Mystery and Motherhood: An Interview with Lindsay Hand
I stood in Lindsay Hand’s downtown art studio, feeling the creaks of the wooden floor beneath my feet and hearing the large building, filled with several art studios and offices, breathe and shift slightly around me. I held a coffee I’d just purchased from the Starbucks down the street and smiled at Lindsay. Her short cropped, brunette hair was curly, and she cleared a space in her daughter’s corner of the studio so we could sit for our interview. I looked through the door adjoining the two rooms of her studio and saw her easel set up for a work in progress, rinsed paintbrushes sitting alongside tubes of paint in various colors.
Lindsay’s studio owns a special ambiance, an expression of her art and herself, and I silently wondered what truly inspires this woman, an artist, mother, and wife, to create the haunting yet beautiful images that adorn her walls. She lit some incense, and we sat down to talk about her art, life, and inspiration.
Deen: This is Lindsay Deen, with US Represented, and I am here with Lindsay Hand, an artist, painter, and—what else would you call yourself?
Hand: A mother.
Deen: A mother, in Colorado Springs Colorado, and we’re sitting here in her studio, which is on Bijou, and getting ready to talk about art.
Hand: Good morning!
Deen: Good morning! So Lindsay, I guess I’ll just start by asking you this: what is art to you?
Hand: For me, it’s a meditation, it’s a necessity as an action for me to create, it’s a growing process, it’s a presence. It’s a beautiful thing, to just step in and be, but it also can require things that need to be said. So, that’s speaking from my own art and my process. I mean, viewing other people’s art is the same thing, but it’s as an observer, and kind if a gift sometimes. This work is something.
Deen: So art is a gift. Do you see your art as a gift?
Hand: I’d like to. I think there’s that battle of like, “Oh, well you’re just being an egomaniac to think that you’re doing something that deserves to be received and respected and loved,” but I just can’t—I mean, there has to be something there because I just have to do it. For myself. And I suppose the fact that it’s being received in the world—I’m grateful that it’s being accepted as a gift by some people, so far.
Deen: Absolutely. Well, having viewed your art and just having gotten the chance to hang out with you during your opening, it was really beautiful to see how your art brings people together, and also creates a sense of family, especially in your pieces. There’s a lot of family in them. Especially in the series, and I’m going to forget the name of the series, the one that you did on all the old photographs. What was that called?
Hand: Speaking with the Dead. It was all cohesive, of one family. I had started dabbling in that family’s lives, I guess, since I had done a few pieces of that family before the series, but I guess that sort of brought me into it. And there was a lot of exploring of family dynamic.
Deen: And when you were going through that series, what was foremost in your mind? You were painting all these lives before you, all these people.
Hand: I think so much is still being revealed to me about why I do things, and I’ve accepted that it works best when something pulls me and I just go with it without trying to figure it out. Looking back—which is the point, I guess, to look back because something is revealed to me through doing it—I think that was probably one of the series that showed me that this is my process. I look at a photograph. I’m drawn to it. Maybe it’s obvious, but usually it’s not, and then as I paint it, it’s revealed to me.
And because all I have is my own experience—There’s nothing new under the sun, right?—but there’s so much in my subconscious that’s not figured out, or that has yet to come to the surface, or that is there and I have a conflict and that needs to be resolved, within my own concepts of family or my own struggles, but not necessarily struggles, more aspirations—what do I want. Growth. And I think when I do a piece, that’s what is on my mind.
I heard a quote the other day: “Art isn’t always about inspiration—it’s about aspiration.” It’s about looking for something. It’s often something that inspires me, because the image is inspiring, or because I have that natural obsession—or maybe not natural, maybe it’s unnatural!—but I have what I’ve seen as a tendency toward obsessing about old photos. And not just generally old photos. I prefer them to have no personal association.
The thought—I don’t like the thought sometimes because it’s sad, but the thought that this is somebody’s life, like in that album, it was very well loved, very well cared for, and it was a very personal project for this person, and it ended up in a thrift store. Nobody in his family, her family wanted it, or there was no family left behind to take care of it. And there were these lives. You see the lives of the people in this family, and what is it now? Where are these people now, if at all?
Deen: Yes. Could you tell us a little bit about the story of how you found the photos?
Hand: I was just at the thrift store, doing my typical running through, is there something here worth more and I can resell it? You know, I love that, that hunt for something beautiful, I always say, “Oh, I could resell it.” But I always keep everything!
Because I like it too much. And I saw these old photos, and that’s rare. Because you can look, they have old photo albums, but they’re always cleared of the photos. So I was drawn to these albums, and I bought them.
Deen: So what kind of lives do you think these people in the albums lived? And what really grabbed you about the pictures?
Hand: Well, it was very mysterious. Usually, you can look, and say, “This album was about this person,” or it’s a mother who put this together about her family. But it was kinda hard to pin down. And as soon as I thought I had it pinned down, another picture would say something else. And it was kind of about two guys, and I assumed it was this guy, Pat, but at one moment, I thought that his mother had put the album together, and then I noticed that there were no pictures of the father, maybe one. Maybe there wasn’t a father. You know?
And I think I just projected a lot of my own experience. Like there are these pictures of him in high school, out on little trips with his friends in the park, and this is in the 1940s, maybe, the mid to late ’40s, and it’s just like when we were teenagers. I don’t know if everybody dresses up and goes to the park and takes pictures, but you know, they’re smoking, and you just romance it up a little bit.
But then I really felt like, so I see these things, and, maybe not everybody sees it this way, but I start building it in my imagination. Maybe he’s struggling with a big secret, or he’s not sure and he’s confused, or there’s just this intense-ness. And there’s so many pictures of him, though, I’m like, well, is it his album? Or is it somebody else’s, observing him? His brother or the father or—that’s what I mean. I would think they were totally his, and then I think, well he did a lot of self portraits, apparently, or just had a lot of people taking pictures of him. But I think I kind of lost my train of thought.
Deen: No worries. You were just exploring the possibilities these photo albums opened up to you, and it was like you could make up the story, or try to figure it out, and that’s great.
Hand: And I don’t think I’ve ever talked to anyone seriously about it. I haven’t put that one into words, so I am a little grasping for what to say. It’s just new to me, trying to be able to articulate what that’s been for me because I just painted those and got lost in my own little world. And sometimes that’s a little easier because I’m like, oh, you really want to know what I was thinking?
Deen: Yes, of course. And I think that your exploration of the entire family and everything that was happening throughout those photos, that’s what makes your work really powerful and provoking because you were trying to figure it out while you were making the pieces and doing the work. Like you said, there’s this air of mystery about all of your work from that era and from that series, Speaking of the Dead.
Hand: So you noticed that?
Hand: And I don’t think that’s something I’ve ever articulated till now. To myself.
Deen: Some of the pieces reminded me of reading Nancy Drew books back in the day, and I was trying to figure something out, like “who done it” myself when I viewed that work. And there’s that Film Noir kind of quality to it.
Hand: And I love that—fiction, reading, movies, everything.
Deen: And what speaks to you about that?
Hand: I guess the mystery, and the darkness. It’s the darkness with the light. . . . You know, like that Norah Jones song, “In Order to Have the Rainbow, You Have to Have the Rain. . . .” And having a child has changed that a little bit because that was my life experience. Everybody goes through things, and what’s going to come out for that. But you want everything to be perfect for your child.
She shouldn’t have to deal with anything bad, ever, and it will be perfect for you. But that’s just not reality, I suppose. It isn’t. I think there’s been times in my life that I more embraced and wallowed a little bit, but now I think that’s what’s changed. I want life to be perfect for her, but that’s not realistic, and I think I just continue to explore that and find a new relationship to the truth and adjust it with some improvisation.
Deen: So how would you say having a daughter either changed or transformed your perspective?
Hand: It’s changed almost the technical process because I would include the productivity and the time. I used to really just be like, “Oh, I just can’t paint because I’m just not feeling it,” and what does that mean? I had all the time in the world then, right? I could just do it when the spirit moved me. But now I’ve had to strengthen that connection to the muse because I only—like I have to be here on Sunday, and I only have this time, and it’s important that I get some work done, so I’ve learned to kind of tap that connection with a little bit more attention. I wasn’t willing to give that up. I redefined what that meant to be inspired and to create work.
That was hard, at first. Everybody said, “You’re having a kid. You’re not going to paint anymore.” Not directly saying that, but insinuating that. But I don’t think that was even an option because I realized that in order to be healthy and content that I had to continue my work as a mom.
And it’s interesting because I really want to do happy art now. But it’s been nice, and I love being Mom, and I love being with her, too. So I went through that whole guilt thing, of loving being in the studio, and it was like, “Well, you’re not there with your daughter, and you should be” because I was raised that that’s what a woman does. She gets married and she has kids, and she’s a devoted mother, and that’s her world.
And I’m not saying that’s bad at all, that’s a good thing, but it obviously wasn’t my sole purpose that I felt pulled toward. There was guilt that came with that and having to process that. That was a struggle, but an added sweetness.
Like in the Speaking with the Dead series, there’s the mom and the baby, and the dad smoking the cigarette, and I don’t think he was the dad, that was Pat, and I think that was the baby’s uncle. In my story of things. I think Pat is my main character, but then there was Anne, and you know, as the main character, you relate that person to yourself, and Ann, his sister, and I related a lot to her, too.
Deen: So really, through the process, and through you exploring all these things, you got in touch with parts of yourself, but also with possible parts of those people that you never even met and who are possibly dead.
Hand: Right. And with what makes a person good? You know, because nobody’s perfect. I don’t know, that’s a little cliche, but maybe that’s the next series. I think that’s part of what I love about it, doing that work, getting into the perspective of those families, it brings me down to earth, looking for that common denominator and relating it to everybody else, and really getting outside of myself and what my vision says.
Not that I’m just not the center of the universe, but that I’m not always special in my pain. When you feel like someone else is their, either in your pain or your aspirations, you just feel like you’re along-side other people instead of above or below. I can be so dramatic. Self-righteous indignation, or complete less-than, insecure, fearful. It brings up another perspective. And that is the true gift.
Deen: Absolutely, it’s like your art not only gives a gift to other people, but gives it to yourself.
Hand: Yes. I think I’m really selfish, sometimes. But that’s why I do it, because I hope my art will do the same thing for someone else.
Deen: I think it definitely does.
Hand: Thank you.
Deen: Thank you. And thank you for taking the time to interview with me today.
I left Lindsay’s art studio feeling inspired and touched that she’d shared such an intimate view of her art and process with me. One of my favorite pictures, that of a man wearing a US Navy uniform taken in low light and much shadowed, had been my favorite piece, speaking to me of the mystery surrounding the lives of those in her thrift-store albums. I took a few moments before crossing the street to my car to light a cigarette and reflect on how motherhood had enriched and also changed both her work and her process.
Taking the crosswalk in long strides, I reflected about how past and future can become so inextricably tangled in our personal experiences and how this was evident in Lindsay’s art. I wondered how she would tie in her motherhood experiences in her next body of work. Much like they mysteries she so loves to create, solve, and immerse herself in, I felt fully immersed in the mystery of Lindsay Hand, and still do.
What I do know? Nothing, but I look forward to her next series.
You can visit Lindsay Hand’s website here and visit her gallery in US Represented here. The links are also listed below: