Skinny Dippers: An Interview with Jillian Evelyn
It's always nice to catch up with a friend on the precipice of a new series and new creative energy. Jillian Evelyn has come into 2020 with a new studio in Los Angeles, a new solo show at Outré Gallery in Melbourne and a shift in her artistic practice. Her new series, Skinny Dippers, feels stripped back and yet focused, with elegant body abstractions and movements that feel like her most experimental series yet. We chatted with her about her influences, how a larger studio space will allow her to grow and her memories from the Great Lakes State.
Evan Pricco: First things first, you got a new studio in Los Angeles, and you seem really excited about it. Were any of these paintings made there? And, what has you excited about it?
Jillian Evelyn: I did, It’s something that I have always wanted but was never in the position financially to make it happen. I honestly don’t even know if I am now but it was either that or grad school...so I went with the cheaper option. The new space has given me freedom to create on a larger scale and to separate my art practice from my personal life. I created my series, Skinny Dippers, mostly before I moved in to the new space with the exception of Out to Dry and I think that it shows. The figure is spreading out—which the new space gives me the ability to do.
Obviously, we have followed you work for years and of course the immediate thing that I noticed were these new works where they are just zoomed in body part, without the faces. This is a really interesting revelation and change, and I'm wondering how this came about.
I will always love drawing faces and portraits—but lately I am more interested in what the shapes of a body can say without relying on facial features. I choose to paint mostly nudes because I am more interested in what someone’s posture, shape, and form says over what they’re wearing.
In recent months you and I have talked a lot about artists that you are into, and you seem to be at this really good place of wanting to experiment more. And I think that is what got me so excited when I saw these full works that were just body details and almost abstract. I'm curious if you could talk about some of the artists you are into these days and perhaps what you have been researching?
I am curious to who you would guess! I think this series is a summary of what I admire visually of some of my favorite artists. I want my color palettes to be as strong as Alex Katz, to create compositions as strong as Ladislav Sutnar’s Venus series, and a little Tom Wesslemann in there somewhere.
On Instagram, you talked about why you named your show "skinny dippers," but maybe it’s nice to put it in context to where you grew up and why you wanted to work in this way now?
I grew up in the Great Lake State on a tiny lake that is connected to seven other lakes. I love the water but especially lakes. Skinny dipping is this exhilarating mix of freedom and vulnerability - it’s a place I want to be. These pieces came from a place of longing and escapism- a response to my previous work and finally giving myself permission to do just the opposite. The figures take up more space and let go.
Is this your first time working with Outré Gallery in Melbourne?
It is! This is such an LA thing to say but during the summer I went to a clairvoyant and she was like, “I don’t know why but Australia keeps coming up. I think you’re going to get an opportunity in Australia and you really should take it… it will be good for you.” Sure enough, two days later, Outré emailed me asking if I’d like to do a show with them. I am really glad I did too because they’ve been really wonderful to work with.
I know it’s such a turbulent time for Australia, and it’s so rare that such a large country is all so affected in so many areas like this. Have you discussed this with the gallery?
It’s devastating. 10% of my profits for the entire show will go to brush fire relief—the gallery is doing something similar with all of their sales as well.
I feel like watching the first episode of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” I’ved reached the statute of limitations of asking this but what's the plan for 2020? Any resolutions?
I have my first LA based solo show with Subliminal Projects in November 2020. It’s going to be about 30 pieces and I’m basically dedicating my entire year to this show. I’m even giving up alcohol for the entire time that I make it. I want to be fully present and give each piece everything I have.