What would the world look like if women were the creators of their own image in popular culture and beyond? If women were more than sensual pleasures or nurturing mothers, for the gaze, and sometimes touch, of onlookers desperate for an escape from the mystery of misery and suffering on planet earth. At its core, this is what the work of Lisa Marie Thalhammer asks. By using the ancient tools of visual pleasure and attraction, Lisa Marie lures viewers into her paintings and mixed media works of women through vibrant color, the female body, beauty and magnetic proportions/composition. However, upon closer look, the eyes (throughout history known as the window to the soul) of her subjects, return the gaze of the viewer and demand respect, not only as a woman, but as a human being.
(Above: Boxer, 2006 and A Portrait of Stacy with a Gun, 2005)
Lisa Marie’s three latest series of work each address under-represented aspects of female identity in contemporary culture. In particular, her Boxer series and Guns and Girls series (above), address the coexistence of feminine beauty and an empowered spirit at the core of a fully realized woman. They both also force viewers to contemplate the idea that violence is a problem of the human psyche and soul, not just a masculine tendency. In Lisa Marie’s words, her latest series of work, Lot Lizards (below), “tells the story of an American highway underbelly by drawing on my young experiences working within the male dominated subculture of my family’s Middle American truck stop.” Lot Lizards (a slang term for truck stop prostitutes), in the work of Lisa Marie, are tools to explore the transcendence of the traditional female dichotomy of virgin/whore. Her use of Byzantine patterns and illuminated designs from gospel manuscripts envelop her hand drawn semi-trucks while her Lot Lizards are restored to a wholeness through Lisa Marie’s interlaced referencing of the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, female figures from Catholic mythology. (view more work)
(Above: Lot Lizard BP STLE, 2007 and Lisa Marie)
Those of us who have followed the artistry (and sometimes not) of hip hop music and culture know that the Law of the Jungle is often times a fundamental philosophical and economic precept. A thought process and moral stance adapted from the perceived character of American capitalist culture and a Darwinian relationship to nature. This point is illustrated magnificently in a You Tube remix video accompanied by the brilliant wordplay of the hip hop artist GZA on his song Animal Planet (watch the video). But, what if the Darwinian mantra echoed in the streets – including Wall Street, “survival of the fittest”, was wrong? Flex your mind on this: “Charles Darwin went on to describe ‘survival of the fittest’ in large part as the competition for scarce resources, [and] as the basis for the evolution of the species. Contrary to those models of Nature as innately, intensely, and almost exclusively competitive, more recent scientific study has illuminated the powerful role of mutuality, synergy, coexistence, and cooperation in the natural world and the more accurate picture of life that presents.”
Case in point: The pollination of crops by honeybees is crucial to the production of 1/3 of all the foods we eat (watch a video clip)… “Nature fosters collaboration and reciprocity. Competition in Nature exists…but it has limits, and the true law of survival is ultimately cooperation.” (All quotes are from, The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist)
Art Basel & two variations on collaboration with “the walls”….
By the time the month of December rolls around in NYC, it’s time to hit the beach – out of town. So why not mix a little business and pleasure. Enter Art Basel Miami 2007. The amount of satellite art fairs at this years event swelled to over 20 between Miami Beach and downtown Miami. The sheer numbers were overwhelming so depending on your objective you either go with the flow or set up a strict schedule. Needless to say, my travel partners, the artists Toofly and Alice Mizrachi, and I planned our trip last minute, missed flights and/or arrived without knowing our local hosts. So we stuck with a strategy based on spontaneity – since it seemed to be pre-determined by the cosmos. When you go with the flow, you never know what might go down, so as it happens we ran into some fellow graffiti artist friends, who ran into to some artists, who had a blank wall they were scheduled to paint the next day, they told Toofly to grab a can of spraypaint and she proceeded to commemorate her presence in Miami. Hailing from Queens, but known in the 5 boroughs for her “around the way girl” character, Toofly has payed her dues in black books, on walls and at NYC’s School of Visual Arts since her start in the rebellious artistic spirit of the 90′s street graffiti movement. Her inspiration, found in NYC’s urban landscape, fuels her skilled drawings that translate raw feeling into street masterpieces.
After a night on the streets with the girls, we spent a relaxing day that turned into an evening at Kehinde Wiley’s annual Fish Fry poolside at the Sagamore. The relaxed event offers folks staying through Sunday a chance to leisurely mingle with fellow artists, eat, drink and savor their last hours in warm weather. It was here that I got to chat it up over cocktails with the artist, Thom Flynn. Based in DC, Flynn excavates materials for his work (layered paper on wood panel) from billboards and street posters found on abandoned buildings and contstruction sites in any major metropolitan city. Invoking the power of the spontaneous stroll through the city, Flynn’s work flips the script on the advertising overload of today’s consumer culture, while at the same time, offering a new riff on sample and re-mix aesthetics via his re-use of found materials and the cyclical nature of his work.
Art being made in the moment took place on a series of corners in downtown Miami at 2007′s Miami Art Basel (NW 2nd Ave & NW 23rd St). As street artists, graffiti writers and muralists continue to form alliances across the country and around the globe their presence is being felt not only at home on street corners in various hoods, but collectively on the ubiquitous art fair circuit that is now de rigueur for participants in the production of the aesthetic culture of globalization. An organized effort was put forth through the Primary Flight Site Specific Street Level Art Installation at Miami Art Basel 2007. Energy, life and love vibrated off the ladders and streets where artists like El Mac, Lady Pink and Futura were at work.
Wall by Cycle and Lady Pink. Photo courtesy of FATSKINS.