Audrey Lyall, originally hailing from Corte Madera, CA, now calls Brooklyn, NY, home. As a multi-media artist, Lyall employs a diverse range of materials, including acrylic paint, watercolor, clay, fabric, collaged paper, and more, to craft her vibrant Afro-futurist pieces that embrace a maximalist aesthetic. Her eye-capturing works explore key facets of identity, such as the varying depictions of beauty, race, surveillance, and social anxiety. We spoke with Lyall about her roots and her work.
Talk about your roots. How did your hometown, upbringing, and culture inspire your work?
I grew up in Corte Madera, CA, which is a suburb in Marin County right outside of San Francisco. It’s a very beautiful and calm place to grow up. With that being said, it’s not very diverse so I felt pretty isolated growing up. In a way, I felt like I had to create my own culture. I was able to use my imagination and my interest in fashion to create the world that I wanted to see. Luckily, my parents exposed me to art by taking me to museums and putting me in art classes starting in elementary school. They provided me with an eclectic mix of inspiration, which is still apparent in my work today.
Tell us about your medium(s) of art.
I use pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I mostly combine paint, collaged paper, and found objects on canvas. In addition to my mixed media collage paintings, I also make clothes, sculptures, and installations.
Have you faced any challenges being a multi-media artist?
I would say most of my challenges as a multi-media artist have been internal. Given that my work is so bold, I often wonder if people are going to “get it.” I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see how many people really do “get it.” There are also logistical challenges when it comes to materiality within my work, such as finding different sealants and varnishes to make sure that all the materials stay on the canvas. Given that I use so many different types of materials, I want to ensure the archival longevity of the works.
What are the consistent themes and messages that we can find in your art?
My current works explore varying depictions of beauty. I’m interested in how beauty standards, regimens, modifications, and procedures are used to make people feel “beautiful.” I’m also interested in how this ties in with social media and surveillance — the ways in which many of us have become hyper-self-aware of our appearance and the subsequent facades that we create around that. I like to highlight the absurdity as well as the economic cost of so many of these practices.
What are some aesthetic commonalities we can see in your work?
Aesthetically, my work is extremely colorful and textural. I use a particular color scheme consisting of oranges, reds, purples, and blues. Given my initial background in fashion design, my work is primarily figurative, featuring exaggerated body shapes. I also love using objects from the beauty supply store, such as eyelashes, press-on nails, synthetic hair, wig frontals, and makeup. More recently, I’ve been using kanekalon hair packaging as an effort to recycle the waste that is produced by the hair industry.
Could you describe your creative process? How do you approach a new project or idea?
My creative process is dependent on the specific piece I’m working on. Sometimes, I have an idea in my head and I sketch it out to figure out the composition. Other times, I don’t prepare anything and I just go straight into working on the canvas. I usually start off by loosely drawing the figures and background; then I fill it in with acrylic paint, and then I collage on top of it with paper and found objects. Any given section of one of my paintings can have 3-4 layers of material on it. When I have a new idea, I research the concept and look at photos and writings as references. It’s important to me to have a strong conceptual backing for each work, whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, or a garment.
Describe your ideal work day.
My ideal work day is getting to the studio early and painting all day. Once I’m in the zone, I’m hyper-focused on the work. I love listening to music or podcasts in the background. I often have multiple works going at the same time, so I’ll switch between them as the other is drying.
If you could go on a one-month art retreat anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would love to go back to Morocco and work on art there. I got to visit Marrakech this February when I participated in the 1-54 Art Fair. I felt that the architecture and design elements were very much in line with my own style. I want to spend more time there so I can explore different areas, meet local artists, and exchange techniques.
How do you measure growth as an artist?
I measure my growth solely based on the quality of my work. In the past year, I was constantly making new things and it proved that practice really does make perfect. I feel that the work I’m making now is more interesting and complex than ever before. That’s the most rewarding growth for me. It’s great having shows and gaining recognition, but creating work that I’m proud of is always the priority for me.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
Never compromise your vision. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting to create things that will sell and make money. It’s easy to get caught up in wondering what people want to see. However, I feel that the best part of being an artist is creating work that feels true to oneself. It’s very healing. Art is a long game and in the long run, you will feel way more fulfilled knowing that you’ve created honest works of art.
Is there anything else you would like to share? Upcoming or recent shows, etc.?
I recently finished up two group shows - one at H&M Williamsburg as a collaboration between Platform and Superposition Gallery and the other at Palo Gallery in Manhattan. I have a bit of a break for now, so I’m excited to continue experimenting in the studio.