They say don’t judge a book by its cover but if Lala Abaddon were one, she’d be as colourful to read as she is to look at. On FaceTime from a park in lower Manhattan, the artist appears as an aesthetic cacophony: she’s wearing a striped shirt, clanging beaded necklace, and metallic shades set against fading neon-green hair. The look is everything all at once—much like her vibrant interdisciplinary art, which blends painting, photography, installation, and performance.
Abaddon is getting noticed for her “Metaweave” tapestries of portraiture and geometry. In each piece, the 30-year-old artist weaves two photographs together to create one hypnotic image. They call to mind the Magic Eye craze of the ’90s, in which hidden images were revealed only if the viewer learned to diverge his or her eyes. In Abaddon’s work, an underlying meaning is similarly gleaned only once you focus. And the process is as complex as the pieces themselves.
Working from a bank of portraits previously shot on her Nikon 35mm or Canon 5d, she pairs two images (often a close-up portrait and an abstract painting or landscape), which then become spliced together using weaving software. Once a satisfactory blueprint is achieved, the photos are printed, cut and hand-woven together in Abaddon’s studio. Each weave takes three or four days to complete, which Abaddon likes to crank out in quick succession, while her electric-blue Celestial Parrotlet, Poquito, keeps a watchful eye. “She keeps me sane,” says the artist. “She reminds me to eat and sleep, because she has to do it all too.”
Abaddon’s intricate patterns mimic our constant need for stimulation. On a more meta level, they reference her own struggle to balance nature, technology, and a sense of self.
Growing up in Plant City, Florida (yes, it is a real place), Abaddon wasn’t encouraged to be artistic. She itched to get out and finally did, moving to New York and discovering painting in her twenties. “I started doing art because I went through a serious period of depression and it was the only thing I could do that would make me feel better,” she says. Art became Abaddon’s therapy. In 2016’s Martyr Syndrome series, she blended religious iconography with her ingrained need to please. “I was raised by a Catholic mother who has martyr syndrome, and she thinks she has to help everyone before herself. It really rubbed off on me. It got me into an abusive marriage,” she says. “I worked through those issues in that series, and that’s when I broke up with my ex.” In Not of This Earth, portraits of strong, warrior-like women reference Abaddon’s desire to reclaim her own power.
Fresh off a divorce and with a decade in New York under her belt, Abaddon arrived at a unique sense of clarity. Much like her art, she craved a deeper relationship with nature. Earlier this year, she set off on a road trip through much of the United States, ending up in Terlingua, Texas, where she worked on several forthcoming performance pieces. In I Control What You See of me Even When You’re Not Here, Abaddon films herself nude in the desert with nothing but a drone for company. “It’s about how we control our self image on social media and how it actually affects our psyche,” she says of the work. “A lot of my performance work is about how we’re all connected through social media but it creates a vast aloneness when you aren’t connected.” Out in the middle of nowhere with little to no cell service, Abaddon was happier than ever and decided to move out there full time. “It really solidified for me that a regulation of social media and my expectation of it is needed for my happiness.”
Her latest, Lone Star, explores her forthcoming journey with a series of desert-infused self-portraits. “I’m trying to make them grander and more complicated, says Abaddon. Each piece will feature kaleidoscopic patterns through her power-posed landscapes. “I’ve found so much strength in myself this year. I can do it on my own.”
Abaddon will be part of the group exhibition “Season of the Witch” starting July 22 at The Seligmann Center of the Arts in Sugar Loaf, New York.