Lola Rose Thompson Edits Herself

Jesy Odio


Image courtesy Lola Rose Thompson

Nestled between the Los Angeles River and the 5 Freeway, there is a collection of warehouses in Lincoln Heights where artist Lola Rose Thompson has her studio. When I arrived there, the street was filled with trailers lined up by the sidewalk. The only two people out in the street were a parking enforcement officer printing citations for a row of the abandoned trailers, and me, lost. Lola told me to meet her at the red door at the end of the hallway and that it was easy to find. But when I arrived at the end of the hallway, there were three red doors. I panicked and figured that Lola had given me a riddle to decipher.

On a Friday evening, Lola and I talked about flowers as graffiti art, Instagram as a novel platform and writing as a precursor to painting. By the end of the interview, Lola requested for something I had never been asked at the end of a conversation. Could she have the transcript? Could she expand on her answers? Drawing from Gabriel Garza’s interview with Edgar Arcenaux from Graphite’s Issue Five and curious to see what Lola would add, I gave in. My edits are in blue, Lola’s are pink.

Jesy: How did these flowers installations start? You started arranging them, and then you started documenting it?

Lola: Well yeah, I mean I’ve been doing this psychic gangster thing, writing things and making sculptures with flowers for a year and a half or two years.

J: Where do you usually get the flowers?

L: Well, the very first time I did it, I was hiking, and there were all these wild flowers growing, and I just picked a bunch of daisies. I think “Hard as a Motherfucker” was the first one I did, I just thought it was funny… like the idea of tagging, but in a really gentle feminine way. I like the juxtaposition – using a very soft, pretty material to write something harsh or mean. Otherwise I think it would be boring.

J: And these are all based from hiking trips?

L: No, that was just the birth of the idea. There were all these daisies around me. And I kept stuffing my pockets with them as I was walking. In the end, I had enough to write something. I’ve always liked organizing objects, playing around with little things. When I was a kid I used to do it with rocks or whatever. I think of it as a form of street art – instead of spray paint I use flowers.

J: And then, when it comes to the platform or even the place. Does it matter?

L: It matters for sure. I think a lot about where to do it. And of course sometimes I get in trouble – I didn’t expect people to mind much, but I’ve been kicked out of lots of places while trying to these pieces. I’ve even been kicked out of the park! Its surprising because the works are totally impermanent – and innocent – why should they be illegal?

Image courtesy Lola Rose Thompson

J: Why is it illegal?

L: Just because everything is. We live in such a bureaucratic world. You can’t sit on a street corner for a really long time before someone will tell you to move. There is so little public space, you know. I’ve been told to leave the park, the mall, the street, etc. Even though I never get in anyone’s way.

J: Do you feel like you need to be in a certain state of mind to do a certain kind of thing? Or, do you find yourself being in a certain kind of mood to produce things?

L: Yeah, I think my mood affects what I make but I try to really treat it like my job and do what I have to do, no matter what mood I am in. I think that the times that I’m the most happy is when I make the best work. I am not the idea of the tortured artist, who makes their best work when they are in a rage …I am really moody though, so I try not to let it affect my work. I just have to work no matter what.

Image courtesy Lola Rose Thompson
“A Woman Who Depends Too Much On Other People”

J: How and when did you start using the neon?

L: I made the neon for my show, Future Delegates, [at Dilettante]. I’m getting ready for a solo show in March and it’s going to be in a gallery on Hollywood Boulevard.

J: What’s it called?

L: It’s called Last Projects.

J: So I want to make one or two neon pieces. My mermaid piece is over there but it’s not lit up.

L: In my ideal world, I would like to do a whole show of neons. To translate various figures from my paintings into neon, and put them on neon pedestals. These weird figures that I keep repeating into all neon. Again, it’s expensive.

J: I’m not too familiar with neon. Where do you start?

L: it’s pretty simple. I did a big, life size drawing and we took it to this place out in Sun Valley and they bend the glass right over the drawing. What they do is that then they get the glass and they bend it. This guy has been there for a long time and he just bends it right over the drawings. The drawing then burns and it’s gone. They bend the glass and the drawing burns. I didn’t watch them do my piece but I watched them do another piece. And then they seal up it when it’s done and squirt this gas into it. It’s really amazing. The first time you turn it on it comes to life, you see all these tiny particles moving around – its even a different color because the gases haven’t mixed with each other yet. It looks really different because the gas is starting to react with the air and it’s a whole different colors and you can see it coming to life, like all these tiny particles moving around.

J: Do you ever have to replace the lightbulbs?

L: There are no…lightbulbs.

J: So it never expires? Are you planning on doing more neon?

L: Well, my next show is on Hollywood Boulevard so I feel I have to have lots of neon! So I’m thinking a lot about the location while I’m making the work. And there’s so much neon and crazy lights stuff on Hollywood Boulevard – I’m very inspired by the location. And I’m trying to respond to that. I’m going I want to have two or three neon sculptures. And I’ve been doing I have also been making black light paintings. Well, they are really oil paintings, with black light details – they look totally normal until you turn the black light on.

Image courtesy Lola Rose Thompson
“Dirty Dancing With Demons And Drag Queens”
oil and fluorescent paint on canvas

J: What does it even mean to put black light into a painting?

L: I don’t know if I have totally figured out what it means yet. But I think in a lot of my work I kind of play with certain images that are considered kitschy. Black light paintings, paintings on velvet – it’s considered ‘stoner art’ and not taken seriously. So I am interested in reclaiming those materials, and using them in a new way. Jess – I don’t want to include this next part – I want some things to be left a surprise for my show!

J: So do you have to use a certain type of oil paint?

L: No, I use regular oil paint and then I use fluorescent black light paint.

Lola lights an American Spirit.

L: I’m still figuring it out. I haven’t been to many shows that use black light. Maybe I am living in the wrong time period. Except for Kenny Sharf, whose work I love. I just think it’s fun to work with a medium that people have dismissed.

J: One thing that I read about you is that you write before you start painting. Do you still do that?

L: nods

J: What do you write about?

L: I write titles, I write stories, poetry, prose, lists, lots of different things. I’m really interested in the idea that you can kind of attribute any meaning to something, and titles help me do that and how powerful a title is. Like I never understood why people would title their works “Untitled” because to me it’s such a huge advantage to give information. I think about my work as almost abstract paintings and then I can add all this meaning by giving it a title that then tells the viewer what it’s about. Writing helps me figure that out.

J: With Instagram, you found a good medium where the caption is just as important as the image?

L: Yes, it’s great that the title is right there, you can’t miss it. And I hear from people often that they love the titles. And that the title makes such a big difference to the work. Instagram has been really helpful for me, to get my work out into the world, and even sometimes to sell work. I sell paintings all the time by posting it on Instagram. People don’t always go and look at the gallery at what the title is. At a museum, the label is right next to it and if you’re a good active viewer, you’ll usually see what the label says but often a gallery show you have to get the list and not everybody does that. And I do like that on Instagram, it’s right there. You can’t miss it.

J: What about drafts? Sketches? Do you only post things when they are ready? When they’re finished?

L: I do both. Sometimes I show things that are in progress, or details of pieces I am still working on. The rest of this answer is so boring. I really want to just delete it – ok?

J: Yeah, I feel like people don’t often talk publicly about money in interviews. I feel like there are many times that my year is defined not on my mood and my relationships, but my bank account, unfortunately that controls a lot of things. It’s not a deliberate choice but it’s important to be discussed. Do you have any rituals? Things that you have to do in the morning before you come here? Any habits that you find constantly doing to get shit done?

L: I wake up and read every morning. I used to get the New York Times and sit outside in my balcony in the sun for half an hour and read the newspaper. It was a really big ritual for a long time in my life and then I couldn’t afford it. The first paintings I made were photographs from the New York Times. I still do have little political things that I have in my work and then the titles too. Now, I still read in the morning but not the newspaper. For the last six months, I’ve been re-reading all the classics. So, I read every book that Charles Dickens has ever written, and I re-read a lot of Jane Austen and Thomas Hardy and George Eliot.

Image courtesy Lola Rose Thompson.
“The Young And The Restless And Other People Who Can Cry On Command”
watercolor on black paper

J: What are you reading right now?

L: I’m reading Charles Dickens. I’m re-reading a Tale of Two Cities. I’ve always loved reading but I used to think that the classics were kind of boring and in the past two years or so I have had this amazing real love affair with classic literature. I read War in Peace, and all these books that I thought were going to be boring and I just loved them. Some people go on Facebook first thing in the morning, I just read thirty pages of a Charles Dickens book. It’s definitely escapist, for me going on the internet is not an escape, it makes me feel overwhelmed. So I escape in a book.

Lola Rose Thompson “Spells for Improving Your Sex Life” at LAST Projects, 6546 Hollywood Blvd #215, 90028, from March 5th until March 28th.