Briefly describe the work do you do.
I classify my work under Surrealism and it touches on a variety of topics; from what’s currently happening in my life to animal
totems and spirituality. Imagery in my work is often made spur of the moment and I like that because I’m trusting my gut. One evening a bug flew into the wet painting, so I added wings to the figure in honor of it. Panic attacks led me to the emergency room a few times so the heart became a key figure in my work. Yesterday morning I found a bird’s nest on the ground and marveled at its intricacy. Later when painting I thought, ‘Ah, the bird’s nest!’ and added it to the painting.
At what point in your life did you decide to become an artist?
My first memory at age 5 is of my mom showing me how to draw the human body. I knew then that I would be an artist as an adult. When I colored in a coloring book I did it quickly because I felt the figure was coming to life as I colored, so I had to hurry and make them complete. They spoke to me and I could hear them, “Finish my arm, thank you!” True story. My first experience with oil paint as a child was a paint by number Arabian horse and I remember being so frustrated that the paint didn’t dry right away. Here I am as an adult choosing to work in oil. Growing up I knew art was my life emphasis and everything else – like math – was just fluff.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I have scoliosis and wore a back brace 23 hours a day for nearly 4 years as a teenager. My organs are shifted around a bit and I ache but I’m grateful for this experience as I know it’s the gateway to my creativity. I’m able to access deeper realms and my intuition guides me. Rabbits with visible hearts and blood draining, morphing into wine seems as normal to me as ordering a cheeseburger with onions.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
I want people to be smarter and open minded, to morph into a better version of themselves. There is no ‘escapism’ in my work – you have to put your thinking cap on. My thinking cap never comes off, even though it itches at times. In my painting ‘The Heatmeister’ his tongue is connected to his heart and that’s because the heart meridian is at the tip of the tongue. The tip of my tongue is often red and that tells me there’s something going on with my heart.
When I’m working on a painting the concept typically morphs along the way so I need a medium that’s as malleable as my thought process, and that’s why I choose to work with oil. I incorporate found objects and collage them onto the board before painting. It saves items from the landfill and it gives them a second life. A bottle cap can represent the sun or a halo; puzzle pieces can represent piecing things together, things fitting together, etc. Collage items in my work have ranged from everything from playing cards to jewelry to boxer shorts. One client asked me to add her cat’s ashes, so I did.
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
What motivates me to paint is knowing that whatever I come up with is something I’m meant to learn and share with others at this moment. I’m compulsed to paint and paint nearly every day. It’s synonymous with breathing. I have to be creative – I have to get these half colored in figures finished and move on to the next one. They talk, they watch you when you eat cheese, it’s haunting. They’re as demanding as my long haired Chihuahua. But that’s how I give life. I’m just a conduit, and I love it.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Leonor Fini, Faith Ringgold, Fred Stonehouse, Daniel Martin Diaz
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I am passionate about the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and volunteer at Taliesin West in Scottsdale. Otherwise, I’m usually knitting a scarf, watching Doctor Who or Grey Gardens, or reading a book. You can bet there’s usually a cup of coffee within reach. There’s always more to learn and I’m never bored.
Lisa Albinger was born in 1976 in Port Washington, Wisconsin. At 12 years of age she was diagnosed with scoliosis and spent nearly 4 years in a body brace that didn’t help, alas the experience shaped her mind to create the surreal and enigmatic worlds in her work. She received a BFA from UW-Milwaukee in 1999 and later moved to Arizona after a pilgrimage to Taliesin West introduced her to the sun and desert landscape.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.