Distinction Gallery presents Linda Adair‘s very first solo exhibition. Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing the artist about her work, her life, and art in general. Her insightful answers, including her thoughts and personal experience relating to children’s gender issues, are touching, eye opening, and not-to-be missed. I learned so much about the artist through this interview, which, in turn, makes me appreciate her works even more. The underlying concepts, as well as her subtly expressed personal perspectives and reactions, adds extra layers of depth to her work.
Saturday, May 13, 2017 | 6-10pm
May 13 – June 3, 2017
317 E Grand Ave | Escondido CA 92025
(Above) “Fragile Things“
To start, would you tell us a few things about yourself? (Please include some lesser-known facts about you as well).
I am Canadian by birth and Australian by marriage. I’m also half French, so a bit of a mix. Having lived in five continents: 14 years in North America, 2 years in South America. 7 years in Asia, 6 years in Europe and finally 7 years in Australia. I’ve had the opportunity to see and experience life through many cultures and see many sides to the human experience. I find life, the good, the bad, and everything in-between, often shapes us even as our choices define us.
For me, I feel that my life and experiences give meaning to my art as much as I feel being an artist is who I am. Because of this, I feel, as this it’s almost a physical necessity to be creating, as it’s such a huge part of who I am. One such experience that I have drawn from to express this particular body of work happened when I was 16. I was terribly asthmatic and had forgotten to bring my inhaler with me on what was supposed to be a quick trip to visit some relatives. We ended up being snowed in for 3 days with avalanches closing the trans-Canada highway and roads being impassable. After a prolonged asthma attack, I finally stopped breathing altogether and had an out-of-body experience that changed me. After that, I didn’t fear death which gave me the courage to live. One thing I’ve reflected on is what carries on after we’re gone. The things we build as monuments are rather empty, yet we live on in the memories, the consciousness of others.
I like the idea that there are parallel worlds. I’d like to think that what makes us who we are, our human attributes, will echo through time. Once we’re gone, perhaps just the echoes of our existence from the memories of others will live on.
As for me as an artist, I discovered my love of art at 13 when I saw an ad in the newspaper for an upcoming Mucha exhibition. I was so drawn to the image that I drew it and studied it and wanted more than anything to create something so beautiful. I started teaching myself and when I was 15 started doing portraits as a part-time job. By the time I was 16 I felt I had saved up enough so I left home, which at the time was Canada. I went first to Russia, traveling from Moscow down as far south as Astrakhan and then up to Ufa in the Ural Mountains. I traveled cheaply, my only source of income was my ability to draw and this was my freedom.
Fast forward a few countries and a few years to Mexico, where at 19 I met my husband. Once becoming a wife and mother, I put my art life on hold to raise our family. Only in the last few years have I been able to focus once again on creating art as a career.
(Above) “The Lady Rides Through”
We heard that you just relocated to Germany. How’s the transition so far?
The country and culture are lovely. It has been an adjustment, and the interruption to my regular studio time was a challenge with this upcoming show and other pending commitments. Overall, it’s been great and a wonderful opportunity for myself and the kids as well. I’m definitely finding inspiration in the beautiful scenery and locations here.
And, we also heard that you’ll be attending the exhibition’s opening reception. Have you been to Escondido before?
I have. I lived in North County San Diego years ago and I’m so looking forward to coming back to visit and to be at my first solo gallery show.
(Above) “They Are Coming For Me”
Would you tell us the underlying theme of this upcoming show?
Echoes is set in an empty world where we are gone and all that is left are echoes of humanity. Children forever waiting to go home, medieval legends forever on their quests, gods and mythical creatures from our stories and beliefs endlessly wandering our world. Our collective consciousnesses may be silent, but the echoes remain. There is an additional topic I have woven in to a couple of the pieces, like a smaller story arc. They are the ones featuring the young Satyr.
Over the previous year, my daughter who is in high school has been friends with an adolescent whom she described as “gender fluid”. This child had been bullied and my daughter was one of his only friends. She would ask to take her older brothers’ old school uniform to give him as he wasn’t allowed to wear a boys uniform, etc. Right before I worked on these pieces, it had come to a head. The school called to let me know that this child was officially transitioning gender, and that my daughter had volunteered to be his buddy. He wouldn’t be allowed to use either the male or female restrooms and had to only use the disabled at the front office so would need to be accompanied by another student there and back, and my daughter had volunteered.
They were calling to ask if I was okay with this as she was such a good student with good grades and they didn’t want this to affect that. They also asked if my daughter was now a lesbian, being as she recently cut her hair short. I was saddened. This poor child had only one friend to stick up for him. I was proud of my daughter and wanted to express this feeling.
I created “She Came For Me” and “Animals” partially to honour these downtrodden and unaccepted children. We are so eager to put a label on everything, rather than just accept people for who they are. “She Came Looking For Me”, is a painting that evolved from a very different initial idea. There is an Other who is coming out of a closet into a broken world. It is also taking a nod to literature, with a mythical creature coming through a wardrobe, instead of us going into their world she has come into ours.
I had created the painting Animals immediately prior to this one, in it you see this confident, strong little figure in a petting zoo. She has been labeled an animal, but through her environment, specifically the treatment of the door I am adding the narrative and raising the “She Came Looking For Me”, I wanted to tell the story of how she came to be in our world and the nod to Narnia with her coming from a child’s story.
Often as I am painting, I will feel emotionally invested in the character I am painting. For this particular one I felt her trepidation, like a deer in the headlights. As I work on the piece, I will scrawl notes about the narrative as it evolves. It’s a means for me to complete the narrative of this tiny glimpse into the world or history I am painting.
She Came Looking For Me
My childhood friend that I willed into reality
From the stories I loved
She came looking for me
Time passes differently in her world
My home was long empty
Set in decay by the time she came through
I loved her for who she was
And could never have imagined my world
With such an innocent as she in it
Neither animal nor human
She would be rejected by both
If only I could have told her
To turn back when first she came through
Alas I was not there
No one was.
(Above) L: “Echoes“, R: “So Begins the Hunt”
Would you tell us about your working process and what’s your typical week is like?
My work-week has changed quite a bit since moving my studio this year. In general, I work Monday to Friday from 8am until 5pm, unless under a deadline. If we’re home on the weekend, I can usually squeeze a few hours of painting then too. I’ve found keeping regular work hours when possible helps with my work/life balance.
For the creation of most of the work in this show, my working process has been starting with a sketchbook jotting down ideas. Going out to sketch and photograph location reference. Finding the model, drawing from and photographing the model. Drawing my final composition, and finally, painting. Then all the other things, like varnishing the finished piece, framing, shipping etc.
I have met some beautiful and wonderful models throughout this project. One, was while I was out paying a bill, I noticed the receptionist and had these lovely arrow tattoos on her forearm. Right then, the idea came to me of Diana the huntress with her magical arrows that would never expire. I asked the receptionist if she would be interested in modeling for this painting and she was wonderful, even going with me, a total stranger, to an abandoned lot for the photo shoot.
Another was my Cupid paintings. The model is a lovely Italian girl who served me coffee at a little cafe in Sydney. I had only met her once and asked if she would like to model, turns out she was more than happy and made a lovely angel. This has been a tremendously exciting project and I only wish I had time to create more.
To you, who is (or are) the greatest artist(s) of all times? (And why?)
I don’t know about who is the greatest of all time, but I do know who have had the greatest influence on me and who are my personal inspirations. I love the classical works of J.W. Waterhouse, and Jean-Leon Gerome. The more narrative work of Howard Pyle, Frank Brangwyn, Dean Cornwell, Mead Schaeffer and N.C. Wyeth. The gorgeous design of Alphonse Mucha, and the beautiful paint handling of John Singer Sargent and Richard Schmid. There are so many more that I love and admire, these are only a few examples.
As for current art heroes, I have been honoured to meet and even exhibit with so many of them at several group shows. Most recently with the Inner Visions show at Abend Gallery in Denver and in the upcoming ARC Salon exhibition in New York this May.
I always ask the artists I interview this question: What is art? And what does it mean to you on a personal level?
Art is a language, a means to communicate stories, ideas, emotions and beauty. The more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn to better accomplish this. Like a classical musician, or an athlete, we can see the skill and appreciate the discipline and training required to achieve it. I feel the same with painting, I am creating, and through many hours of practice, I am still aiming for my personal best.
(Above) “Salt Sisters”
What would you consider as a dream project?
I’d love to take a month or two and go on-location somewhere here in Europe to paint and create my next set of paintings. I’m shopping for a Plein Air Pallet box setup so I can do this soon.
What else are you working on at the moment?
Currently I’m creating a collection of small works involving figures in theatrical settings and costumes. It’s not for a particular exhibition yet, but I’m hoping to work towards my next show with the ideas that are coming to life now.