Lynette Hensley is…

…the Flying Redhead

Artist Statement

As an artist, I play two roles, I’m a show off and a backstage hand. I display my work with pride, and then often remain in the shadow behind the curtain, watching how people react to the things I’ve made. I keep working out my relationship to art; it is remarkable how my current role as an exhibiting artist is like my former role as a theatre designer–both a solitary act and also very public.

In my youth I lived near LA. I was influenced by live theater, Broadway touring shows, and local black box productions. These were the years when Man of La Mancha, Godspell, and West Side Story were all new on the boards. Those images, characters and stories fanned the flame of my curiosity: what’s in a mind, a heart, a pocket, a locket. I sometimes like to make up situations behind the characters that show up in my work, scenes that flesh out the story behind the image. It’s a natural extension of my lifelong love of theater.

Whimsy is at the core of much of my thinking. One of my explorations is the archetypal character of the fool.  In theater, historically, the fool character is the voice of reason, the one who can speak up and tell the truth, without suffering social consequence. Sometimes this is an actual court fool, as in Shakespeare’s King Lear, and sometimes she’s a household maid with a big mouth, as in Moliere’s Tartuffe. He/she is not always a joker, as some may believe, but the wisest one in the “scene.”

That same whimsy and wisdom shows up in my titles: “They Sherwood be Fools”, “The Column before the Storm.” I collaborate with others to name my pieces, which replicates some of the team efforts of theatre work, adds a word/meaning layer to the image and makes it more than just a painting. Paintings can take on a deeper, often whole new meaning with a well conjured title, all part of mixed media communication.

Collage and mixed media works so well for surface decoration, and layering patterns. As my friend, Charlie Caldwell, former head of design at Alabama Shakespeare, said once, “It’s not where you find something, it’s how you use it that counts.” So I will play with anything that works, a magazine photo of an apple, patterned tissue paper from Nordstrom, a frontispiece from a book, a vintage photo, office supplies…

Strong saturated colors in my work are reminiscent of a scene bathed in theater lights. My work is a still from an unwritten play: light and color focus on the character in the spotlight.

As an inventive theatre designer, I was often hired to create the odd characters. For example, the Theatrical Outfit in Atlanta GA produced The Merchant of Venus (not a typo). I had the fun of creating the princes who court Portia as aliens from other planets, one of whom was reminiscent of an eggplant combined with an octopus. Juxtaposition has been a watchword that has carried over into the work I currently exhibit. I have mixed Leonardo drawings with Victorian cabinet cards in a series of a dozen pieces to explore relationships. I have mixed lines from 18th century plays with etchings from 19th century books to uncover personal beliefs about sainthood and foolishness. I like putting things together that don’t naturally go together in order to create a new perspective.

Lynette Hensley