Exclusive: Lia Halloran x FRONTRUNNER for The Armory Show 2020

For The Armory Show 2020, FRONTRUNNER and Lia Halloran presented an exclusive zine showcasing her work, featuring a Q&A with the artist. The first iteration of this project was introduced at Halloran’s solo exhibition at The University of Maryland Art Gallery in September 2019, curated by Taras Matla. Halloran’s project was presented by gallery Luis De Jesus (Los Angeles) at the fair.

Lia Halloran
Lunar Crater, After Caroline Herschel
Ink on drafting film
40″ x 25″
Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus (Los Angeles)

When we first met, I remember two major arteries of your work: night photos of skateboarding culture and images of women fused with geologic structures made with self-animating ink. You’ve had a consistent, long-term fascination with astronomy and physics, yes?

My first job at 15 was at the Exploratorium in San Francisco as an ‘Explainer’, where we would do demonstrations to the public about LASERS, magnetism and, my personal favorite, cow eye dissections. I worked in the machine shop, helping to build exhibits. This experience was fundamentally influential for what would, eventually, become how I thought about making and creating artwork. It’s been about 20 years now that my work has involved some aspect of science. Even the photographic series Dark Skate – where I attach a light to my body and skateboard through various empty drainage ditches – is based on long-exposure astrophotography.

The cosmos has been a fountain of knowledge and inspiration for human beings from the time we could raise our heads. Do you fear that curiosity is fading, somewhat?

With the over-saturation of digital information mediated by our screens there’s a tendency to think we have lost the ‘Awe’ and interest in nature. This perception is surface level and with a night under the stars, or an experience of looking through a telescope at Saturn, there’s nothing that will replace that gut feeling of seeing something phenomenal, something magical outside yourself.

As a teacher, yourself, what do you hope to see more of in the realm of arts and design education as so many programs (not just in the United States, but worldwide) are becoming critically endangered?

Interdisciplinarity! I’d like to see art programs immersed in various disciplines- literature, film, history, and science and science programs imbedded with art, dance, philosophy, and poetry in their curriculum. Our interests are not bounded by categories, and I think the future of the most exciting educational programs aren’t going to be, either.

Who is the most under-appreciated or under-represented female artist that the world should have heard about by now? Who is the most under-appreciated female scientist we should know about?

Jackie Milad in Baltimore is on fire right now! A painting is done, then brought to the chopping block and cut, torn, and repurposed for another painting. She introduces subject matter in this way where intimate, political, and universal issues are blended like a perfect mixtape weaving in and out of one another. Looking at her pieces are akin to visual excavation where the viewer is exploring an archeological dig. In the science category, Chiara Mingarelli is a researcher at the Flatiron Institute in New York at the Center for Computational Astrophysics. She’s working on detecting gravitational waves at very, VERY large scales which would allow us to understand the collisions of supermassive blackholes.

Lia Halloran
The Great Comet, After Annie Jump Cannon
Cyanotype print/painted negative
76″ x 46″
Courtesy of the artist and Luis De Jesus (Los Angeles)

One last thing…no, two. What is it like to hang out with Nobel Prize winner Dr. Kip Thorne? Also, could you tell the people out there about your tortoise, Beretta?

Ah, I knew we wouldn’t get through this interview without discussing the the two celebrities in my life! Kip is brilliant, one of the most kind and generous people you’d ever meet. I’m lucky to have him as a collaborator and mentor. We’ve been working on a unique book about the warped side of the universe with Kip’s poetry and my paintings about blackholes, wormholes, and the gravitational wave detector LIGO for the past six years. The project was on a pretty significant pause after he won the Nobel Prize. We’ve been making quite a bit of headway this summer and, to date, I’ve made over 200 small paintings.

Beretta is a California desert tortoise who was my grandmothers’. My wife and I inherited her about 8 years ago and were given instructions: put her in a box mid-October to hibernate. Six months later in mid-April, take her out of the box and make her a salad every day. We found a certificate of sorts that dates her as being born in 1977 or 1978, which means we’re the same age. In captivity, desert tortoises can live to be about 80-90 years old. So, we are pretty much in a race to see who outlives the other. I think she has the advantage because she gets to sleep half of the year.

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