Lindsey Way Talks "Smile Even If It Hurts," Mindless Self Indulgence and More
Wed, 03 Nov 2010 12:44:20
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Lindsey Way conjures beauty out of the ordinary with her art.
For her upcoming Los Angeles exhibition, "Smile Even If It Hurts," she's handmade thirteen intriguingly intricate dioramas telling one elegiac tale. Each piece is connected via an overarching narrative, and they come to life brilliantly from Lindsey's intense care and diligence. Equally inspired by Henry Darger and George Méliès, she's architected her own world that's as entrancing as it is elegant. After years in cult electro punk heroes Mindless Self Indulgence, art was a natural evolution, and Lindsey's sharing something just as unforgettable as her music with the world.
"Smile Even If It Hurts" officially opens on Saturday November 13, 2010 at Dark Dark Science Gallery [3245 W. Casitas Ave. Los Angeles, CA], and it also features an exhibition from Jessicka Addams [Jack Off Jill, Scarling]. It's the perfect pairing with both exhibitions.
Lindsey Way sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino for an exclusive interview about "Hush", "Smile Even If It Hurts," Mindless Self Indulgence and so much more…
Is there an organic element to the dioramas? They're earthy and simultaneously ethereal.
Yeah! I'm doing 13 dioramas, and they're all exactly the same size. I wanted them to have the feeling of stills from a movie. I'm actually telling the story of a funeral. "Hush" is the end credits. Instead of saying, "The End," that's the last box.
What sparked that idea?
I've always been a storyteller. For me, it's been really important that I communicate a story in my art. As you go along the boxes, you don't really know what's happening until the very end. I think it's more captivating for the viewer, and it's something that I like to see in art. I really believe that it's crucial to create a mythology in your work.
Crafting a certain lore always makes for a richer experience.
I totally agree! Coming from a music background, I think of it in terms of making a record. Each box is almost like a track on an album.
Do you have the vision for all thirteen dioramas from the get-go, or did they come together one by one?
It came together one by one. I knew that I wanted it to be a funeral procession. I knew that I wanted it to be in this world I created. I did pull from different cultures that I like. I'm obsessed with New Orleans and jazz funerals. So there's a box with the second line. Jazz funerals are so amazing. People just show up to dance with the band, even though they don't know who died. It's like a giant celebration. There's a box that has characters twirling umbrellas. There's a box that has the band in it. I knew that there were certain elements that I wanted to represent, but it all just happened. One time, I actually was like, "I really want to make a squid and a boat. I don't know how this is going to connect, but I'm going to make it work!" [Laughs]
It's a unique approach to constructing a narrative.
It's really strange how it all came to be. My husband and I always make each other presents for Christmas. A couple years ago, I made him a big diorama out of paper, and I just loved it so much. It was so fun and challenging to make something interesting out of the most mundane materials, and he loved it. Every time someone came over our house, they'd be like, "Where the hell did you get this? This is so cool!" I really wanted to do a whole show of it.
Which films were influential on your work?
For this particular show, I was looking a lot at George Méliès. He did Voyage to the Moon. I loved the set design and how magical and whimsical it all was. That was a huge influence.
What other artists do you find impactful?
There are a lot of artists I come back to like Henry Darger. Obviously, his whole body of work is one big story. I also really like the repetition of characters. If George Méliès decided to do a Henry Darger picture, that's kind of what my work feels like.
There's a real literary sentiment to all of this as well. Do you tend to read a lot while you're creating?
I've been getting really into books on tape! So far, I listened to Geek Love—which is so good—three times. It's a book about a carnival family. The mom and dad were having problems with all of the freaks in the carnival. They decided they were asking for too much money, and they were jumping ship. So, they decided to make their own…While the mom was pregnant, she was taking all sorts of drugs. They had this whole crew of babies that were all totally fucked up. It's the story of their life, and it's pretty amazing!
Where do you find the thematic correlation between all thirteen separate dioramas?
I thought, "If I could make my own world, how would I want a funeral to be?" I'd want a big celebration and all of these strange elements and costumes. It was mostly important for me to make it look like a celebration rather than this sad thing.
The title "Smile Even If It Hurts" encapsulates that.
Yeah, absolutely! It was weird because I spent ten years on the road. It was really cool because I got to play in Japan and Australia. Shit, I got to play in Budapest on a boat [Laughs]. In the course of a year, my life totally changed though. I was married, and I had a baby. I really wanted to celebrate the next chapter of my life. In a sense, I'm burying myself because there's a sense of closure and celebration of the next part of my life.
All of the best art is about death in some way.
That's really true. There's death, rebirth and all that good stuff. It's been a year, and it hasn't been easy. That's another reason Jessicka and I chose "Smile Even If It Hurts." I can't believe it's happening next week. It's crazy!
Are making music and creating this kind of art two different thought processes for you?
For me, it's totally different. I went to The Pratt Institute, and my friends put together this group show in an abandoned building on 40-something street. I had this collection of weird drawings that were all dark and funny. I actually met the manager of Mindless Self Indulgence at my art show. He thought to himself if this girl is doing this weird, dark funny stuff she'd probably like the band. He also heard I played bass. It was from my first show that I got into Mindless Self Indulgence so I sort of fell ass-backwards into it. I did the band thing for ten years. The whole time I was thinking, "I'm an artist and I can't wait to do this!" I was constantly drawing, making things and painting. When Steve [Righ?, guitarist] and I both had babies, I thought now was the time. I had to shit or get off the pot.
This art is the most personal thing you'll ever do because it comes directly from you.
It's really nice to stand behind something that's just yours.
How did you and Jessicka originally connect?
It's crazy. We were going through almost the exact same situations. She's the singer for Scarling and Jack Off Jill. She was in a band for her entire life, and she was always thinking that her true love is art. I would come off the road, and I was working as Ron English's studio assistant. Jessicka and I met through a friend of a friend. We got to talking, and it turned out that she was getting painting lessons from Mark Ryden. I was like, "This is crazy! We're both in these cult underground bands. We're both getting mentored by these incredible people. We should have a show." I finally moved out to L.A., and we made it happen.
Do you listen to music while you're making these pieces?
I do! I listen to really shitty pop radio [Laughs]. It's been fun because now Jessicka knows what "Shawty" means. We're good like that. She's taught me a lot about '90s shoegaze, and I've taught her a lot about '90s hip hop. We're a good team!
Will you be attending "Smile Even If It Hurts?"