Los Angeles-based Mixed media artist Teale Hatheway exudes the calm confidence of an artist who has achieved the balance between honed artistic skill and the willingness to experiment. The moment you meet Hatheway you feel the comfortability she has with herself: good eye contact, cordiality, a pleasant, steady conversational pace, and an aura that resembles a warm, colorful, handmade quilt assembled through years of artistic self-reflection.
Hatheway occupies a live-in studio at The Brewery Art Colony in Los Angeles (the largest live-and-work artists’ colony in the world) but once you enter her sacred space, her unique studio, you are fully immersed in what has shaped her and what she’s done to tell her story – which is, at its core, about capturing a sense of place.
Hatheway embraces iconic buildings and landmarks, the ones that define places of personal (or communal) nostalgia in the city of Los Angeles by studying, photographing, and painting them. Her fondness of downtown Los Angeles developed in part because her family has been in the Los Angeles area for five generations. Hatheway has relationships with these structures. Relationships cultivated via her appreciative eyes, ears, and fingers, which seamlessly come together to solve the mystery of artistically evoking the personality – the essence – of a given structure.
The buildings Hatheway selects as her subjects are relevant and recognizable. They are often the ones Angelinos pass by every day while walking to lunch, or drive by on their morning commutes to work. These buildings collectively define the city of Los Angeles, and as residents look upon them year after year, the lines, curves, shadows and reflections become impressed into their conscious and subconscious memories.
“The Bradbury Building”
“The Globe” “The Orpheum”
Memories are formed in various ways, using all of the senses. When a landmark repeatedly passes through your visual field, a sort of charcoal rubbing begins to take shape in your brain – each subsequent pass resulting in a subtly deeper shade of grey, or an eventual, permanent black. These cumulatively rich, more finite collections of lines and curves, over time, become a part of you.
“The Los Angeles”
Once Hatheway has chosen a building, bridge, or theater, she photographs it from many angles both inside and out. These photographs are the puzzle pieces that make up the “mental rubbings” – the lines, the curves, the shadows – of these iconic buildings. Next, she lays her definitive prints across her large, window-lit studio workbench, and selects three favorites. She then uses these three images to compose a fragmented representation which captures the essence of the building. Of her process, Hatheway states, “I don’t just paint buildings, I take them apart and put them back together again to capture the spirit of the place with the elements of the architecture within it.”
Memories, by their very nature, are sporadic, symbolic, emotional, and fractured. Mental “spaces” are necessary and are left between incoming stimuli. Seamless recollections are impossible as they would very likely lead to an over-stimulated sense of madness, their spillage dripping over into other areas much like pure colors mixing to a flat, ruddy brown. The fragmented separation encapsulates the memories, keeping them separate and pure, allowing us to recollect them when and how we see fit. Hatheway’s work somehow captures this process, giving us just enough of what our senses need to effectively step into these buildings simply by looking upon these stunning, mixed media paintings.
“LA River through Downtown, South”
“Washington Boulevard Bridge”
In Hatheway’s paintings, shards of memories are somehow both separated and unified via the contrasting techniques she uses to achieve her lights and darks. The bright spots in the buildings – the reflections off glass windows and the warmth of street lights – are depicted via the careful application of bleach onto an earthy, linen canvas. This removal of color is akin to the effect of mistakenly looking at the sun or like being blinded by a camera flash – it’s an experience that momentarily steals color away. Teale uses bleach to remove color from her taupe-colored linen canvases creating highlights and bright spots with a “removed brightness” uniquely different than what is achieved by applying a light colored paint. Not only does Hatheway achieve a lighter shade, but the bleach on linen effect is superb at depicting the texture of a concrete surface – a stone or a stucco – as unbleached sandy linen peeks out from behind the weave of the fabric.
“The Ferry Building”
“The Los Angeles Athletic Club”
Hatheway also delivers lightness by applying metal leaf enhancements to her paintings. These shiny bits evoke the emotionality of the “bright spots” we feel when we recall feelings about a sense of place – the excitement, the wonder, the “golden ticket” peeking out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate bar. Additionally, these bold, expertly applied, glitzy lines and curves catch the viewer’s eye from afar, sparking curiosity and inviting close-up inspection.
Contrasting elegantly with the shine and lift are the smokey browns and blacks in Hatheway’s works. She executes her sublime shading, and deep, rich, browns and blacks by using an equally bold, equally novel technique which gives literal meaning to the phrase “burned into memory.” She uses a blowtorch and metal guides to darken areas on her earthy, warm-colored canvases. The burning is a bold, brave approach of addressing a painting, as the process involves moving the pointed flame gently back and forth, and away from the canvas in time to prevent it from reaching its “flash point,” whereby the flame causes the canvas to catch fire. This delicate process is much like the technique employed when roasting a marshmallow to a perfect golden brown. The stakes aren’t nearly as high, but if that delicious puff of sugar stays in the campfire too long, it will most certainly erupt into a tiny ball of fire.
“The United Artist”
Detail of blowtorched section of “The United Artist”
The more work an artist has produced, the more she has touched the extremes of both failure and success while learning about herself and utilizing new techniques along the way. The artist is the ultimate problem solver- the challenge being how to take a powerful idea or feeling and convert it to an external representation that he or she feels content with.
Of her technique, Hatheway states, “I like the nature of collaborating with materials that have a lot of personality, and techniques that have a lot of personality, and the fire definitely has that. Sometimes it burns a hole where I had not intended for there to be one. It’s a very textile-centric technique.”
Problems along the path between idea and finished piece require the artist to experiment, make adjustments, to look for inspiration in previously unexplored places. For example, to achieve a texture or shine indicative of a desired emotion, the artist must be brave yet playful, dappling in territory which can be physically and emotionally both exciting and dangerous. The artist asks himself: should I risk it or play it safe? Sometimes they risk it, sometimes they play it safe, but successful completion of a piece seems to depend upon finding the balance between reliability and creative adventurism.
The harmony of the safe “roots” and adventurous “wings” is very apparent in the artistic androgyny of Hatheway’s work. She effectively embraces the primal sensuality of both the masculine and feminine spirits.
In Hatheway’s documentary, Architectonica, she states, “I have a really good time with the mix of materials I employ, and I feel like the overall look of my work comes off somewhere between gritty, and glitzy, and girly, and masculine and there’s a lot of contrast of materials and techniques and aesthetics in my work and I feel that really reflects my personality.”
Teale Hatheway in her Los Angeles studio
“Fragmented Realities: City of Dreams” – Installation of paintings by Teale Hatheway