Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Arteries and Oceans - An artist interview with Lilly Blue

After the excitement of announcing the Junior editorial team, I am thrilled to follow on with a profile of the incredible work/life of my BIG creative partner Lilly Blue.  Lilly and I have been working together everyday for more than six months on the development of BIG Kids Magazine but there has been little time for talk or questions beyond the immediate BIG realm.  I have not seen Lilly for 12 years, and recently an interview began with a will and curiosity of its own.

Lilly lives in Sydney with her two-year-old girl child Twyla. She is a prolific artist who sells and exhibits her work in Sydney, New York and Paris. Lilly is represented by Art2muse in Australia and Galerie LWS in Paris. She has just been featured on Artbuds and is soon to appear in Spoonful.  She has a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a post graduate diploma in Education. She has a heart bigger than possible.

Lilly 5 yrs old, Birmingham Alabama
On B.I.G:
Bravery is embarking on a journey into the unknown, shadows and all
Imagination is the million things that can't be known
Generosity is a treasure map

On Paris
It was an incredibly formative time about five years ago, and was the location of my first intentional art sale. For a month I worked everyday in a little artists studio a walk from St Germain des Pres (when I wasn't buying cheese and loaves of crusty bread at the market). I met with the gallery curator for three hours in a hazy smoke filled cafe two days before I left Paris. At the end of the meeting he told me he would like to buy 10 of my inks on paper and invited me to come to the gallery the next day. After a night of butterflies I arrived, and he told me Galerie LWS wanted to represent my work. I was stunned. 

The studio in Paris
On New York: 
Prior to the Paris landing I traveled to New York to attend a six week workshop with Anne Bogart and the SITI Company and ended up being seduced by the city and staying for almost seven years! While there I pursued my interests in large scale community arts projects with youth at risk and disability services, working variously as the Creative Director of an organisation called Catskills IDEA (Institute for development of entertainment arts), the Artistic Director of a Youth Circus Program, and as writer of creative programming for a beautiful yoga studio. 

On creative Process (and the work of Lilly Blue):
Some bodies of work - like the boats - began when I was a child and I can't imagine finishing in my lifetime. I have been doodling and painting sea faring vessels forever. I collate some of my imaginings in a place called Little Boat Tree. I remember in primary school we had to create symbolic self portraits, and I drew myself as a boat on a vast sea. I love journeys and the idea of exploring uncharted territories, inside and out, arteries and oceans. I love being in the studio when I am exhausted, or careless and playful, so that I can make discoveries that were completely unintended. Spilt ink at 2am led to a body of black hulled boats on graphite silver seas.  There is no greater joy to me than looking down at the page and being surprised by what is revealed; unexpected, raw, inexplicable. I am more inclined towards experiencing not knowing than in tying up loose ends. I am interested in ambiguity, incongruity, subtlety, ambivalence, inconclusiveness, intuition and poetry. In some ways I still live in the worlds I loved as a child. Enchanted. 

From the 'spilt ink' series
On arriving at BIG:
All of my creative work- performance, installation, writing, visual art - has run somehow parallel to social and community work. Exploring and envisioning alternatives to traditional education models is a huge passion - lifelong learning, reflective practice, multi-generational crossovers - my book shelves are bursting with it. At many points in my career I have felt like I was all over the place, then inevitably I would end up running a program, or directing a show, or writing a curriculum and all my eclectic skills would come perfectly into play.  I feel we know so little about our future. We are educating our children for a world we know almost nothing about, except that creativity, compassion, generosity, vision, adaptability, emotional intelligence - these things we KNOW will be essential. So it is not surprising that I have arrived here in this BIG world, with a brilliant creative partner and a scope bold and encompassing enough to address all the things I am most passionate about. BIG is an invitation to see the world with new eyes, respond to it, participate, witness, contribute and celebrate a child's view exploring the world from their perspective. 

On Kids and Art :
I feel that in many cases we have stolen the experience of generating ideas and philosophical thinking from children by demanding they fit squarely and quietly into standardized tests and rows of desks. Kids are primed to believe they have to figure out the answers that the big people already know.  It is a theft of the most profound implications. I will never tire of witnessing that moment when a child's eyes awaken to the possibility that their view is truly valued, when finally, after asking questions for weeks and weeks, "What do you think/ Why?" they find their own unique voice. I work for that moment, to bring an exploratory, unfettered process back into a child's world. Immediate, messy, and completely open-ended.

Lilly and Twyla
 On Motherhood:
I LOVED being pregnant.   More than ever I was content to simply be a part of life, I didn't need to add to it. I looked at the world with eyes that found beauty and majesty everywhere, I don't mean that to sound obtuse, but it was truly a profound experience for me. That unsettled sense of 'searching' for something, of making marks in the hope of finding meaning, literally fell away the moment I conceived.

With Twyla I have so little time to create and yet I am driven and inspired more than ever in my life. In watching her direct experience and absolute presence I am able to connect to the value of process  in a real, absolute and true way. To really dabble and delve and watch things unfold naturally without contrived pushing. To be inside the textures, shapes and sounds of the experience. To share it with her. I love when she scribbles on the work we do side by side and I am taken somewhere new and unexpected. Somewhere I could not have reached without her wildly flung, crayon clutching, paint brush wielding fingers. 

On people who inspire:

I love Georgia O'Keefe for the shapes she carried in her mind, the solitude she reveled in and the moon lit early mornings she inhabited, paint brush in hand, eyes open, receptive and alive. Georgia Rises is a poetic children's picture book about a day in her life. 

I love Hundertwasser for his home made shoes, his philosophies and attention to natural detail, and his colour drenched dreamscapes. Harvesting Dreams is a fantastic book for exploring and sharing Hundertwasser with children. 

I love Frida Kahlo for her introspection and the beautifully complex and layered worlds she created out of her pain. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera is a great book about their lives, full of activities and ideas to explore with kids. 

On co-authorship and collaboration: 
I have been interested for a long time in the mysterious creative space that reveals itself when two artists begin a shared process of creation. It is a rare and valuable meeting as revered fragments of self necessarily fall away to allow unexpected hybrids and composites to appear.  Ideas volleyed back and forth pick up speed and direct ownership is lost in the furious exchange. I have worked with a number of artists and visionaries over the years but have not enjoyed the sustained intensity, uncompromising support and shared rigor that I experience in working with Jo on BIG. It is the ultimate research project into the  process of co-authorship and I am grateful beyond words that she came so unexpectedly back into my life. The great thing about this kind of shared process is that there really is no telling exactly where it will take us, but I am definitely up for the adventure!

Thank you Lilly, you are a giant.


  1. Lily is just shimmery and talented and inspiring and lovely! I can't say enough happy things about her! Hooray for Lily & Big Kids Mag too!!



  2. Love your thoughts about qualities to take kids into the future - creativity, compassion, generosity, vision, adaptability, emotional intelligence. Beautifully written, Lilly!


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