Annabell P. Lee
Chances are you have seen artist Annabell Lee’s DIY dyed corset across the internet or spotted it on an impeccably cool Angeleno. It’s impossible to miss, with the artist’s iconic gingham print painted across it giving it that painterly, one-of-a-kind feel. Based in Los Angeles, the contemporary mecca for artists of all kinds with limitless explorations, the artist shares with us the city’s role in her practice, her love for PVC along with its association of an 80s flashy palette, and her foray into furniture objects.
Is there a story behind the gingham print?
Yeah! A few years ago I started making these bright little colored pencil drawings of a gingham covered table top with 4x6 photo prints (as if you were looking down at them). I then sort of cut everything out and started making paintings of gingham with dye. I felt myself really wanting to create my own textile designs but couldn’t figure out what to paint. Giving myself a set of design elements to work within such as gingham, then checkers and [the] chain link pattern really helped me open up my studio practice.
You have a very distinctive palette of colors, often primary colors, why these?
Highly saturated, bright colors attract me. Over time I have built up an affection for certain colors through trial and error with dyeing, like if I need to use a red I always use Scarlet red. I definitely have a certain taste for colors and when one is right, it’s right. I stick with it. I’m inspired by the materiality of color in vintage melamine and PVC objects.
Your background is in fine arts, but you have, thus far, exclusively worked with garments and objects and accessories. How would you define your practice, (either using traditional labels, such as art or fashion, or not)?
Over the past two years I have consciously not labeled my practice in my head which gives me freedom to work through ideas. I think of myself as an artist whose studio practice currently involves making clothes. Presenting a home/clothing lifestyle is more interesting to me than creating a fashion line. I started making clothes when I finished school out of a desire for functionality. My paintings were just sitting there taking up space, I wanted them to be functional and to be worn by my friends. I don’t produce clothing on a season schedule. Instead, my collections are based on photoshoots. Usually, I get inspired to do photoshoots when I meet a woman whose look or vibe I like, then [the] planning of outfits starts.
How has Los Angeles shaped your practice?
Los Angeles has sooo many people working super hard on their different things. I’m lucky to have my studio pretty close to my home, in an old, funny office. Actually my job, house, and studio are all within a 10 block radius which is pretty unheard of in Los Angeles. I find that most people don’t feel the need to define their practices in LA, rather they all co-exist in a really special way. In general, I feel really happy and lucky to live here right now.
We have purses, corsets, pants coming from your colorful, PVC-friendly, checkered world—what’s next?
I am working on a collaboration with a talented and inspiring friend, Nora, who runs Waggy Tees. I’m also launching an online shop, producing new clothes/photoshoots with friends, making furniture, and also working on some paintings! Just gotta keep going.
Can you tell us more about the process of creating your pieces?
My practice is very process-oriented. Actually, it’s pretty much all timed and has lots of limitations. When dye is activated it becomes exhausted after an hour, so I have about one hour to make each painting. After dying, I have to hand wash the fabric so I can only paint about a yard and a half at a time. I put on music, rubber gloves, and paint super fast. I’ve even had a few friends help me paint before. They always say it’s really meditative, painting the same thing over and over again. Depending on what I am making, I draft a pattern based off of some article of clothing I already own or use an existing pattern I have made. I’m not into draping and also not particularly interested in making ground breaking shapes—I like working with pre-existing shapes like denim jackets, grommet tops, etc.
What are the influences behind your creations?
A few years ago, I spent a lot of time researching and thinking about Helen Frankenthaler and her stain-like paintings. Looking at her paintings, I could not help but associate them more with dye than thinned oil paint. I began painting on canvas with dye on the ground akin to her process.
When I first started making paintings and turning them into clothes I was looking at a lot of collaborations between painters and fashion designers. In college, I was killing time in the library before class when I pulled a random book out from the shelf and it changed my life. It was a book printed in the 80s about The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. That book blew my mind, finding out there was a whole museum that facilitates artists to incorporate textile design into their practice really excited me. These influences sort of started it for me but now I look mostly at old interior design and furniture books for color and patterns. Honestly, lots of trolling Etsy and Craigslist too.
Images courtesy of ANNABELL LEE
interview PERWANA NAZIF
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