Female empowerment, body positivity, pleasure, and the experience of frustration and struggle are intertwined in Washington D.C. based French born artist Lindsey Kircher's paintings. Transcending positive emotions through a bright and vibrant colour scheme, her paintings inherit certain melancholia and stimulate the viewer's way of thinking about the position of women in society. In this interview, she tells us how she avoids ‘artist’s block,’ the artists she is most inspired by, and the process of approaching a new painting.
The concept of childhood plays an impactful role in what direction a person will pursue their career. Is there a specific memory when you knew you wanted to be an artist?
I have always been drawing and making art! I’m not sure if there was a specific moment, but I realised at an early age that I had a talent for creating and that I was passionate about expressing myself through art.
Has pursuing a career in fine arts always been your dream? What impacted you in your life that you chose that path?
I have always wanted to pursue a creative career in the visual arts, but when I was younger I thought that I would pursue something like illustration or interior design as a more practical alternative to being a 'painter.' But I think I always knew that I have a deep love for the physicality of drawing and painting – working with my hands, creating form out of formlessness.
To paraphrase Louise Bourgeois, it feels urgent to translate my experiences into physical objects that exist outside of me. I love the world-building that I am able to do when I make work in the studio.
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The colour palette used for most of your art is very vibrant and gaudy, especially in the way you capture highlight and volume in certain areas and motifs. Why did you choose to paint in that scheme? Does that have a deeper meaning?
I paint with unearthly, saturated colours to create an alternative universe, where these women are liberated to fully actualise their sexuality and strength. The choices in my colour palette are also influenced by my interest in environmentalism and ecofeminism.
While these colours could suggest a psychedelic paradise, they could also represent an acidified, pot-apocalyptic planet. These women could be the first people on earth or the last.
A small number of your drawings are in black and white. In your opinion, how does an art piece change if there is no colour involved? Eventually, would you turn these drawings into paintings?
I am actually in the process of translating some of these drawings into a large painting right now! But not all of them always become paintings. I like working with charcoal to eliminate colour, and to focus more intensely on composition and form. The drawings can become more experimental and complex because they don’t have the added element of colour.
Most of your paintings depict female aspects, such as body parts, female pleasure, and aspects of the divine feminine. What has influenced you to mainly capture women and female attributes in your work? Would you consider including male features as well?
I portray women with powerful, sturdy limbs because I want to convey their agency and capability as they pursue bold endeavours. I also emphasise the sensuality of their bodies to convey that the specific attributes of being feminine are part of what makes them strong and empowered. I represent the female body because I occupy a female body and it is a subject matter I know deeply.
However, I intend for these women to defy limitations of body and gender by accessing 'masculine' characteristics of strength, muscularity, and boldness.
“I want these paintings to present an eco-centric perspective, where women, plants, and animals are equal participants in narratives of resilience and bravery.”
The majority of your pieces contain natural elements, for instance, plants, animals, the sky, and extraordinary landscapes. What inspires you about nature?
I love travelling and hiking and spending time outside – so I value surreal encounters with nature, when I’m amazed by specific animals or natural phenomena that exist parallel to our human societies.
For example, one of my recent paintings featured an octopus. I am interested in their many remarkable qualities, like their ability to experience a sensation like taste and smell through all of their eight limbs.
I’m also working on a painting that features an abundance of mushrooms because I’ve been inspired by the way that mycelium foster elaborate communication networks between trees in old-growth forests.
What do you want to transcend with the intersection of femininity and nature represented in your work?
I create paintings that portray women finding strength and empowerment in nature, without exploiting it. In ancient cultures and shamanistic practices, people revere the specific characteristics of different animals. Even while visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art recently, I was impressed by statues and artwork of gods and goddesses who are half-human, half-animal.
I think about these ideas in my work – I want these paintings to present an eco-centric perspective, where women, plants, and animals are equal participants in narratives of resilience and bravery.
How would you describe your process of approaching a new painting? Do you work more intuitively or concept-based?
There is often a singular action or feeling that I experience in my own life and want to capture in a painting. As a lifelong dancer, I feel connected to my body and the expressiveness of movement. So, the paintings often start with building the figure in my mind. I ask questions like: how would I convey the experience of frustration or struggle through the motion of the figure? Once I can envision the body or bodies, I build the environment around them.
Many of the ecosystems that I paint come from memories of places I have been and long to revisit. Volcanoes glow red as they did when I visited Nicaragua, snakes and cacti emerge from the American Southwest, and luscious lotus gardens refer to a backpacking trip in Southeast Asia.
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Body Shots, oil on canvas, 36x42 inches, 2020
2020 had been an arduous year for the majority of the creative scene. Have you ever encountered an artist’s block? If so, what is your routine to get back to working creatively?
Though this year has been challenging in many ways, I have continued to make work by making a routine of regularly going to the studio. Making a commitment to the studio prevents me from hitting an 'artist's block' because I hold myself accountable for being investigative and active in my practice. Reading, looking at art, engaging with other artists, travelling and having new experiences are all things that feed into my work – I am hoping to do more of some of these things in a post-pandemic world!
You have mentioned that Kyle Staver, Judith Linares, and Lisa Yuskavage are the artists you have been mainly influenced by. What fascinates you about their work?
I am interested in the way that Kyle Staver conjures mystery and awe around her subjects through her masterful use of light. I am also influenced by the dazzling world-building in Judith Linhares' paintings of self-sufficient women, at ease with themselves and their environments. Lisa Yuskavage’s exploration of femininity in all its complexity also serves as a reference for the content of my work.
Beyond these contemporary figurative painters, I find inspiration in the paintings of Tamara de Lempicka, Tarsila do Amaral, Frida Kahlo, the Girl Pictures photographs by Justine Kurland, and work by eco-feminist artists Ana Mendieta and Kiki Smith.
You have exhibited your artwork in galleries in New York, London, and Florence. What would be your ultimate goal venue to showcase your paintings? What are your next steps regarding future projects?
I am excited to have a few upcoming exhibitions in 2021, most notably a solo show with 5-50 Gallery in Queens this upcoming May! I am also currently in a group exhibition at PAVE Contemporary in London and I am working with galleries in Italy to showcase my work there later this year.
I have a 3-month residency starting in April at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a short distance away from my current home in Arlington, Virginia. Ultimately, I hope to continue making work and showing nationally and internationally as the pandemic subsides and as we all have more opportunities to enjoy looking at art and experiencing it together!
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No Way Out But Through, oil on canvas, 42x36 inches, 2020
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Dancers, charcoal on paper, 44x30 inches, 2020
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Bather II, charcoal on paper, 24x18 inches, 2020
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Sky’s The Limit, oil on canvas, 42x30 inches, 2020
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Clear Vision, oil on canvas, 24x18, 2020
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Bather I, charcoal on paper, 24x18 inches, 2020
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I Depend On Me, oil on canvas, 48x36 inches, 2020
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All That Lives Is Born To Die, oil on canvas, 27x23 inches, 2020