Friday, March 13, 2009

On March 3rd, Gender Fatigue was very excited to be joined by amazing local artist Lisa Marie Thalhammer. We've only known Lisa Marie since last year, but we are consistently amazed by her work, her charm, and her energy. Most recently, Lisa Marie teamed up with Kathryn Cornelius to hold Soup Kitchen at Transformer on P St NW - a kind of performance action involving soup, sharing with others, connections between art and soup, and more, in their own words: "Join the artists as they fill bowls, slice bread, and entertain guests with an event that addresses the relationship of art and community service with the common concerns of our current economic situation, in the format of a communal experience." Sales of customized soup cans benefited local group SOME.

Lisa Marie has also recently had a new exhibit, Lifeguard, open with Decoy at Hounshell Realty on 14th St, had an incredible portrait of Michelle Obama in the exhibit Manifest Hope: DC in January, and continues to garner rave reviews for her amazing art featuring women and challenging gender stereotypes - including Lot Lizards, Boxers, and Girls & Guns (hey, that's kinda like Gender Fatigue! We're girls with guns! More to come on that).

[could this be bent in the future?]

Due to technical challenges, we are bringing you the transcript of the interview, though we hope to finally have audio streaming capabilities up and running soon on the blog...

Our show started with Lisa Marie talking about her work like what it's about and what it's made from. Due to technical challenges, our efforts to record the first bit was thwarted, so we pick up with our transcript a bit into the interview. You can read more about her work on her website albeit in the form of reviews that don't hold a light to Lisa Marie's personal explanation. Maybe this one comes closest...

We begin halfway through Lisa Marie's answer to our question about being an artist in DC:

Lisa Marie Thalhammer: ....telling me their stories like about dc space, I've had the privilege to meet really interesting people in this city and I think its the people I've met that have kept me here. I'm not on the Hill or talking to a lot of people on the Hill. I'm just talking to everyday people, people that come into my gallery, or when I used to work at the bar, people who used to come into the bar, and I think it was those interactions that really inspired me. Yeah, so don't talk shit about DC!

dj bent: That's right! Can you talk more about how DC has affected your art? Like being here vs where you were before, like New York or whatever, and especially in light of the fact that the whole Lot Lizards series is based on that. So how has DC affected that? Especially I think of one of my favorite pieces, it's the one with DJ Natty Boom in it. And maybe Natty Boom has been at a truck stop, but obviously that's putting those two contexts together, right? [note: Natty Boom is a phenomenal DJ and also was a collaborator on Lifeguard]

LM: Well it's hard to appreciate where you're from until you're away from where you're from. So I think finally moving out of the midwest and being on the east coast, I found it interesting that east coast people have this strange curiosity with middle america: What's going on with middle america? You know? It's this big mystery! So then it sort of also sparked my interests in middle america too, like what is going on there? So i thought about my experiences there, and being on the east coast is how that series of work came about for me. I don't know if I was still living in Illinois, Missouri, or Kansas if I would have came to that same type of understanding about where I was from.

dj mothersheister: What are some of the challenges of being a working artist?

LM: There's a lot of them! Being an artist you have to challenge yourself daily; you always have to kind of challenge your own thinking, think about what you're putting out to the public, what you're putting out in culture. It's kind of a circle, the culture affects the art but also the art affects the culture. It's important to me that there's positive images in my work. This latest series deals primarily with sex workers in the trucking industry, also trying to shine a light on that sub culture that isn't looked at very often. So those are important things to me. There's challenges you know... I'm not going to talk about the economy. [laughter] There's always challenges and i think especially with what's going on right now, it's important that as a culture we all come together to value art and make a stand on what we want our culture to be about. What do we want our hard earned money to go to? Do we want it going to war or do we want it going to creating art and culture? That's an individual question that everybody needs to ask themselves, but also a larger question of what we value as society.

B: That kinda of came out recently with the economic stimulus package. There is a part about arts, and people were like, "What is this doing in there? That doesn't generate economic stimulus! Those aren't workers that need economic support!" It was crazy the way people talk about the arts and cultural production as this totally separate thing that has no relation on our larger society.

LM: And it has such a huge relation! Arts and economic stimulus is hand in hand! I just think it's important that we keep talking about that, and the importance of that.

MS: You were talking about challenging yourself on a daily basis and I'm very interested in that. Because we often talk about that - we've been working on creating a space for people to be creative in, and sometimes it's very hard to motivate yourself to finish projects, or start on them, or continue them. How do you do it? Do you have a plan?

LM: It mainly comes down to obsession, to a certain degree. I'm really obsessed with my artwork, and I'm always trying to find three more hours in the day to focus on a drawing that is 2 inches by 2 inches, or something crazy like that. Art is something that is part of me. Even when I'm not feeling particularly creative, I make myself sit in my studio and free draw. There is a business aspect to art making. Especially if you're trying to take it to a professional level where you're having exhibitions and shows and you're writing grant proposals. So if there's a day I'm not feeling particularly creative then I focus on writing that grant, or sending an email to some friends with an image of a new painting i just did, and then on the days where I am feeling creative, and I go with that. So there's different hats that you kinda have to wear in this day and age as an artist. Different days call for different hats.

MS: You don't have something you say to yourself in the mirror, or a drink you take in the morning? I mean I think that's great....

LM: We all have our tricks! Secrets of the trade! [laughter]

B: It reminds me of a panel that Mothersheister and I attended a couple weeks ago that was about arts, and a lot of it goes back to what we were just talking about: the economy. Artists are small business people, and no one wants to give them that credit! In this panel they were talking about that, how in art school you don't learn about running a business, finances, whatever, and that's really an important part of being an artist if you're trying to make a living off it, or even if you do it on the side, but that's not recogized.

LM: As an artist it's your job to get your artwork out there for people to see, but if you don't put it out there for people to see it, then it's never going to be shown. Or it might be something you do for yourself, which is totally valid if that's your intent, but if you're intent is to get to show it, and for it to interact culturally on a larger level, then there's definitely a small business aspect to it. I file sole proprietor taxes, I have my own business technically. They don't teach you that in art school, you have to learn that on your own and there are a lot of great resources on that in DC, like the foundation center is really great. If you live in DC you can definitely check out DC Commission on Arts and Humanities site, they have classes like grant writing. So you definitely have to take it on yourself, they're not gonna teach you that in art school.

B: Another question: Could you talk about the role of gender and/or sexuality in your work, or other stuff like that. [laughter] Like our show is about gender fatigue, but we talk about all kinds of stuff.

LM: Gender, identity and power are definitely major themes through all my work. I definitely attempt to challenge what traditional gender roles are in my work. For me especially with some of the works of portraits I've done of female friends, trying to pull out this powerful glance or pose, but still make it their own is important and it's also important to me that different people find that in an individual way. It's not the same for everyone, not everyone's gonna want to come in and pose the same way for a portrait, but collectively when yous ee them together, I feel like there is a message of power through gender identity.

B: Awesome.

LM : Awesome. [laughter]

MS: I had another question. In terms of having a support network for all the things you work on, what are the communities of people that do that? Do you have that? How does that work? Do you meet? I don't have the language for it. What does your support network look like?

LM: There's definitely a support network for visual artists and for me personally and I feel like a lot of that revolves around cetain galleries and nonprofit spaces, like where I work (the Ellipse Art Center) we definitely have a community that we've built around that space. Also Transformer, which is a local non profit that creates community with emerging artists, and connects emerging artists with people who have had longer professional careers in the arts and collectors. There's also a community around people who collect my work and support my work. Also the O Street artists studios, where I have my studio space, that's a really interesting community of artists. It's a really unique space for DC, there's not many artists studio buildings left where you'll find multiple artists in one building I think there's probably about twenty artists in our building. We have an open studio every year, this year I think it's gonna be the weekend of April 25, 52 O St NW, open house, come by, see my studio, my artwork, the studios and art of twenty different artists in the building. All different kinds of artists, from sculpture to furniture making to jewelry making, drawing, painting, wood sculpture, wood carving, all over the board. So I've been really lucky to find that community in DC because there's not very many of them. I've also found a community through Girls Rock! DC which is a local non profit of women in the DC area who come together to put on a rock camp for young girls age 8-18. Organizing around that has been really inspiring to me and has given me a whole new artistic community to be involved in or get inspiration from. You have to seek it out, but it's out there, and you know, from your own community too, just friends hanging out, like in the studio...


B: That was pretty much what we wanted to cover! Could you tell folks where can people see your work, and what exhibits have you been in lately, and website?

LM: Website is See some of my work at Hounshell realty office at 1506 14th St at 14th and P Sts NW. It's a real estate office but you can go in during the day, just knock and they'll be happy to let you in, through April 11.

[gender fatigue hearts dj natty boom and lisa marie thalhammer!]


natty Boom said...

sweet interview. it's always cool to hear different artist talk about the business/non-glamorous side of creating. i've learned tons from lisa marie about being an assertive and smart business person.

mary e. robbins :: moth designs said...

i have been meaning to leave a comment about this interview since i read it many many days ago. love it. i identify so much with the comments about being an art student and the complete lack of business education SO necessary to making it in the world as a living, breathing, working artist! hopefully art schools will continue to evolve in their pedagogy to include classes creating more well-equipped, supah badass smart and savvy artists, unafraid to lay claim to their dream and make it a reality. thanks for sharing!