Lynn Newman has worked as an actress, therapist and spiritual leader. Her quest to understand herself and others has led her from Oklahoma to Los Angeles to South America, where she traveled with a shaman.The writer and artist, is now exploring New York. As a therapist she has helped so many people reach their creative potential. However, it’s within her own paintings that she explores her dark side.Raw, vibrant and screaming with energy, Newman’s canvases are large-scale dreamscapes that tap into the deepest lightning storms of the human psyche. We spoke with Lynn about her work.
A Talk With Lynn Newman
Royal Young: When and why did you begin painting?
Lynn Newman: I was 27 years old and had moved to Santa Fe to write my memoir. My writing teacher gave me a book on painting called, Life Paint and Passion and had just taken a painting workshop with the author. She really pushed me to take the workshop. I’d never painted or held a brush before, but as a kid I always wished I could do something more with my crayons.I didn’t know if I would like it but I ended up having my whole world explode open. First, as a writer, it was amazing to be free of words. I was an actress too, which was also all about words I was speaking. Somehow, color and brush strokes and images took me to a new place in myself where I no longer had to think. I was out of my “mind” for the first time.
I went right back to when I was a child – with those crayons that I wanted to eat ‘cause I loved all the colors and didn’t know what else to do with them since I didn’t know how to draw. But in the workshop, I didn’t have to know how to draw and I had permission to be free again like a child, even though as a kid I really wasn’t that free. No, I was. Just the grown ups didn’t want me to be.
Does visual art allow you to express yourself in ways other creative endeavors don’t? How so?
I went to Cal Arts, an arts conservatory as a BFA theater major when I was 18. By the end of my four years there, I was so filled with technique my teenage rebellious yet, spontaneous free expression was suffocated. They put me in my head – snuffed my light out. I had to count out the iambic pentameter, translate all of my scripts into the International Phonetic Alphabet for dialects and perfect Standard American Speech, be graded on the depth of my breath, find the “T” on the stage intuitively without looking down at my feet, keep all my lines in check, compete against my best friends for roles and make sure I wasn’t kicked out of school after our second year when our class of 24 was cut into 12 for the repertory.
So I promised myself after that first painting workshop, I would keep painting to myself and no one would get in the way of my raw artistic expression. It was something I didn’t have to be good at. Or be graded for. Or an audition I needed to book. I could even suck at it.Also at 27 when I first started painting, I had piles and piles of journals next to my desk that I was trying to make into the product of a memoir. Painting would become my “new journaling” and I didn’t have to show them to anyone, EVER. Not make them into a product or ANYTHING.I’ve been painting for almost 20 years now and this year was the first time I showed my paintings to anyone publicly. Probably, because I know now how they served me — they never had to be “precious” or “special”. But I noticed since I’ve shown them, some people are moved by them. Many aren’t. It’s not their thing. But I did find something interesting in exposing a deep inner process that occurred over many years and it still has nothing to do about ME or the product.I learned through painting that what we paint (or create) is who we’re NOT. It’s like water rushing though a pipe, taking everything with it that’s calcified and rusted and ready to leave us. In every moment, every out-breath, something is ready to leave us. It’s not a catharsis necessarily, even though it can be cathartic.
When we meet something with presence without needing to identify it or label it, we can allow it to move, to pass through like a cloud in a summer sky. Or a great shit. You choose. Regardless, its part of nature and it feels good.I have over 300 paintings underneath my bed, ranging from 4 to 12 feet in height. A friend said to me once, “You keep painting until your bed reaches the stars.” I liked that. I liked the idea of keeping something private and close and knowing I could continue to meet a spectacular sensation that was beyond “me” if I kept meeting brush to paper.
What is the connection between art and emotion?
I think the goal as artists (or anyone just living life actually) is to be able to meet our insides with vulnerability and presence. If we can get out of our own way and allow whatever wants to arise — arise, we can be “in the river”.That’s when stuff is fresh, alive – without judgment. THAT’S the current that moves us.Truth is, we all want some time to ourselves to be and feel however we are without apology, shame or judgment. When we feel life deeply and meet it with presence without interference it transcends something.The mind is a thief, so they say. Allowing ourselves to feel whatever we’re feeling without controlling it, worrying about comparison or compliment, suppressing it or trying to attach meaning to it… we’re truly free. And that’s what carries us — whether we’re artists or not. What we all want as human beings.
Your images are so raw, vibrant and viscerally beautiful. But dark too. How does beauty and darkness collide for you?
Thank you. Very kind. I’m touched. But, I can’t help but think when I paint, who are we to decide what’s dark and what’s light? And why live in that duality? Sometimes when I paint my darkest images I’m the MOST free. I’m high… on some kind of trajectory because art doesn’t have to be trapped in the judgment of “meaning”.Where did we get that something — whether its anger, or pain, or grief, whatever — is dark? Where did we learn we have to ONLY be in the light, happy, and pretty? The beauty is in allowing ourselves to feel whatever we’re feeling.Yeah, we know, art is subjective. Some people may think it’s shit. Some people may think it’s beautiful. What matters most is that we’re connected. When we’re synched up, others may feel safe to hook up too. Or not. That’s not why we do it. We’re all in the river… Hoping to meet something.It’s really all about intimacy. It’s like that moment when you share a good ugly cry with a loved one and then place your head on their shoulder, face a mess, bags under your eyes, Kleenex in hand, snot everywhere and you’re still held and seen as beautiful because of your openness? That’s what painting brings to me. It says, “You’re loved no matter what.”
For more information please visit http://lynnnewman.com