Art has always served as a powerful tool to outspread our understanding of the universe beyond our own physical senses. Different forms of art enable the artist to release their very own glimpses of the world. For Lynnea Holland-Weiss, dance and painting were her chosen tools as she navigated through life. Lynnea grew up in California and she focused on dance for most of her youth even though she was always painting on the side. By the end of high school, she decided to focus on visual arts and received a BFA in painting from the California College of Arts. As a deep observer of movement and form, Lynnea entangled her perspective of the world in between painting and dance. She conceived something bold, contemporary, beautiful and ultimately and most important: original. Cheers to the first interview featuring a wonderful woman artist – may 2018 bring many many many more. It’s about time.
Hi Lynnea! First of all, thank you for doing this with me! You mentioned your background in dance and I’m curious… Do you still dance at all?
LYNNEA – Dance is my first love for sure. I hope that it is a part of my life forever. I will occasionally take a class here and there, not as often as I’d like to (if only there were more hours in the day). But you will always find me grooving while working in my studio, and I’ll take up any opportunity to go out dancing with friends! I’ve also dabbled a little with how to combine dance and painting in my work, which so far has presented itself in the shape of video and stop motion. And I definitely am interested in exploring these possibilities further. Whether it involves collaborating with other dancers or doing more animation, it gets me excited to think of ways to combine my two loves.
Trust Yourself – acrylic on canvas
How was the transition from dance to painting in your life?
LYNNEA – Good question. Well I’ve pretty much always been painting and drawing since I was young. I guess like most kids, but it was something I kept up throughout my upbringing. And I was also doing gymnastics as a young kid. Then around the age of ten, I started to focus pretty seriously on dance. I was in a hip hop dance company in Oakland, Ca by the age of thirteen and then my freshman year of highschool I went to Oakland School for the Arts as a dance major, which was an intense pre-professional program where I began to train in ballet and modern dance. I then decided to transfer to Berkeley High School, where I continued to dance. They had a great afro-haitian dance program that I was a part of and a lot of opportunities to choreograph for performances. I really enjoyed doing my own choreographic work that combined elements of all these different styles. Around this time I also started painting a lot more, painting from models and really getting into it. So as far as when the shift really happened, I guess it was right around my junior year because that is the time when everyone is talking about college, where you want to go, what you want to do, etc. And I guess that was the the fork in the road where I was trying to decide which path to continue to pursue after high school. I came to the decision that I wanted dance to remain this personal and sacred thing that was purely mine, if that makes sense. Where on the other hand, painting really felt like the right tool for me to be able to translate how I was observing the world around me. Also dance was always so much about being a performer, which never really suited me, whereas painting became an avenue of expression where all eyes were on the work versus on me. And I liked that better.
A Delicate Balance – acrylic on canvas
You say you’ve always been extremely aware of people’s body language and movement. I think that’s something so interesting, it almost works as a secret weapon to better understand the world. I don’t think a lot of people are good at reading body language! What’s so appealing to you about detecting body movements and translating them into drawings instead of just…keep dancing?
LYNNEA – Yes! Body language is so honest and unfiltered. Which is why I think both dance and figurative painting or any visual art concerning the body has such a powerful way of making us feel so deeply. Dance has had such a big influence on my interest in figurative painting and simply the way I approach form and observation. Both practices require a deep level of awareness to detail and the ability to break down what you are seeing until it is abstract and you feel it in your body, so that then you are able to truly mirror it. For me, however, painting seems to have an incredible way of capturing movement and holding a lapse of time, while also allowing the viewer to sit with the moment, gesture, idea or feeling and actually have extended time to engage. The history is all layered within the paint and when you are in front of a painting, you feel all of it. Dance is so raw and so human, I love it…but it’s fleeting and disappears. You have to be present in the flesh for the exchange, and then it’s over. While this is incredibly beautiful, I love the way painting records time in its layers and is this crystal of information that can be observed, felt and contemplated over and over again. Also, color!! Color plays such important role in painting for me, so to be able to experiment, push, pull and heighten emotions with the complexity of color and textures is endlessly exciting.
Sweetest Trap – acrylic on canvas
When I first saw your paintings at Space 1026 I couldn’t help but notice how your work is such a honest reflection of today’s world. I find it fascinating how hard it is sometimes to be present – both physically and spiritually – without trying to go back and forth in time. It has become so easy to escape from whatever is happening right in front of you and for some reason, your paintings offer a new perspective in all of this. The colors, the figures, the background…it’s like they serve as an attempt to connect everything back together. How do you manage to stay present?
LYNNEA – Wow, thank you! That is really awesome to hear. Staying present is so relevant to the work. My process is very intuitive and reactionary. I never go into a painting with much of a plan. Instead I let it develop in a chain reaction, moment by moment. And for me staying grounded in my body is the only way for me to stay present in my mind and spirit. Dancing, stretching, moving my body is my ultimate tool for guiding me back to the present moment. It is always what I come back to. Especially in this day and age, there are continuous distractions all around us, and in our pockets. We are always either anticipating the future, analyzing the past, or completely preoccupied with what someone else is doing. And on top of that our society somehow favors the mind, letting the body be disregarded as secondary (as if they weren’t entirely connected). I think bringing our awareness back into the physical experience and into our bodies is so incredibly important to not only help us be present in our moment to moment existence, but also to universally help ground and connect all humans together and eliminate the ability to dissociate ourselves from one another.
Phantom Phones via Muscle Memory – acrylic on canvas
Do you work on your paintings one at a time?
LYNNEA – No, usually not. I like working on many pieces at once. So much of painting is looking, so I find it helpful for me to have many ideas going on simultaneously, so that as you bounce around different pieces, you have time to marinate on the others and react accordingly. Often I’ll work something out or mistakenly stumble into an idea on another painting that I then bring back into the previous piece, or visa versa.
Last one… Any artists that you are currently obsessed about? Or musicians? Or performing artists maybe?
LYNNEA – Lets see… as far as painters that I currently digging, there’s a lot but Maya Bloch, Jules de Balincourt and Maja Ruznic are a couple that come to mind, and some classics that are always on the list are Nicole Eisenman, David Hockney, Kerry James Marshall, Joan Brown, Alice Neel and Nick Cave (who’s not a painter but incredible visual artist who actually has a dance background as well). Also one of the best show that I’ve seen this year, was by a friend that I went to CCA with – shout out to Janiva Ellis who’s seriously making some incredible paintings. In the dance world, recently I saw one of the best if not the best dance performances I’ve ever seen, it was this Israeli dance company called Batsheva. Absolutely phenomenal. They have developed a movement language and pedagogy entitled “gaga” which I’ve been really interested in getting into. I also love Okwui Okpokwasili, Pina Bausch, Sasha Waltz and all of the Bay Area Turf Feinz. And musicians, man there are way too many, so I’ll just say one that I have been obsessed with since I was as tween and am still completely obsessed with: Ms. Erykah Badu.