Interview: Lynnea Holland-Weiss

Lynnea Holland-Weiss is an artist native to Oakland, Ca. She has spent time traveling and living in other cities around the US, but grew up in the Bay Area and received her BFA from California College of the Arts. Lynnea is primarily a painter, with a focus always on the human subject and navigating a vibrantly emotional color palette. Lynnea also occasionally works in drawing, printmaking, animation and video. Coming from a background in dance, her interest in body language and charting people’s movement through space and time is deeply rooted within her. She uses bold or unusual color combinations to accentuate feeling, making the emotions that much more visible, as well as a means to push ambiguity and androgyny within the figures. Lynnea is interested in dissolving our ability to disassociate ourselves from one another. In addition to her studio practice, she actively puts her work up publicly and paints murals. She wants her work to be an accessible part of the everyday experience for someone to stumble upon, in addition to being found in the gallery museum setting. Her murals currently live both nationally and internationally and her work has been exhibited throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, and in other US cities, such as Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, Chicago and others. Her work has been recognized through prestigious sources, such as New American Paintings, Fresh Paint Magazine, Juxtapoz, Studio Visit Magazine, Contemporary Art Curator and The Art Blog.

We admire your freedom in exploring painting, drawing, printmaking and installation work. Explain how you navigate the different mediums. 

Thank you! I definitely consider myself a painter, first and foremost, and I feel like any other medium that I delve into, I approach from this painterly perspective. With that though, I always let the materials guide the direction it takes my work, whether it be a monoprint, a large-scale mural, a quick moniker doodle, or otherwise. I truly enjoy pushing myself in new directions, and never want to limit myself to one medium or approach. I don’t want to fit into a box or be able to define what I do in a single sentence. Life is far too complex. Which I think is why I am drawn to painting in the first place and have always been frustrated with the definitive black and white nature of words. Painting has such an incredible way of allowing complexity, subtlety, nuance and emotion all to exist within the expression. 

We love your use of bold color. How do you come up with the palette for each piece?

Color is such an intuitive process for me. I try to not over-think it and really just allow it to be a reactionary process, where choices are made in response to the previous ones and the proportion of those colors. Color is fascinating to me, because it solely relies on the other colors that surround it to define it. It is a conversation. This process relies heavily on feeling and being receptive to what mood it is creating within its context. In my current work, I’m especially trying to experiment with the density of color and push bold combinations to see what they can do for the mood of a piece. I also intentionally use unusual color combinations within the body to push the ambiguity of race and address the equity of humans. 

Who are the figures in your work?

The figures in my work are truly meant to embody anybody. They are simply meant to feel familiar and relatable. Like with my use of color, I also intentionally blur the defining characteristics of race or gender for this reason. The thing about figurative painting that I find so profound is that when you see a painting of person, it doesn’t seem to matter who the figures are, just that we recognize them and have a sense of what they might be thinking and it evokes emotion and empathy. You as the viewer are able to put yourself in the shoes of that figure or imagine your own narrative. 

That being said, even though the specificity of who the figures are isn’t really important to me, I do use friends, family, random people walking down the street or on the subway, and just anyone that is around me as references for paintings. I am always observing interactions and people’s body language and taking note, whether through a quick snap on my phone or drawing it in my sketchbook for future reference for a painting.

Name a few topics you are exploring and communicating within your art.

At the core of my work, I hope to really just tap into how it feels to be a human in our contemporary world. I am interested in our daily experiences, how we relate or ignore each other and what these interactions look like. I think that so many of the issues that arise in our fast paced and isolated world are linked to the way that we are able separate and disassociate ourselves from one another. But through painting, I am interested in dissolving these barriers to help us feel human and connected. 

I recently have been exploring how time can be perceived and recorded within a painting as well. I’m interested in charting people’s movement through space and time. In this way, the paintings can feel cinematic. They hold a lapse of time, allowing the past moments to layer into one another and simultaneously exist. In this day and age, there is such a disconnection between our mind and body. We often are caught up anticipating future interactions or analyzing ones that have already happened. We have endless distractions all around us, and in our pockets, keeping us from experiencing the present moment. Whether I am painting a delayed moment, a portrait of a figure that just can’t seem to sit still, or a merging of moments and people that have melded together in ones memory, I’m interested in documenting time and movement through the layering of paint. 

Are you a full time artist? How do you balance your studio practice and other responsibilities?

I am a full time artist, however I do also have a couple flexible and complimentary part-time jobs that provide some consistency to help pay the bills of student loans and living/having a studio in the ever-increasing rent of the SF Bay Area. One of these jobs is working the events and performances at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, an incredible art institution that really is pushing boundaries of what their role is as an art institution within the community. I also work as a Production Assistant for product designer in SF, where I do repetitive wood working production, which I enjoy and find very physically meditative. I’m truly appreciative that both of these positions are inspiring to my own practice as well as incredibly flexible and allow me to leave for months at a time for my own projects or residencies etc and then return and still have extra work when I want it. 

But balancing other work with my studio practice definitely can be tricky and being an artist truly is a hustle. I just try to always make painting my ultimate priority. I really can’t help but not want to be in my studio in any and every free moment that I have anyways. Painting truly is my happy place. A place where I can be fearless, quiet the chatter of the world and my brain, and it helps me to better understand, question and reexamine myself, the world around me, as well as what I thought I knew and what I have yet to discover.

What are you currently working on? What goals do you have for your art this year?

I have a couple group shows lined up that I will be working toward in Spring 2017, and I have some potential mural mock ups in the works as well. One goal I have for the year is to do my biggest mural project thus far. I would love the challenge of pushing my work to a larger scale then ever before explored. Next month my partner, Dan Bortz, and I will be traveling along the coast and on islands of Italy for 6 weeks assisting the incredible artist and wall painter, MOMO. On this trip, I have plans to put up many wheatpastes and have goals of making some spontaneous murals happen along the way as well. 

I also am looking into Residencies for this coming year and definitely have goals to connect with new communities of artists and show at some new galleries. I am always excited to expand my network, travel and other meet passionate and genuine people to work with.