When a Fashionista Touches the Canvas: The Work of Audrey Lyall
For artist Audrey Lyall, art and fashion are both a question and a statement. Within her mixed media paintings, Lyall constructs an imagined world where her femme characters of color mirror the downfalls of contemporary beauty standards and at the same time highlight how the act of “dressing up” can lift one’s spirit. In this realm of glitz and glamour, the figures dress as extravagant as they’d like and capture the public’s attention as soon as they leave their doorstep. Like a local celebrity on the block where everyone knows their name. Their style and essence is unforgettable. They are Attention Seeking.
Audrey Lyall grew up in Corte Madera, a suburb outside of San Francisco, California. She first learned how to draw the figure in elementary school, at a fashion illustration class. From then on, she continued her fashion studies in academia up until college. Halfway through reaching towards her BFA at the Pratt Institute, she decided to switch majors to Critical and Visual Studies where she expanded into using different mediums and began making paintings.
Lyall approaches the canvas like a fashion designer. Her characters are drawn as the classic 9 head figure, which creates a tall slim elongated body form. She uses tracing paper, cuts the outlines, and applies it on the canvas. This is reminiscent of the pattern making process in garment making. She creates silhouettes, cuts and sews, collages, drapes, and assembles garments with aesthetics, composition, and color palette in mind. This experimental artistic process results in intricately layered paintings. Her materials are sourced from her closet, the streets of NYC, and even her local beauty supply store.
Her mediums can range from: bobby pins, acrylic paint, watercolor, paper, glass beads, press on nails, cowrie shells, faux eyelashes, lace front wigs, oil pastels, found clothing, elastic hair bands, attitude, confidence, sparkle, the limelight, and spirit.
There’s no such thing as “too much” in the world of Audrey Lyall.
Above all, the concept and the visual story the assembled figures and scenes tell is the most important intangible medium of them all. Lyall is interested in how we are all perceived and how one’s perception might be altered by the way someone is dressed and how they chose to present themselves to the world that day. She is interested in how the external beauty products, clothing, and accessories we apply on our bodies everyday can psychologically alter how we feel and how we are looked at - the gaze. The artist is also interested in the extremes and spectrums of beauty from makeup to plastic surgery to body piercings. From a global standpoint, she questions how each country and culture has their own set of beauty ideals and hierarchies of beauty based on how one alters their body and natural form. She thinks about the ways we are treated based on facets of identity - race, class, body size, skin tone, age, and so on.
Within warm and cool palettes on the canvas, she nods to how beauty and fashion can be used more intentionally when we each align our values with that the way we present ourselves, other than for more materialistic and frivolous matters. Her paintings reveal the expansiveness of adornment and dressing. With these heavily detailed paintings, Lyall makes us sit with the limitless possibilities of how we can present ourselves to the world.
Fashion can be an experiment. Fashion can be disguise. Fashion can be protection. Fashion can be armor. Fashion can be spiritual. Fashion can be an everyday tool. Fashion can be art. And fashion can be intentional.
– Kiara Cristina Ventura
Ventura is a Dominican-American Afro-Latina curator, writer, and owner of ARTSYWINDOW. Bronx native, Ventura curates spaces highlighting and documenting the works of young artists of color. She has curated at The Museum of the African Diaspora San Francisco, The Bronx Art Space, Vis Arts Maryland, Penn State University, The Longwood Gallery at Hostos, The Andrew Freedman Home, and Reparations Club LA. Kiara serves on the advisory board for Bronx Art Space. Her writing has appeared in Art Forum, Performa Mag, Cultured Mag, Teen Vogue and more.