Lindsay Preston Zappas : Interview


The surreal environments created in Lindsay Preston Zappas photographs are rich with layers of heavy textures and rich contrasts capturing bodily limbs and staged interventions. Lindsay’s sculptural images go through many iterations to meet their final destination: still lifes are created and staged, performed and documented, using photography as the last stage in the process to collapse, flatten, expand, and disseminate the once performative work. Individuals live within constructed sets performing everyday tasks: dressing, cleaning, arranging, in an ordered environment nodding to domestic spaces of privacy and security. Often masked behind cloth, fruit, or concealed within a box, subjects lack an identifiable face, which could lead to a feeling of loneliness or isolation. However, what draws me into the world of Lindsay’s images is the seeming celebration of the individual looking to receive a gaze from a passersby eye, but in an intimate environment that heightens the creative imagination.

I was first introduced to Lindsay when I received a cold email (today’s equivalent of a cold call) about publishing a magazine, and I quickly realized I had questions about hers as well. In addition to having a studio practice, Lindsay is also the co-founder of Carets and Sticks, an online magazine platform that invites writers to share local reviews. Over beers and Manhattans at Tony’s Saloon in Los Angeles’ Arts District, the two of us bonded over the pleasure and sometimes pain of our writing practices, running a magazine, and the process involved in bringing her photographic sculptures into being. After a few weeks of bantering back and forth over email, we teased out a few questions capturing Lindsay’s practice as an artist and writer living in Los Angeles.

What do you find most exciting about LA?

I’ve never lived in a quote “big city.” I guess by big I mean that there’s always something to do: always an art show to see, or a taco to eat. LA’s proximity to nature is also really exciting. I live downtown (fairly treeless), but I can drive 30 minutes and be in the middle of a mountain range. Oh, and my neighborhood bartender finally knows my name.

What is your favorite alternative space in LA and why?

Not really sure what alternative space means these days. I find backyards, and friends BBQs pretty inspiring.

Your photos seem to have a sculptural element to them, including staged props with a certain flatness to the image. How do you see yourself using the photographic medium?

Photography becomes a step in my process. I use it to flatten, and compress imagery. There’s also this thing with photography that’s more “truthful” than other mediums. Of course photoshop is widespread these days, but when people look at a photo, they generally assume that it’s a still taken from an event that happened. The medium is steeped in a history of documentation, so capitalizing on that history, my photographs become scenarios that call back to time and space in a different way than an abstract drawing does, for example. So, then to bring the photos back into a situation with drawings and sculptures becomes a really rich space for me.

What art movements have inspired your photographs?

It turns out that a lot of movements that have inspired my work are ones that came to me at the outset of my interest in art: Flemish still life paintings, Tableux Vivant, Tromp L’oeil and Pop Art. As much as I have shifted and squirmed my way into different ideologies and ways of making, my first art heros are branded into my psyche. I graduated undergrad with a degree in graphic design, and some of those graphic sensibilities and graphic movements I studied still work their way in. I’ve learned to accept my graphic design roots, and play up certain aesthetic aspects of the work.

What do you enjoy photographing and why?

I love using photography in weird ways – circling it back into drawings or sculptures. The way photographs flatten the real world is the most exciting to me – color, composition, and form become clearer to me in the 2D. 

Where do you draw creative inspiration? i.e. films, paintings, shows, places, etc?

I get jazzed on talking to other people about their work–working alongside other artists inspires me. The outdoors are also a really soul rejuvenating thing for me. Lately, the desert, and the sequoias are top of my list. I think it’s important to travel, and place your body in new environments and visual spaces.  

You also run Carets and Sticks, an online publication. How has this inspired, or pushed against, your creative practice?

I think of my writing practice as one that is parallel to my art making. They haven't really crossed over in a clear way that I can verbalize, although I do think that the practice of looking at visual objects, and transcribing language about them is a way to keep my brain sharp and teach me discipline that carries over into making. The project has also been really vital to me in my own entrance into the art world. It’s allowed me to network with people, and use the blog as a stepping stone into larger discussions and communities. Being an artist is kind of insane, and community is vital to our survival (both mentally and economically). I place a huge value on my network of friends and colleagues, and C&S has helped facilitated much of that for me.

Are there any artists you're r excited about right now? Especially anyone LA based?

Going to art shows every weekend is still pretty novel to me – I think more than artists, good shows have stuck out. Mark Hagen at China Art Objects, Jibade-Khalil Huffman at Samuel Freeman, and Donna Huanca at LTD have been some of my LA faves so far. I get most excited about work when I feel like there would be a lot to write about it.  

What do you think the future of art writing and independent publishing is?

Sheeh. If I only knew. I would love to see more small operations get underway, but funding is a big battle. With the pervasiveness of online news sources, the landscape has changed, and I don’t believe that crowd funding (i.e. Kickstarter) is sustainable enough to really pay any of the writers / editors involved. For me, it’s been a labor of love so far–I hope by the time all the young writers are sick of writing for free, something changes to support the field.

+Words by Julie Niemi

Image List

+ Snake and Fish 1Paint on wood, Digital Photograph, 42 X 48", 2014

+ Fruit Bowl, Paint and Screen Print on Plywood, Zip Ties, Framed Digital Prints, Performers, Dimensions Vary, 2013

+ Cactus Series (Bust and Crouch), Digital Print, Fall 2012

A Rose is A Rose is a Rose, Digital Print, 34X64, Fall 2012

+ Grass on Grass, Digital Print, Fall 2012

LA Local is an ongoing collaboration with Julie Niemi co-founder of VIA Publication as a part of City Local, an 1137 original column that features art and design savvy people, places and thoughts from different cities across the country as told by even savvier local contributors.