I am so proud to say we did a fabulous interview together recently that will be online soon!
Lunday is a Brooklyn based artist artist I have followed for ages, and a I am so pleased to have seen so many stories and shares of her work recently on my feed! She deserves every bit of attention.
Lunday studied her BA at the University of Miami, before doing her MA in Fine Arts (with Distinction!) at Pratt in 2019.
She was named in Saatchi Art’s 2019 Rising Stars Report. Her paintings are composed of various images each, found in her daily life. These can be stills from TV, her physical environment and social media. Her work thus produces these gloriously refined yet free fractured and distorted realities.
Every artist has a story of how they became an artist. What was your earliest memory surrounding artwork? And was there a moment it clicked that you would be an artist, or has it never been a question?
I’ve always been naturally drawn towards art and art-making. As a kid I was really inspired by my grandfather in Kentucky. He had to quit school at 15 to help make money for his family after his father died. After serving time in the Navy he started working on the assembly line at International Harvester, a company that manufactured tractors and trucks, and worked his way up from there. But he was also an incredibly talented artist. He taught himself how to draw, paint, build and play instruments, and he taught photography classes during his retirement. Some of my earliest memories are asking him to draw me various animals and of me sneaking into his computer room to use his fancy double-sided markers.
I moved to the Northern Virginia/DC area from Kentucky when I was 11 years old, which gave me valuable access to museums and arts organizations as I grew up. I think the moment it ‘clicked’ that I was going to take making art seriously was in high school when I started skipping my other classes to go to the art room. My art teacher wasn’t too thrilled about it, but she would usually let me stay. She was stern and always pushed me, and it was really important that I had an art teacher like that during my teenage years. There’s not so much talk about being an artist as a career choice as a kid, so I think it took me a little while to realize that it was actually an option. Thankfully my parents were and are very supportive of it.
Another really big ‘click’ moment for me was when my University of Miami painting professor suggested I look at Francis Bacon. Around the same time, I was walking along the road and noticed a newspaper on the ground with Jenny Saville’s Atonement Studies (Panel 2) on the cover, so I drove to West Palm Beach to see the show at the Norton Museum. I hadn’t had much foundation in art history or contemporary art by the time I had gotten to UM, and when I was finally exposed to the work of artists like Bacon and Saville, it felt like something I had always been looking for. Works like theirs set something off in me—this very physical, bodily reaction to these very physical and bodily works, like a pit in my stomach. Their works very much center around the figure, but also go beyond pure representation through manipulation and distortion to exude an intimate and psychological impact on the viewer. My experience with works like these really opened up my world to the possibilities of paint, which pushed me forward.
How were you trained? Can you tell us a bit about your journey to where you are now?
With regard to my training, I have some objectively “bad” habits because my first painted portraits were born from a lot of trial and error on my own, sitting on my bedroom floor when I was about 16. I later took a few different classes through a local arts non-profit, including one oil painting class, and I had such a hard time going from the quickness and freshness of acrylic to the slow-drying and easily-muddied oil paint, that I vowed to never use oil again. I’m a pretty stubborn person, and was an even more dramatic teenager.
When I got to University of Miami my sophomore year of college, they had everyone work in oil. As it turns out, I ended up falling in love with oil painting. Since then, it’s really taken the front seat in anything I’ve made over the past seven years. But I think there’s still a big part of me that tends to treat oil in some ways like acrylic. I’m still conditioned to make a lot of separate brush strokes and patches of color, so some paintings tend to be mistaken for acrylic.
In the bulk of my paintings I’m working from photographs, and for a long time I felt I was constrained to the literal representation of them. When I started my MFA at Pratt in the fall of 2017, one of my main goals was to be able to liberate myself from this attachment. There was so much trial and error that sometimes I thought I was losing my mind, and most of what I made that first year I’ve thrown out or painted over (and, of course, deleted from Instagram). But it was really important for me to force myself through this really uncomfortable detachment process and allow the paintings to go where the paintings want to go, rather than where the image tells them to go. I still use images, of course, but they’re used as a foundation or jumping-off point rather than the exact blueprint.
Can you tell us a bit about your process, and how each of your artwork comes to be?
I’m really thankful for the invention of the smartphone during my lifetime because my process is so heavily based around my ability to create source material on an almost constant basis. I save everything on my phone that catches my eye. A scene on television, celebrity photos on the internet, piles of garbage on the sidewalk, the sky. Initially I can’t really explain what it is that I’m looking for, but it tends to show up in the work.
I have a few folders on my phone and laptop where I keep all of these images to have on-hand. For a smaller painting I may work from them directly, or I’ll digitally collage a few together on an app. Throughout the process of painting, I’ll usually get stuck, and I’ll take an image of the painting and manipulate it further on my phone before I decide what to do next.
Often I’ll end up doing this to the point where the painting almost completely changes to something else entirely. Covering-up is a big part of my process, as well as the chance of what colors from previous renderings end up showing through in the end. I like to see bits and pieces of each stage, which is why you’ll often see lines leftover from me trying to place different figures. If a painting I’m working on is coming along too easily, it becomes very boring for me. I always have to break it and drive myself crazy trying to solve the puzzle I created for myself.
"As I slowly became more and more interested in making paintings from reality television, I started thinking of them as modern-day mythologies. Although these people live in our reality, the representations of them are caricatures of this reality. "
I love your work, and it’s examination of the influences we all have in our lives now-a-days… TV, phones… they’re inescapable. Who or what are your biggest influences, and how do you find them?
I started becoming really interested in painting from reality television and social media in my second year of grad school. In the beginning of that year I had been making these paintings that referenced religious and mythological paintings, concentrating on representations of women, specifically of Eve and of the Sirens. One day I was watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and two of the ‘housewives’ got themselves drunk on tequila, ending up slouched over the side of this hot tub. The scene struck me as really beautiful so I took a few photos of it to paint for fun.
As I slowly became more and more interested in making paintings from reality television, I started thinking of them as modern-day mythologies. Although these people live in our reality, the representations of them are caricatures of this reality. These people, who are put on a larger-than-life platform, relay to us dramatic storylines and feelings that we can relate to and find ourselves in. We can pick out good versus evil, see love blossoming, see complicated family histories, just like in the stories from mythology, religion, and fairytales. But this way of storytelling is much more marketable.
I moved on from the Housewives and have spent a lot of time painting from dating shows including The Bachelor and the UK’s Love Island and; both of which feature people pushed together in these extraordinary situations. In December of 2019, I came across an article titled something like 10 Most Awkward Celebrity Kisses. The images were so striking to me that they set me off to seek out more images in articles like Most Awkward Celebrity-Fan Moments.
What draws me to them is this exposed and/or forced intimacy captured as a spectacle. The same thing, of course, happens in reality television, but these photographed moments are still, concentrated, and awkward. The images have little context, but the body language and facial expressions captured are pregnant with narrative. In most of my newer paintings I have figures holding each other, usually signifying warmth, but their facial expressions tend to come across as a bit cold or uncomfortable.
Intimacy has always been a part of my work, but lately it has really become the center of it; particularly romantic intimacy. I think because I’ve always been a mixture of entranced and confused by it. As a kid I remember always staring at couples and trying to figure them out, and I think I’m sort of doing the same thing now.
How has your practice changed with the current world crisis?
You know, it’s weird timing that I started painting these awkward hugging works just before the pandemic hit. As COVID-19 hit full-swing in the US in March, it really heightened the weight of the hug, and of viewing human touch in general. I find myself flinching when people hug on television now. So, I think it has complicated these characters in my paintings even more, which is something I find compelling.
Some ways that my practice has physically changed during this time has a lot to do with material. I've had the time to experiment more, and I tried painting at home for a bit. Because I was trying to work from home, I was working much smaller, on paper, and using watercolor for the first time as an adult. Watercolor is something I always avoided because I was scared of the inability to cover-up, something I do so heavily in my oil and acrylic paintings. But I ended up really enjoying it, the higher stakes of making a brush stroke I couldn’t cover up allowed me to feel very present. I did end up deciding to go back to my studio (I can walk there) but am glad that time set me up for experimentation outside of my comfort zone.
What is your greatest indulgence in life and do you have a philosophy of life?
My greatest indulgence in life is probably Instagram. I think there are so many positive things to pull from it, especially within the arts and even more so in a pandemic. I also get a lot of my material from Instagram. But it’s easy for it to consume you and shape the way you see the world. I don’t really have a philosophy in life, because every time I think I have anything figured out, something goes awry.
What would be your ultimate dream project?
My ultimate dream project is really just to be able to stay in New York and keep painting. I don’t so much think up specific projects as much as I paint and let the project form itself.
Who is your favourite contemporary female artist?
It’s really hard to pick because there are just so many great ones! As I touched on earlier, there are some works that when you come across them you get a pit in your stomach, at least for me. There are some paintings that hit me like a truck and I have this really visceral response to. I have that experience with works by Marlene Dumas, Christina Quarles, Janiva Ellis, Cecily Brown, and Jenna Gribbon.
Who should She Curates interview next?
I was lucky enough to become friends with a lot of really great artists during my MFA at Pratt. Two of them are Isabelle Brourman and Madeline Rupard.