Lydia Walls is a native Atlantan artist. Although much of her past creative experience has been working collaboratively with the collective Golden Blizzard, the past couple of years she has worked independently. Golden Blizzard’s work has been featured in solo shows at Youngblood Gallery, Kibbee Gallery, and Marcia Wood Gallery. They participated in shows with The Contemporary Art Center of Atlanta both in Atlanta and at the Jupiter Hotel in Portland, Oregon. Articles in ArtPapers, Creative Loafing and the Atlanta Journal Constitution reviewed the collective’s work.
Walls’ individual work has been displayed exclusively in group exhibitions at Swan Coach House Gallery, Borderline Gallery, and Beep Beep Gallery. This is her second show with Barbara Archer Gallery. Along with drawing and painting, she has made sewn soft sculpture installations, animations, and upholstered objects. Walls received her BFA from Georgia State University. She lives in Grant Park with her dog Annie, as well as her baby brother Alex and his dog Fritz.
Just as everything in life ebbs and flows, so does my art practice. Working primarily in a collaboration, the majority of my experience has been drawing, painting, and editing portions of a larger piece of work, which I then pass onto a fellow artist to do the same. Encountering confusion and questioning what my individual art practice should look like, the work I made consisted solely of half finished drawings and doodles. Lack of focus was my dilemma.
After a several year lull from a steady practice of independent art making, I took a day trip last May to Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens in Summerville, Georgia. Seeing a mass of crude portraits throughout the property left me with an admiration for the folk artist and his seemingly neurotic obsession with spreading the Gospel. Leaving a little less inhibited, I had a desire to attempt to paint people. Shortly after, I met another artist, Theron Humphrey, who was about to embark on a yearlong adventure to each of the fifty states, photographing everyday people. These two men inspired me. One was fanatical and the other more conventional, but both were passionate and dedicated. I wanted what they had and drew from both for the year to come.
My 29th birthday was approaching. With a new enthusiasm, I committed to a year long endeavor: to do a portrait for every day leading up to my 30th birthday. With the immediacy of graphite and gouache, I was confident that family, friends, celebrities, musicians, historical figures, animals, artists, critics, and curators would be rendered in a timely manner. A day at a time, I painted.
As life occurred, I encountered ebbs and flows in my practice as before. I began questioning the reality of my commitment and the endurance that this year long challenge presented. Surrendering to the process, fear subsided. I began to crave drawing and painting people. The curves of their noses, the shadows on their cheekbones. The days of contemplating whether or not I would paint became less and less. As days, weeks, and months went by, the end was in sight. An anxiety about what I would do after the portraits arose. I continued to remember that I am not there yet. I am certain that as long as I stay open minded and willing, more will be revealed. Everything is sure to change.
And so it has. The experience of painting 365 portraits in the span of a year catapulted my art practice. I began two bodies of work exclusive from one another. The first exploring history, myths, legends, and folklore across the fifty United States, blending them together to create psychedelic compositions and new narratives. As a result, I became specifically curious about famous Southerners, seeing as that I am from the South. Portraiture had immortalized the people in my past series and I found it fitting to do so with the great men and women of the past and present that have made my home what it is today.