[March 17 2015]
Models and artist Tali Lennox is opening her first solo exhibition of oil paintings at Catherine Ahnell Gallery in New York this week. Composed during her month as an artist in residence, Layers of Life addresses the dichotomy between the identities we cultivate through the Internet and social media, and those we employ in our daily lives. We caught up with Tali in the studio as she was busy finishing up the 14-piece show. Layers of Life opens tomorrow March 18th and runs until the April 19th at Catherine Ahnell Gallery, 66 Grand Street in New York.
Paige Silveria – So you’ve moved in for the month?
Tali Lennox – Yes, Catherine sets up a whole bedroom for you. It’s a real artist in residence, which is rare to find in this day and age. I actually just had a visit from this 70-year-old illustrator and he said that this is what it used to be like. It gave him goose bumps. So I felt lucky for the opportunity to have this experience.
Paige Silveria – He really said it gave him goose bumps?
Tali Lennox – Yeah, when he walked in he said it felt like he was back in the ’70s and ’80s when they used to work here. It’s so authentic. And Catherine only works with foreign artists in order to give them a platform in New York. She’s not into monopolizing you. She has a genuine love for wanting artists to grow. I think she gets a buzz from what she sees in this space. I’ve been painting every day and I’ve really enjoyed the process, and learned a lot.
Paige Silveria – What have you learned?
Tali Lennox – I’ve learned that this is what I’m meant to be doing. You know that you love something if you can do it for 10 hours a day and not go outside or see anyone and feel very much in touch with yourself. I’ve also learned what I need to do with my next show. I really learnt to narrow down and simplify.
Paige Silveria – What’s the theme behind Layers of Life?
Tali Lennox – They’re all self-portraits. As a little girl and as a man. It’s not really about me though, it’s supposed to be reflective of different facets of all of us. One painting depicts the inner, aggressive man, which I definitely have, but I wouldn’t show to people. It’s a reaction to social media and how we are constantly putting out pieces of ourselves. I’m interested in what we’re psychologically trying to tell people about us, for them to judge. How much are we hiding? I’m on social media, but I’m not going to put up an image of myself being aggressive.
Paige Silveria – Online identities can be very different from how we’re perceived in real life.
Tali Lennox – The online world has become just as real to people as the offline world. With this show, I just want to remind people to scratch a bit deeper. It’s okay that we all have darker facets of ourselves — the things that lay beneath. That’s why it’s called Layers of Life. Everyone has a relationship with the Internet now. It’s such a big part of how things run, which has many benefits. I just think that it’s important to recognize the effects it has on us: positive and negative. About being aware and honest.
Paige Silveria – Absolutely.
Tali Lennox – This is my first show, I don’t really care about always pleasing others. Everyone always has an opinion anyway. I don’t know my complete style yet. I want to show a range. I know that’s what I’d want to see if I went to an art show. I’d want to see that each one had a different element to it. As long as they make people feel. I try to make emotive paintings.
Paige Silveria – What range of styles are you showing?
Tali Lennox – I’m going from doing a much more Impressionist, textured style. I’ve also started playing with a more smoothed-out style. In some of them, there are techniques that I’ve never used before like smudging the canvas and doing suaves with the brush. That, I think, happens because you’re doing it day after day. You can’t help but kind of want to play around a little bit.
Paige Silveria – The paintings seem very Impressionist-inspired. Is this the era you enjoy most?
Tali Lennox – The Impressionist era at the turn of the century — early 1900s, late 1800s — artistically, that’s the time. Klimt, I love. Edward Hopper is a bit later on. John Singer Sargent. Present, John Currin. I really love artists nowadays who use old-fashioned skills and techniques, a master’s way of painting, and then modernize it, add a twist. That’s what I hope to do. I’ve still got a lot more to learn.
Paige Silveria – How long have you been painting for?
Tali Lennox – I’ve always drawn, but I’ve actually only been oil painting for two years now and I’m self-taught. It just takes practice. And when you love doing it, the more you do it, the more your life is deflated without it. It completely centers me. The focus I get is not like with any other thing, really. It’s also nice if people like it, if I can contribute something.
Paige Silveria – You’ve spent some time in the fashion industry, how would you compare it with the art world?
Tali Lennox – I don’t know the art world really, but I think they have different values. The art world seems a lot more serious. It’s different people, a different age range with definitely more men. Fashion is great, but it’s not number one for me. I can appreciate it and I’ve had such a great time modeling, but it’s really nice to discover something new. When I see an artist who’s put in so much work and attention to detail, it’s a different kind of respect. I can relate and I’m inspired by what they’re doing.
Paige Silveria – Do you often visit exhibitions?
Tali Lennox – I try to. I’ve been working hard. I love what Dustin Yellin has done in Red Hook. He’s really given that space to other artists. It’s very communal with everyone bouncing ideas off of one another. I love The Hole a lot as well for the younger and more experimental art. The work that Kathy Grayson picks is fun and different, less uptight. And The Met is just always great.
Paige Silveria – Painting consumes so much of your life. Do you have any other creative outlets?
Tali Lennox – I’ve been acting for the past couple of years and I love it. It gives me a similar buzz to painting actually. For both, you must tap into your inner colors. You’re being creative with full control, using your body as the tool. Painting is inside and acting comes out. I think everyone should take acting classes without the intention of being an actor. It’s about facing your fears and learning about how to not give a shit and just unravel in front of other people. Because it’s okay. It’s fine to be seen. That’s what I like about painting; it’s a nice way to expose yourself. It’s liberating really.
Interview and photo Paige Silveria