by Sara Estes | Photography by Hollis Bennett
Lisa Bachman Jones’s paintings create a bridge between the emotional and the tangible. Using bold colors and airy compositions, the nuanced forms of her most recent drawings tap into the immaculate sensory experience of being human. We are prompted to draw connections between the patterns and similarities found within the universe, from stars to microbes. The ambiguity of her abstract, organic forms creates an expressive template that allows space for the viewer’s own emotions to intervene.
Her latest series of paintings, New Skin, which was recently exhibited at The Rymer Gallery, showcases Bachman’s ability to translate the most fundamental human elements into a graceful and fluid visual world all her own. Her ethereal aesthetic pulls in elements of the stellar, the psychological, and the scientific. In paintings like Tap, the amoeba-like forms take on a spiritual quality that transcends narrative or reason. With this series, it seems Bachman is channeling emotion in its rawest form, before words, before specification.
“I haven’t always made abstract art,” says Bachman. “In school, I was doing figurative work, mostly female figures with long brown hair. They essentially all looked like me.” After graduating from Belmont in 2006, she switched her focus to abstract art. Looking at work by renowned Tennessee artists like Lain York, Adrienne Outlaw, and Hamlett Dobbins helped influence the change. “I didn’t want the work to be so obviously about me anymore.”
In her studio, I ask Bachman what inspired the transition visually—was it a specific painting she saw or book she read? “It was an onion,” she says with a laugh. When Bachman began working in the restaurant industry (she currently works as the manager and head baker at Fido, Hillsboro Village’s most beloved coffee shop), she was chopping an onion and became completely captivated by the shape of it—the concentric lines, the series of rings. She showed me works ranging from 2008 to 2013, and in all of them, you could see some variation of the onion form. In works like Communication 1.1 and Blush the form is easy to spot. “That was where it began,” she says. “I’ve been very inspired by food shapes and other natural forms, like plants and insects.” Not only is she inspired by the shape of food, but she also incorporates it directly by using materials like tea, coffee, and wine in her drawings.
Bachman’s work attempts to survey the complexities of relationships and provide a visual representation of human emotion. In her ambitious 2013 series Give and Take, double-sided rotating panels address four distinct and notoriously problematic aspects of relationships: communication, support, resources, and touch. Each panel depicts two sides of a coin—the harmonious side and the discordant side. When support is going well, and when it’s not. When a person wants to be touched and when they don’t. She explores the polarities of each aspect using color and shape as a new language. And while the imagery may appear improvised, her process is not. “I almost always work in a series,” she says. “I usually have the entire thing planned out from the start.”
I asked Bachman the question I like to ask all artists: Why do you make art? It’s a big question that always manages to elicit a surprisingly distilled answer. “I make art because I am an art maker.” Bachman says. “I make it for me, and I make it to share. It is really fantastic that other people like what I make, but I will be making art from now until the end whether my art sells or not. I just won’t get each piece framed.”