“MONTI8 is delighted to announce “Lanise Howard – Chameleon“, first solo show at the gallery. Chemeleon starts a new project of MONTI8 called VISTA, born to host special exhibitions, which will enrich the gallery programme.
Lanise Howard’s practice focuses on spirituality censorship and assimilation as well as hidden or marginal stories expressed through a mixture of realistic and digital style. The core of her research, is still based on her experience as a woman of color in today’s society.
She chooses to paint black bodies in apparently sacred locations, always related with a luxurious flora, to investigate her roots. Her ancestors’ approach to nature before slavery, in fact, was built on a strong and deep respect for earth, sun and stars, and they actually used to worship these natural elements.
Her portraits and allegorical representations have a strong narrative structure, mainly based on contemporary climate. Paintings represent the way Howard creates a meditative space and an alternative reality. As an African American woman, she aims to re-write history, trying to change the ones who constitute the main characters of it, according to traditional canons.
The juxtaposition of digital and analogous languages are meant to highlight this process of re-writing new narrative which Howard sets in a non-defined time, between present and past. For this reason, the coexistence of pixels, or digital distortions, and realistic bodies gains a significative value, highlighting this critical rework on history”.
Lanise Howard (b.1993, Southern California, US), is an African American figurative artist, currently based in Los Angeles, US. After the graduation at the Los Angeles City College, Howard achieved in 2020 the BFA from the Otis College of Arts and Design. She has been selected as an Axa Art Prize finalist, in 2019.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
My process is becoming more and more strategic, but still varies at times. Usually I start of with writing about concepts, ideas, often in the form of poetry. At other times, I start with imagery from dreams or visions I may have, that I then sketch in my dream journal. From there, I often shoot with people in different settings, whether it be in my studio or outdoors. This part of the process is becoming more involved in a way. With me curating a scene, creating backdrops and even doing some wardrobe. I then use those images as a reference for the painting, and I create portions of the painting directly from my imagination.
How would you define your work in a few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Ethereal, transporting, and an act of healing.
You recently collaborated with Monti gallery presenting your new exhibition in Rome. What kind of new artworks are you showing there?
With the exhibition “Chameleon” with Monti8 gallery, I’m exploring this idea of an indigenous past, that had become an Ambiguous present for many African Americans. I wanted to showcase the subjects connecting with nature and becoming one with the landscape. The works aim to be a form of healing in a way.
Could you share with us some insights on your recent work ‘Oracle; Truth Bearer, (2021)? Is there any particular story behind this new painting?
With the work “oracle; truth bearer” the subject represents the act of bringing of a truth. He is a bringing a message sent from the ancestors. The message deals with a changing time. This painting will connect to another painting that I will be doing in the next few months.
It looks evident that you are very keen on portraiture. Is it like a current painting series that you try to concentrate on this period or different kind of styles and motifs interest you as well?
I see my work as multi-linear in narrative. Some works are part of specific chapters in a way, but they all connect in some way or another. The more recent exploration of portraiture, is being done to present certain characters or roles in this narrative. Some characters are concrete or specific with others often just represent an archetype or form. Also with this multi-linear narrative some lie in the past, present or future.
Looking at your paintings, ordinary black men and women dominate your imagery in which they relaxed human figures take over your canvases. It looks like hassle is not applied in your imagery. Why do you choose this kind of depiction?
Well I want to showcase black peoples with a sense of actuality. While the scenes of some of paintings may be somewhat surreal, the subjects are themselves in these spaces. In this analogous world. I try to show them this way to negate a history of erasure of the black body in the western tradition of painting.
Where do you draw inspiration in order to build up your distinctive portraiture on canvas? Are they related to personal memories or are they closer to your imagination as an artist?
Both, they are part memory, part dream, and partially real. Even when I have subjects pose for paintings for me, I always still create from that image. It’s often a mix of the photo reference and my preliminary sketch.
Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?
Both. I’m very strategic as well as exploratory. I’m always exploring in the studio. I have a lot of work I haven’t shown yet. I think it’s very important to experiment and have fun in the studio.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Some artists from the past that I love and am inspired by are Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Maxfield parish, and Andrew Wyeth among others. From today, I represent artists such as Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and Jessie Mockrin, and many others.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
I work in a studio in downtown Los Angeles. It’s a nice size, big windows and tall ceilings and lots of light. I love it. I am however looking for a bigger space currently.
What do your mum and dad think about your art?
They love it, I’m not sure if they understand if all though lol.
Which are your plans for the near future?
Planning on moving into a larger studio and maybe doing a residency at some point. For now just preparing for some upcoming shows, so it’s pretty busy in the studio.
All images courtesy of the artist & Monti8 gallery