Lisa Albinger, 30, creates stirring depictions of relationships, womanhood, and growing up with scoliosis, using cotton swabs and paper towels instead of the quintessential brush. She's Wisconsin-born and a practicing Wiccan, and a majority of her work depicts "her girls" being led on cathartic journeys by rabbit guides. She's shown locally at the Trunk Space, monOrchid, and Studeo Tad, and among the collectors of her wispy oil paintings are Tori Amos, The Cure's Robert Smith, and fantasy writer Charles de Lint. Tucked into the corners of her studio are finished paintings, rolls of paper towels, and a mannequin named "Shady Lady," who wears a number of Albinger's hand-knitted scarves.
In college, I painted large paintings up to four by six feet using palette knives and a few large brushes. Right out of college, I began showing in galleries in Milwaukee, and the gallery owners told me that everyone loved my paintings, but they were too large for the homes. In Wisconsin, living in a home that is 25 to 100 years old is pretty common, and they don't have the high ceilings you find here in Phoenix. So the gallery people told me to paint smaller.
Cotton Swabs and Paper Towels
At first reducing my canvas size was very intimidating. I didn't have the freedom to dance the width of the canvas like I could with the life-size canvas since I moved around a lot when painting. And suddenly I realized I was armed with paintbrushes the length of my forearm. How was I going to be able to dance on an 8-by-12-inch piece of board? The only answer was to downsize my tool, so I began painting with cotton swabs.
I moved to Phoenix in 2002, and the galleries and clients told me to paint larger because there is so much more wall space in the homes. It took me three years to start painting larger. Once again, I was feeling intimidated by the canvas size because now I had so much more space to fill. I spent a large amount of time pondering whether I should switch back to brushes, but then realized that no matter what tool I use, I am still myself, I still have the same vision, and nobody can take that from me or see what I see the same way. So really, I can't lose.
Girls' Personas and Rabbit Guides
The girls started out as different kinds of females, whether they were different aspects of personality or aspects I hoped to attain one day. In fall of 2004, I began incorporating the people in my life and my real-life situations into my art. I see the rabbit as a guide, and he is guiding this girl along her path. When she has a question, he is there to answer her and walk her through her experience. Many times the rabbit is telling me, "What the hell are you doing, Lisa?" The rabbit sometimes represents my closest friends or people I've had relationships with.
I was born with scoliosis and wore a brace for almost four years through my adolescence. Three years, nine months, and eight days, to be exact. After a while, I noticed that I subconsciously paint females with uneven shoulders, much like my own. The long necks and rings around the neck represent my brace.
Art Beats Therapy
I think of my creative outlet as "cheap therapy." I don't have to pay a therapist to swim through my psyche. I'm able to dive to the bottom and pull the drain plug when necessary.
I place all sorts of items in my paintings. I have flowers that were in Paul McCartney's dressing room from his November 2005 concert at Glendale Arena. I See London. I See France includes an ex's boxer shorts. I told him I'd take him to dinner when I sell the painting. It's the least I can do since I turned his underwear into art.
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