Lola Rose Thompson
By Jaclyn Bethany
Photographed at her studio by Joy Newell
Jaclyn Bethany: Hi, Lola! What was your childhood like? When did you first start drawing?
Lola Rose Thompson: I moved a lot as a kid. I changed schools more than 12 times, and moved back and forth between L.A., New York, Sydney, and Melbourne. I've always loved to draw, for as long as I can remember. My dad was really creative, and he and I used to draw together often. I used to set up little still lifes in my room—arranging my little dolls and toys and then drawing them.
JB: What artist(s) particularly inspired you in your youth?
LRT: I was very drawn to Matisse—I loved his paintings of women and flowers. When I was 16, my mum took me on a trip to Paris for my birthday. We visited all the museums—The Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Musée Picasso—and I was just overwhelmed by all the art. My mom had to drag me out of the galleries, because I just couldn't get enough. The paintings were so beautiful they made me cry, and that was when I really realized the power of art. I wanted to be able to move people, to touch them emotionally the way I was being touched.
JB: What inspires you on a daily basis?
LRT: I'm inspired by the news, pop culture, magic and Greek myths. I'm inspired by language, words, poetry, and the books I read. I’m inspired by women and their bodies, flowers and plants, and sometimes, Harry Potter.
JB: How would you describe your art in a few words?
LRT: My work is whimsical, colorful, and fun. My paintings are populated by mermaids, politicians, and pop stars.
JB: What medium do you most prefer to work in—sculpture, painting, watercolor, or sketching? What kind of work have you been making recently?
LRT: I work in different mediums depending on the idea, how I'm feeling that day, or where I am. At the moment, I'm making big oil paintings, but I love watercolor—and even if I've been working on an oil painting all day at the studio, I often come home and make some watercolors just to relax. I love watercolor, because I can carry them with me wherever I go and paint while I'm traveling in different countries, visiting friend’s houses, even at the beach. I also make neon sculptures. It's fun to switch it up between mediums. I get bored easily, so I like to try different things and am always working on a couple of projects at once. I am definitely addicted to painting. I do it everyday, no matter what, wherever I am, and to me there’s nothing as fun as painting—except maybe skydiving.
JB: In what ways is femininity important to you and your work?
LRT: I think my work is innately feminine, although it’s not something I necessarily think about all the time. I think it’s very obvious just by looking at my work that it was made by a woman. I'm very inspired by paintings of women throughout art history. Recently, I've been appropriating iconic paintings of the reclining nude—reinterpreting this classic pose and trying to modernize it.
JB: Have you ever felt challenged as a female artist?
LRT: I think there are definitely a lot of challenges [that come with being] a female artist. For so long, women weren't even allowed to study art, and when they finally were able to study it, they just weren't taken seriously as artists by the men who ran things. Likewise, women weren’t even allowed to show their work in the Royal Academy (e.g. the only exhibition that mattered.) Museum collections are still so obviously biased toward male artists, but things are definitely getting better, and there are so many inspiring women artists working today. Sexism exists in every profession and facet of life, so I don't think I'm more challenged than any other woman working today.
JB: What are your favorite museums and galleries in L.A. and why?
LRT: I love The Getty Villa in Malibu. It’s an amazing building overlooking the ocean, and they have an incredible collection of ancient art : Greek and Roman statues and Etruscan antiquities, ancient artifacts, and beautiful old jewelry. I love all the art there and it’s just such a gorgeous location (plus a great way to escape.) I also really like MAMA Gallery in downtown L.A.—it’s an incredible space that a friend of mine started two years ago, and they’re showing really great artists.
JB: Where do you see yourself in five years?
LRT: It’s challenging for me to think about the future, but hopefully I will be able to show my work in galleries all over the world. I want to have published a couple of books of both my writing and my paintings, and I want to have the resources to make really huge sculptures and paintings. I am somewhat limited at the moment—I have to be a little bit practical when I decide what work to make, because I don't have unlimited funds. Hopefully in five years, I'll be able to make whatever I want, without worrying about the cost of the materials. I think that’s what most artists yearn for— the freedom to make whatever you want, without being constrained by anything. I would also love to do some public sculptures and installations, make a film, and be in a position to support and enable other young artists to make and show their work. ★
Lola wears her own clothes.