 6 under paintings, starting with the dark colors and building up the lights in the paint.  Each average-sized portrait takes me at the very least a month from start to finish.  Sometimes I spend more than a month on a portrait if it’s detailed, as in my painting of Ms. V, which took me about two months to complete because of all the detailing in her dress and ornate hairstyle. If the painting is a conceptual piece, it can take me between 2 to 3 months from start to finish.

One of the most remarkable elements of your paintings is the rendering of the eyes. In many ways they overwhelm the bodies. Where did this stylistic decision begin?

LE: I’ve always been intrigued by people’s eyes.  I think my fascination with eyes started with my grandmother’s eyes because they were so large and seemed to hold so much within them.  I think when you see things like that at such an impressionable age, they subconsciously affect you.  For example I think I paint long necks because my favorite toy as a baby was this rubber orange dog with an exceptionally long neck.  I loved that toy and would just stare at it – it comforted me and I think that too made it’s way into my subconsciousness and into my art.

Another noticeable aspect of the paintings is the c-curve. Despite the thinness of the bodies – which could easily plant a seed for sharp lines – there is a softness to the shapes. It creates quite an interesting juxtaposition to the stark nature of the compositions. This curve is echoed in some of the furnishings employed in the paintings. And, obviously, it’s an element of the baroque (or rococo). What’s the draw to this line, and what do you think it accomplishes?

LE: That is fascinating!  I wasn’t aware I was using that in my paintings and I’m not quite sure what the c-curve is-  it’s been a while since I’ve taken an art history class (lol!).  I never really think about things consciously when I’m working and never plan out a painting that way- I may plan out the idea and mood of it, but that’s about it. Everything else just falls into place naturally at my photo shoots and I let things just come out as they will on their own.

You attended the School of Visual Art in New York, what were some of the most lasting lessons learned as a student?

LE: I learned the most by watching my teacher, Steven Asseal, paint in life painting class.  He’s an amazing artist and I would have to say no words spoken by any teachers taught me as much as just watching him paint.  I was very fortunate to have that opportunity.

Who are some of the artists that spurred you on, who might have some influence (overt or otherwise) on your personal style?

LE: I grew up in a very unartistic family and didn’t know any artists growing up so I never really went to galleries or museums that often (just the annual museum trip for art class).  I wasn’t really aware of many other artists at the time either because of that, so at the time I started developing my style as a young teenager, I didn’t have many influences.   I remember being asked what my influences were when I did my first interview and I was so embarrassed to say that I didn’t really have any, then people found that really interesting and suggested that the reason why my work is so unique is perhaps because I had no influences.  I thought it was a really interesting thought (and didn’t feel as embarrassed!).  Now that I am exposed to more art, I am currently influenced by Ray Caesar, Floria Sigismondi and Chris Cunningham, to name a few.

Finally, how do you go about picking the pieces that you will offer as print?

LE: I make prints of the paintings/drawings that people seem to comment on and like the most and whichever ones I feel are my strongest work.

Selectism