Finding Her Own Muse: An Interview With Lindsay Jones

text by Jill Di Donato


Right now, Lindsay Jones calls work her lover. A series of heartaches are behind the line of unisex luxe party clothes Jones launched this spring with partner Labana Babylon, called Músed. “She [Babylon] was my muse and the muse behind the label. When I was going through this heartache about two years ago, she was going through something similar and we had these nurturing phone calls with each other and it really did inspire me to shift my focus.”

The “muse” is something Jones, classically trained in sculpture (she attended The School of Visual Arts in New York City, but dropped out after two years, when her internship for Zac Posen was giving her more “hands-on experience”) is something Jones has given a lot of thought. From Playboy model (back when the magazine still ran nudes) to indie screen queen, catching the eye of Larry Clark, Richard Kern, Richard Prince, and Jonathan Leder, Jones has made a name for herself in front of the camera.

“I was first scouted for Playboy when I was in Sundance with my boyfriend. I was 18 years old, and so embarrassed, so afraid I was going to upset my boyfriend, I just walked away,” she tells me over the phone. Could you believe I literally walked away from that opportunity?”

Jones laughs and tells me how good it is to hear my voice (up until now, we’d just been corresponding by email) and I think she’s awfully polite for an “It Girl.” But Jones is not just any “It Girl” with a fashion label. She has a vision, and she’s gracious, and she appreciates opportunities…. even when she walks away from them.

“Years after that, I was more comfortable with my sexuality and I was asked to shoot for the calendar. I was so excited because I realized how iconic Playboy was, and then I end up getting edited out. I’d told everyone and I was humiliated. It was so painful but I learned a lesson. Never say anything until it’s solid.”

It so seems the third time was the charm. “When I got the call that Hef had approved the [six-page pictorial in December, 2014] I had given up that it was even going to happen. But it did.”

Of the experience, she has nothing but good things to say about her spread. “It took a moment in time when I was vital and everything was in the right place.” And she’s not just speaking of her figure.

Two years earlier, before Hef’s thumbs up, Jones she was asked by a producer to meet Larry Clark who was casting for his 2012 film Marfa Girl, winner of the Golden Marc’Aurelio Award at the Rome Film Festival in 2012. “Larry’s very specific in his vision, so it was an honor to be cast. Behind the scenes, it was a blast. I kept cracking up when Larry was like ‘hit him harder,’ to the kid I had to beat, and that was hard for me because I’m so shy and submissive in real life, I would never hit anyone. So my reaction was to laugh. But that worked. Larry liked my cackling.”

A Renaissance woman, while working in front of the camera for Clark and Richard Prince, Jones also kept training as an artist. She studied at the art institute in Tribeca for about two years and then interned with Miguel Adrover. As an intern for Zac Posen and Marc Jacobs, Jones created her collection for her former brand Outlaws of the Border. Though the brand has since dissolved, it received praise from Japanese Vogue for "brilliantly blended Victorian elegance with Goth taste." All the while, Jones kept making art, working alongside Aneta Bartos, Richard Kern, Terrence Koh, and Martynka Wawrzyniak. Most recently, she teamed up in February 2016 with sex positive feminist artist, Leah Schrager.

By now, Jones was ready to get back into the fashion industry, and this February in New York Músed launched its debut collection. Of creating the line, Jones says, “It made me remind myself that I don’t really need anyone. Independently as a woman, I’m very capable and powerful. I can succeed if I really nurture myself and the women around me. I like the idea of the Goddess. There are three women in my brand’s logo and they stand for inspiration.” As for the ultimate muse, she defines it loosely, and I would expect nothing less. After all, the lines in Jones’ world between artist and viewer are always in motion. “The ideal muse? Maybe it’s a person or something in nature or a dream. There are so many places for inspiration to come from.”

Currently, Jones is focused on developing Músed. She consults for recent CFDA Vogue Fashion Award winners Gypsy Sport as well as and cult street wear label Whatever 21.

Exclusively for Autre, The sculptor/muse/designer answered questions on spring style, inspiration, and how to dress for your body.

Autre: How do you like to blend high and low fashions seamlessly?

Lindsay Jones: Celine and the dollar store is a good start. Stick with monochromatic and simplicity to blend the two. There is a lot of room for texture.

Autre: Where do you splurge and where do you skimp?

Jones: I like expensive shoes. I will go cheap on a hoodie.

Autre: When you shop vintage, what do you look for?

Jones: Vintage Chanel, Hermès scarves, and fur.

Autre: How does a woman know what flatters her body?

Jones: It really depends on the individual. I think what feels good on your body usually looks good. That said, long lines flatter. Do not cut the body in too many places, especially if you wear tight clothing. You never want clothing to cut into your flesh. Vertical lines slim or lengthen. Wear horizontal lines if you want a bigger anything.

Autre: Which artist influenced your design aesthetics the most?

Jones: Louise Bourgeois is my idol. My own work comes from a very internal place. I look to all my favorites for inspiration at points. I relate with Tracy Emin in the way that she is a poet, with a lot of feminist punk rawness oozing out of her.

Autre: What was your favorite look from the European shows?

Jones: Fendi. I want every one of them on my body now.

Autre: What’s next for Lindsay Jones?

Jones: I don't think I have even scratched the surface of my highest success as an artist. I am grateful for every single collaboration and platform for my work. 

Click here to see the Músed collection. Photography by Chris Luttrell. Text and interview by Jill Di Donato. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE

Dancing With The Devil: An Interview With Conceptual Artist Erika Blair

text and interview by Jill Di Donato

Last February marked conceptual artist Erika Blair’s debut solo show, entitled This Is Only A Test, which took on ideas of surveillance, the art of cruelty, trauma, subjugation, sex, and oppression. Blair, who holds BFA in printmaking from the Maryland Institute College of Art lives in Bushwick, and is the type of artist who’s always making art, even when not directly engaged in the process.

Is she an Instagram girl? I’m not sure I like what that term means, but yes; her Instagram is sexy as fuck. She’s got an artistic and seductive feed, and that’s important because it so seems social media like Instagram help artists and viewers connect on messages of aesthetics. The images in Blair’s feed are morbid, literary, witchy, erotic, nostalgic and give vibes of its curator: part pin-up girl, part tech-nerd, part La Femme Nikita. The type of woman to listen to 1960s California surf on a Hi-Fi and Bad Brains in a cassette player. She calls herself a feminist, but fiction is her favorite “F” word. “This Is Only A Test,” anti-authoritarian work by a female artist isn’t necessarily an outwardly feminist exhibition but rather a statement about more universal schemes of oppression.

Let’s just say Blair likes to dance with the devil.

Jill Di Donato: Since you’re a conceptual artist, what’s the concept behind “This Is Only A Test”?

Erika Blair: “This Is Only A Test” was a site-specific performance at Rope in Baltimore, Maryland. For this solo exhibition, I sat in the unfinished basement beneath the gallery’s floor and watched a live feed of gallery attendants in the space above. The gallery was left barren except for a wireless printer, three surveillance cameras and two large speakers that were blaring audio that I’d ripped from a 1990s Chicago Emergency Broadcast test. I looped this audio for three hours, the duration of the performance. The cameras sent a video feed to my laptop, which I took screenshots of, then printed upstairs every five minutes. The printed images would fall directly onto the gallery floor. In reference to use of LRAD technology against protesters, I asked the gallery for the volume of the audio to reach the highest potential decibel level that we could, “without the cops being called.”

I don’t particularly like authority.

Donato: Immediately, your concept makes me think of Michel Foucault’s idea of panopticism, derived from the late eighteenth century philosopher, Jeremy Benthem, who designed the Panopticon. This was a new type of prison, circular in design, with a “watchman” at the core. Because it was impossible for a guard to check in on all prisoners all of the time, the Panopticon by design, would leave the inmates thinking that at any moment, they could be under surveillance.  Foucault uses the Panopticon as a metaphor to explain social power relations. 

Blair:  And also I think of the architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux who, after the French Revolution built this structure, the Arc-et-Senans for the people as a utopian city, a place to exchange innovative ideas about progressive social economic living. It became known as the Salt Works, though was closed in 1926. Everything can be spun. Decades and decades later, the Nazis used it as a gypsy concentration camp. Ledoux’s structure was constructed with one ideology, and it was used for the complete opposite purpose. The devil is in deception.

Di Donato: Since we’re on the subject, this reminds me of Marx’s statement about capitalism, and that its greatest evil is the mask it wears. But seriously, all of this just seems so relevant given high-profile acts of oppression of late in our world.

Blair: I do have an interest in surveillance capitalism and its potential to strip agency from the complacent user. I wanted to bring the context of current political events—such as the documented police murders of unarmed African American citizens, the work of whistleblowers Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, and the increase in corporate data mining—to a small scale durational performance. My goal was to distill these themes down to a set of temporary artist-made conditions. As a conceptual artist, I used discomfort as a tool in the sterile setting of a gallery. Viewers are aware that there is an end. At any point, the viewer can walk out of the space, flip the record, change the channel. In other settings, in our social world, the participant is not awarded the luxury of choice.

I’m also interested in the coaxing language used by government agencies in emergency situations. Words seeped in Pathos. Phrases that would not seem out of place in the dark between lovers. Control tactics. In order to prepare for this show, I read Maggie Nelson’s, The Art of Cruelty and reread an old favorite of mine, Don DeLillo’s, White Noise.

Di Donato: Nelson seems to dance with the devil, or toe the line between fascination and revulsion with cruelty. Such an interesting read. I see you doing much of the same in your work. There’s a “look/don’t look” tension that makes viewers squirm a bit.

Blair:  Yes. We are both uncomfortable, suspended in pain, and yet we continue in our roles. A symbiotic relationship forms between myself and the viewer. The show must go on.

Di Donato: So let’s talk about a modern-day panopticism. How has the internet and Instagram helped shape your work?

Blair: I’m known for my performative online work and social media presence, which employs varying degrees of the real, pop cultural references, and my physical body. This show also references 1970s performance art, such as Vito Acconci’s, “Seedbed” (1972). When I use my body, I typically use it in formats that are critical of the stereotypical male gaze and male ego in art.

Di Donato: What do you think of the term GIRL GAZE?

Blair: I was unfamiliar with the term until now. I assume it means the resulting work when women are the acting agents in their practice, rather than being tethered to the archetypical role of, “muse.” I like Leah Schrager’s term, “Man Hands.” Can my small, feminine hands have one hand on a knife and one hand seductively on my lower lip? Ask me about the scars covering my hands.

Di Donato: What’s up with the scars on your hands?

Blair: I have tiny scars all over my hands because my twin brother, who has special needs, had motor skill and sensory issues as a child and would scratch the tops of my hands because he couldn’t feel things as well and wanted a reaction.

Di Donato: So it’s fair to say you grew up keenly aware to the sensory awareness of others. I can see that as a through-line through “This Is Only a Test.” There’s also an urgency to the show’s title—even though “only a test” seems to imply we’re on the brink of something apocalyptic, like those horrible emergency broadcasts. This goes back to dancing with the devil. Care to elaborate on the implication of exigency in the show’s title?

Blair: I wanted the experience of the show to be both repulsive and seductive. I watched a lot of viewers stay right in front of the printer for long periods of time. It seemed as if they grew to enjoy being watched. They also seemed interested in who I would “focus on” via the images I chose to print. As if they could take part in the voyeurism, themselves. I got a sense of, “Well, at least the cameras aren’t pointed at me for this run of prints.” I also wanted to invoke a sense of panic, which I think was accomplished with the high volume of the looping emergency broadcast.

Di Donato: Who and what inspires you?

Blair: I’m inspired by fighters, whores, and punks. The type of women that were burned at a stake for their ideas. The very women that I share a bloodline with, and my peers. In the art world, those who don’t fake it. The ones who recognize and comment on repeated trends in our collective history. One long record, continually skipping. People that are unashamed to reveal their frailty. Also, book people, people who feel most comfortable around books. I recently had a one-night stand and grabbed the person’s copy of Salinger’s “Nine Stories” and slept with it next to me on the bedside table, as if it could protect me and make me feel some semblance of intimacy in this stranger’s bed. Short list: Richard Prince, Hannah Wilke, Tracey Emin, Renata Adler, Richard Brautigan, Bettie Page, Martin Kippenberger, Russ Meyer, Sophie Calle, and Elvis Presley. Lenny Bruce was the world’s greatest performance artist. I collect rare books, punk albums, vintage smut, and 1950s Red Scare propaganda.

Di Donato: Free association game: In your mind, what’s one incident that connects sex/death/trauma/art?

Blair: The plane that killed Ricky Nelson remains dangling from a ceiling at a tourist trap somewhere in Texas. He was allegedly overheard reciting lines from, “To Have and Have Not” as the plane went down.

Di Donato: What’s your process?

Blair: It varies by the series that I’m working on but I’m always watching and absorbing cultural information. I’m a receptionist by day, so I’m constantly reading and I watch at least two films every night. I tend to focus on one facet of either my personal history, or American history to delve into per body of work. It usually involves collecting original ephemera from that event, and pairing it with words and images that are already in my mind, or collection. Some results of my note taking are visible on my Instagram. I use that as a marker. When resources and funds are available, I have things fabricated. My running joke is that I’ll keep making unseen solo shows until they overrun my apartment and smother me to death.

Di Donato: What’s next for Blair?

Blair: I’m trying to write every day, and currently working on finding funding to publish an artist book titled, “Miss November Nineteen Sixty-Three.” I have also recently finished a new series titled, “Ursula.” Both projects pair American pop-cultural artifacts with personal mythology and tragedy. I think my next self-portrait should be an image of Jayne Mansfield’s car.

You can stay up to date with Erika Blair's work by visiting her website or following her on Instagram. Text and interview by Jill Di Donato. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE