tali lennox paints the past lives of people in found photographs
The model-turned-artist explores loss, memory, mystery through painting strangers in found photographs.
Tali Lennox by Sophie Elgort
After showing all self-portraits in her first exhibition of oil paintings last year, Tali Lennox has been searching for new faces in old boxes of photographs at flea markets and junk stores. But that doesn't mean that these characters from another time are total strangers. "I spent a long time rifling through these images and tried to be very instinctual about the ones I chose," she says of the people starring in Ashes & Confetti, her new exhibition of oil paintings, exhibited at the El Quijote Restaurant in New York's legendary Chelsea Hotel today. "I have to have an emotional response, so in that sense I do have a personal connection to [the subjects]. In fact, given that she lives alone and works from home, "they are actually the people I see most in the day."
The model-turned-artist has tried to explore these past lives with a sense of wonder rather than dread, as she has done while dealing with an intense personal loss over the last year. "For me it's important not to fear something or push away from the intensity of its circumstance, but to always be inquisitive and contemplative," she reminds us. But the exhibition doesn't just speak to her personal connections with people from former times. Nestled amongst the oil paintings are two "memory box" installations, made of found objects intended to trigger subjective memories in the viewer's own mind, "whether it be their grandmother's perfume, or the toys they used to play with."
The Chelsea Hotel itself is a memory box of sorts — its story written by the artists and outsiders who either lived there or paid unforgettable visits to those who did. "Like the old photographs I reference it is now somewhat of a monument of impermanence and passing," Tali says. Though most of the hotel's tenants have now been removed and the rooms gutted, she has attempted to summon the spirit of the building's past by reading Patti Smith's Just Kids and listening to the music of Leonard Cohen — whose rendezvous with Janis Joplin in the Room 424 famously inspired some of his most explicit lyrics.
Music has been helping the newish New Yorker process an issue much more contemporary — the results of the 2016 Presidential Election. She recently painted a portrait of Hillary Clinton for Australian Vogue and has been openly critical of Donald Trump's hate-based campaign on Instagram. "I listen to music all day long, it's a universal friend that can so deeply influence your emotional reactions in any given moment. Yes, I live in somewhat of a bubble being in [a city] that is so richly open minded and diverse, yet is has been quite great to feel a new sense of camaraderie between those I know. I think more than ever this generation is really recognizing their morals and what they stand for."
Text Hannah Ongley