Synesthetes’ Breakfast w/ Anna Cruz & Adam Lavigne

As separate artists, Anna Cruz and Adam Lavigne are both savants of color, creating beautiful paintings, drawings, and zines on whatever they’re inspired by that day–whether it be fruit, light, or in the case of a recent zine (released under their co-founded publishing company Lemon Press), a Kanye West interview. As a couple, they are GOALS, bouncing ideas off of each other, building the other one up, and crafting unique work as a summation of their own talents.

I caught up with the two as they were installing their latest duel exhibit, titled “Synesthetes’ Breakfast,” at the freshly opened Gallery Eola in Thornton Park Gallery, open Thursday & Friday 4-7 p.m. and Saturday & Sunday 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. Enjoy.

Upcoming Events:

July 20 – August 11: Synesthetes’ Breakfast @ Gallery Eola


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matthew warhol: I wanted to start—before we get into like high level art talk—by asking you something I was curious about. We’ll definitely dive into both of you as individual artists, but I wanted to know… how did the two of you meet?

Adam Lavigne: Uh, drawing class.

Anna Cruz: We met in school, 2011 or 2012. We had drawing class in 2012, and I had a crush on him. We were just acquaintances; we never really hung out or talked to each other much. I went to his roommate’s house one night with Paul Finn and got reallllly high and threw up and had a really bad anxiety attack. Thankfully, he didn’t see any of it.

Adam Lavigne: My roommate told me about that afterwards and I was really jealous that he got to hang out with her.

matthew warhol: Did you like each other’s work to begin with?

Adam Lavigne: Definitely, it was pretty clear—in class—that we were fans of each other. We had critiques and the other always had something to say.

Anna Cruz: And I feel like both of our works—when you go to school you see a lot of people that do student work—where at that point we already had a language that was developing. I think seeing each other’s work, and how different it was, really made us interested in each other.

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Adam Lavigne: There was something more cartoony about what we were doing that everyone else shied away from, because of this formalist attitude towards academic drawing. I just remember always being really impressed with Anna’s figures.

Anna Cruz: Same.

matthew warhol: How long into your relationship did you start working together?

Adam Lavigne: That was 2013, so it must have been three years later.

Anna Cruz: We didn’t see each other for a couple of years, but I knew you were still in town. I had a show in 2015 at Canvas Gallery, and he came to see it. He had been lurking my Tumblr. I was like, “I hope he comes.”

matthew warhol: Did you have one of those apps that let you know who visits your page, or was he liking stuff?

Adam Lavigne: Yeah, I was liking stuff.

matthew warhol: Oh, so you weren’t even being subtle about it. [laughs]

Adam Lavigne: Yeah, I was reblogging.

 Anna Cruz: And then, we had our first show together at A Place that year, but none of those works were made together. Being together a lot last year, it happened organically. I’m working; he’s working in the same space.

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matthew warhol: So you started creating stuff together, but individually?

Adam Lavigne: We did after that show. I would come to hang out with Anna and we would work on drawings together. It was really cool because we are both left-handed so I could sit right next to Anna while she was drawing and we wouldn’t bump elbows or anything. That was really exciting. [Anna laughs] We were getting more and more interested in print, making zines and stuff, so naturally, we were like, “We should make something together.”

Anna Cruz: The first actual time that we worked together, collaborating on one piece, was when we were making flyers for the A Place show.

matthew warhol: When you’re working on something together, how is the process different from when you’re by yourself?

Anna Cruz: I think it’s a lot more messy—in a good way. When I’m drawing alone, I have a specific idea of how I want something to look. Once I get there, I stop and I’m happy with it. But with him being there, we draw a bunch of stuff and pass it to each other.

Adam Lavigne: We also work on mylar and vellum, so a lot of times I’ll be able to ink something Anna’s drawn or vice versa. We can change the line work or the drawing that way—we work in layers.

matthew warhol: When do you know it’s done? Are you ever stripping things apart after?

Adam Lavigne: It just kinda piles up. We’ll never scrap something entirely, but there will definitely be a discard pile and one for the keepers.

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matthew warhol: Individually, take me through your process of working on a painting. [To Anna] I noticed in your work that there’s a lot of different elements.

Anna Cruz: I know I have a specific idea but it’s more like an intuitive idea—in like, I know how I want the painting to feel. I go on Instagram a lot and ever since they added the tag option, I’ve collected a lot of images of things that made me stop and look. It’s never copying a specific photo. It’s more like collaging with different photos I’ve collected. It’s very intuitive. I never know when I’ll be finished, but I KNOW when I see it. With portraits, it’s when the person feels real. It doesn’t look real, but it feels like a real character that exists.

matthew warhol: What about you, Adam?

Adam Lavigne: I guess I don’t tend to use reference material as much, but I have a lot of sketch books that I keep ideas in, so when I sit down to work on something I’m not pulling my hair out to do something new. Through drawing, you build a language that’s your own. It’s like a vocabulary you can draw in. I think about themes and symbols that I’ve generated over time and pull from those to make new work—maybe change those themes. But, the paintings have been more about the in-the-moment act of painting, responding to color, not really planning as much.

matthew warhol: When you’re separate, do you tell each other your opinions on what the other is doing?

Anna Cruz: Yeah.

matthew warhol: Yeah? How does that work? Because I know that can be a touchy area. Do you wait for the person to ask, “How do you think about this?”

[laughs]

Anna Cruz: It’s a tricky conversation at times. I feel like I’m very bossy—I usually know what I want things to look like, even if it’s not my own work. But it’s really whatever he wants it to look like. I tend to just shoot ideas. Lately, I’ve been doing that, but you always have a limit where like, “I need to think about this and process this without taking in what you’re suggesting.”

Adam Lavigne: It’s always much appreciated because I have a lot of respect for Anna’s opinion and for… the feedback that she gives me. I take it to heart and consider it, greatly. We’ll sometimes get really excited about what the other person is doing and not be able to contain it. Like, “Oh my God, that looks great.” Or, “DAMN.” There’s nothing else you can say. “You’re killing it.”

Anna Cruz: Those are really good moments. And the great thing about having those moments, is I didn’t show my work to anyone while I was working on it, I would never know when to stop. Sometimes, it’s nice to hear that it looks good the way it is.

matthew warhol: Maybe you were thinking about adding something and like, “Oh, this is great,” and you’re like, “I don’t need to change anything.”

Adam Lavigne: That’s happened to me a lot, where I think I want to do something else and Anna will be like, “Don’t touch it!” [laughs] That feels good, to know that someone can see it before anyone else and give you this really powerful feedback.

matthew warhol: How do you each other’s work has progressed since you first saw it?

Adam Lavigne: We’ve really developed as artists through each other. The best shows I’ve ever had have been our duel shows. When we’re at the studio, it’s like this unavoidable influence on the other.

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matthew warhol: Well, I think in any relationship, something you love about someone is seeing that person grow. Specifically, as artists, how have you seen that in each other?

Adam Lavigne: When we started working together, it became so much clearer what we wanted that vocabulary to be. And we could inform each other’s vocabulary. I definitely make more paintings now then I did before. I always resented the permanence of a painting, so for a long time I just made drawings. Through my relationship with Anna, I’ve been more excited about making paintings. And we both just started doing murals together.

Anna Cruz: With me, it was the opposite. I was making so many paintings and treated them like these precious objects. When I met him, his style of work was all about quantity. Seeing his sense of freedom encouraged me to work that way as well.

matthew warhol: What do you think the difference is between painting versus making something like a zine?

Adam Lavigne: It’s pretty huge. You’re like using different parts of your brain. Painting can be so nonverbal.

Anna Cruz: Painting is very direct. If you don’t react the first time you see a painting, it probably doesn’t even matter. When you’re reading a book, you might look over it today, but tomorrow it’ll mean something different. A painting is more visceral.

matthew warhol: Where with a zine, it’s more solid. There’s words.

Adam Lavigne: There’s definitely something tactile about holding books and reading zines. That’s drawn me to zines.

matthew warhol: You’re exploring it.

Adam Lavigne: I’ve found I’ll really torment myself when making a zine. And making a painting is the exact same way. You’ll sit in front of it and do nothing for like two hours, wondering if you should destroy it.

Anna Cruz: I think zine making is less scary for me, because I always have this closet of imagery and data I want to pull from. I never really feel alone. There’s always options.

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matthew warhol: I think there’s a little more structure with zines. Everything has to flow and feed off each other. Painting is just one thing. Here it is! Can we go through some of the paintings around us and talk about them a little bit?

Anna Cruz: Let’s look at the moons! They’re Adams.

Adam Lavigne: Yeah, so when I started making paintings again, I got really excited about the stretching and building of canvases. I never really thought about the options I had. These just started out as exercises in difficult canvas building. This is a twelve sided canvas.

matthew warhol: So why the half earth?

Adam Lavigne: I think it’s more like a rising earth. There may be a horizon line where you can only see part of the earth. Those photographs where you can see the earth from the moon, I’ve always been drawn to those as a symbol of our era. As an artist, you’re always looking for symbols that define the time you live in. The earth from the moon never existed before we traveled to the moon.

Anna Cruz: It’s really cool because I see a lot of that shape from painters that I follow on Instagram, but it’s usually a rainbow or watermelon. But like, I’ve never seen half an earth. It’s really cool.

matthew warhol: What about you Anna? What in here is from you?

Anna Cruz: These two. I usually am drawn to very warm, earth colors. These paintings are pretty much just about color. I hadn’t painted this year. I was scared to start again, so I bought all this new paint and started playing with the colors. Line work has always been part of my style; I continued with that.

matthew warhol: What do the colors in these pieces mean to you?

Anna Cruz: I think of them as times of day. This one is called Sunset Potrait, just thinking about being at the beach and it’s almost dark. This one is being in a jungle in the middle of the day, but not actually seeing the sun. And I put a pear because I love fruits. [laughs]

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wh0 is Halsi?

Halsi. Painter. Henao Party Starter. Orlando Figure. None/All of the Above.

June 15. Sugar Daddy Splash Zone.

Interview.


matthew warhol: I wanted to start off with art talk because I don’t really get a chance to talk about painting. Repetition is prominent in your work, whether it’s the character or noses or patterns. Could you go into that a bit? What are these things?

Halsi: The character was the first stepping stone for me in developing a style. I had been painting and drawing for years and never came across a style, something that gave me a sense of identity in the Orlando scene. I started doing the character and a friend of mine, Chris Tobar, he was like, “Yo, I really like this. You should keep doing these characters.” They were a little different back then. I kept doing them, but got to the point where I didn’t want to do them anymore. The noses came about my junior year of high school. I was in this alternative school called Chancery. Everyday, I’d draw faces over and over again. I got to the point where I could draw them anyway, huge, small. I like the repetition because it’s like a logo, instead of a business it’s a concept or an idea.

matthew warhol: People see the figure or the noses and they know it’s you. Specifically with the man or the nose, do you attach meaning to them?

Halsi: Um, there’s meaning to certain ones. Um, the character has the most meaning. The first character I did was like an archetype artist. You know how sometimes I have stuff inside of them, intestines and things? The whole concept was based on approaching somebody. Let’s say you see somebody walking up to you, and they’re walking on two legs. There’s this silhouette. It’s the first thing you see before you see their face—or whether it’s a girl or a boy. You’re like, “Oh, it’s a human.” You go from there. The more learn about them, the more you get to know them, the more things appear inside of them. The stuff that matters is all the stuff that appears inside of them. It’s like getting to know somebody. With my characters, you still don’t know what they look like. They’re… uh… genderless.

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matthew warhol: And so this stuff  *pointing to empty figure* it seems more like uh… like a shadow.

Halsi: I think it’s more with the branding when it’s a blank thing. It could be a baby. Or it could be somebody who doesn’t have much going on.

matthew warhol: I’ve seen your imagery in different spaces too, paintings, wheat paste–you’ve done purses, jackets, jeans. I also know you’ve done murals for businesses. You’re able to put your art literally everywhere. Seeing the imagery in all these  different places, there’s a street art element involved.

Halsi: I like street art in Orlando because it’s almost like a taboo. It’s cool because you know you’re going to get noticed. Any other city, there’s so many figures and wheat pastes and tags and stickers. I don’t really feel like I’m participating in culture, I feel like I’m one of the only people doing it. There are other people doing it, but not as prolifically.

matthew warhol: Were you tagging even before you were painting?

Halsi: Yeah, I was never good at doing graffiti, like the letters.

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matthew warhol: For me, I feel like your work is a mixture of street and fine art. And something cool about the Henao Center is that they accept both. There’s a gallery inside, but outside people can do large scale murals on the storage container and on the walls. And it’s constantly changing. How did you get involved with Henao?

Halsi: I was doing an art show over there and was just hanging outside with Jose. I saw a tattoo he had, at the bottom of it, it said “1973.” I’m a part of B-Side Artists—it’s a collective of artists, lot of older cats. One of the members, Palin Perez Jackson, he would paint “1973” in a bunch of his work. Seven or eight years ago, he got shot by the police—that was right when I was getting into the art scene, I was 11 or 12. Jose is a B-Side artist. We were talking and he said, “Yeah, I dropped off after Palin died because we were really tight.” We automatically clicked. I ended up crashing there for a month after some plans to move to Houston fell through. And that’s when I did Cultural Canopy.

matthew warhol: Had you put together shows like that before?

Halsi: No, it had a lot to do with the venue. With Henao, I can basically do anything. I can have people paint any wall; I can hang anything; I can come a week before and set up. I don’t really like curating shows.

matthew warhol: Why?

Halsi: Because it’s…

matthew warhol: Stressful?

Halsi: Yeah, before I didn’t have to ever hit anyone up. I could just do my own thing. Now, it’s so confusing. I have to stay on top of it.

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matthew warhol: I’ve slowed down booking lately because I found I wasn’t having much fun at my own events. I was constantly running around like, “You good? You good? You good?” So like, going from creating a painting to creating an event, I see a connection between the two. You have a vision of how the thing is going to turn out. What are the differences for you?

Halsi: Compared to a painting… I don’t know. I can knock it out all at once. An event is a month or two month journey until the pay off. I think that it’s funny that when you did events, you’d be stressed out trying to have everything run smoothly. When I do events, I just get drunk and everyone else figures it out. I don’t know anything about sound. Even if I was available, I wouldn’t be much help.

matthew warhol: So for Sugar Daddy Splash Zone, what’s going to be different?

Halsi: It’s going to be hot. Aside from that, I’m going to have five kiddie pools set up on the outdoor stage. The performers will perform in the kiddie pools. There will also be 142 six-packs of of ramen noodles stacked in a pyramid in the middle of the gallery.

matthew warhol: What’s that about?

Halsi: It’s just wacky. I always think of summer as wild, lighting off fireworks or jumping off of bridges. I’ve always had the idea of a ramen noodle pyramid, but I’ve never had the right setting. The pop ups will be in the gallery, and where the bar is, the indoor stage, will be all the art hanging on the walls. Outside there will be two self-standing mural walls with artists painting them. I’m excited to see the final product. I like changing everything—everything is completely altered. You’re in a different place. You’re at the Sugar Daddy Splash Zone.

matthew warhol: That goes back to what we were saying with creating a painting, the Henao is like the canvas you can play with. *Referencing something we were talking about previous to recording* Tell me about the water bottle thing? Can you speak on that?

Halsi: I can say that it’s called “The Water Bottle Project,” and it’s going to be… we’re packaging water from places the water is polluted—let’s say the Keystone Pipeline. I’m creating label designs for it. And we’re selling it. It’s very satire. It’s like, this water is coming out of their shower and going onto their skin, so let’s bottle it. It’s really fucked up though.

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matthew warhol: What do you mean?

Halsi: Water quality all across America and beyond—how they found pharmaceuticals in the water. I think it could be a groundbreaking art piece.

matthew warhoL: I’m trying to bring it all in in my mind. Whether it’s doing events or painting or the water bottle thing, I’m trying to get an overall idea of how you look at art, these projects.

Halsi: I don’t like a label. I’m not anything in particular. I have my style. I can also do events. It’s just creating stuff. It doesn’t make me an artist. I just like making stuff.

matthew warhol: Where does that come from, the desire to create?

Halsi: Um… it’s not me. It’s almost like everything I’m creating—that people are looking at—they’re looking at it more than they’re looking at me. It’s less narcissistic way to stay relevant. I love it when younger people will come up to me and compliment me on my art. I can see that they’re very awe inspired, like they could do the same thing. It’s very simple. It’s not a complex character. It’s just doing it.

matthew warhol: Who was that person for you? Who made you want to do it?

Halsi: Tobar.

matthew wahrol: Who is that?

Halsi: Chris Rodriguez Tobar. He’s the first guy I met that got me into the scene. I think I was nine or ten. He gave me a flyer to this skateboard art show. And you go to that art show and get a flyer for another art show.

matthew warhol: You were nine?

Halsi: Yeah, I was nine or ten. And I think that’s why I stuck out, being a little kid and going out. I started meeting people and they’d remember me because of that fact. I wasn’t really doing art at that time, either. But then I started and became a part of B-Side Artists. Tobar got me into it, and he still gives my opportunities now.

mattew warhol: What are some goals you have for your work?

Halsi: Uh, I want to travel, definitely leave the United States—I’ve never done that. Paint cool things, not normal stuff. If someone had a boat, I’d like to paint a boat so every week I’m doing something different. I think that’s why I’ve been bouncing around for so long. I just like being in different places creating.

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SALES – “toto (XXYYXX Remix)”

An Orlando producer shapes his own version of an already great track, originally created by a fellow Orlando act. The result is refreshing. Listen to the original below, and catch SALES next week at Will’s with Maximino, Pathos Pathos, and The Welzeins. Enjoy.

EP Review: Chris Topher – ‘Introspective’

Chris Topher is Melbourne-based experimental indie rock artist (to be honest it’s hard to pinpoint what genre Topher fits into) who just released his third EP, Introspective. Topher has had a busy year, releasing his first and second EPs, Hearing Colours and Abstract Thoughts respectively. The release of Introspective coincidences with Topher’s birthday, so happy birthday Chris (hope it doesn’t suck)! Enjoy.

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You can download all of Chris’ albums for free at his bandcamp.

Chris Topher, Christopher… Wait a second…

There’s something about this album that makes me feel good. Actually, there’s a lot about this album that makes me feel good. From the opening piano riff on “Greenwich Village (Intro),” to the humming reverse guitar on the closer, the little details stand out as heartwarming. The songs aren’t bogged down with layers upon layers of exaggerated instruments, as is the case with some purely instrumental albums. Introspective is very detailed, but the sounds favor quality to quantity. This allows the listener to examine and dissect each piece, which is where Introspective pulls you in.

The piano melodies are without a doubt my favorite part of Introspective. The deep piano in “Iceland,” paired with synthesized strings creates a haunting portrait. Although I’ve never been to Iceland, I imagine the atmosphere fits the eerie landscape Bjork calls home. “Greenwich Village (Intro)” and the intro to “Golden Ratio” are two other spots on Introspective where the piano is sticks out.


However, Topher doesn’t rely solely on piano to carry Introspective. Drums, strings, and bass all shine at times on the EP, helping keep it fresh. Some tracks utilizes vocal samplesa decision that helps transition from one song into the next, and breaks up the absolute instrumentation that would otherwise be this EP. Boredom isn’t a problem here. There’s always something interesting to keep the listener engaged. The symbols on “Greenwich Village (Intro)” are so jazzy, they take me dim lit 1920’s underground bar. The rhythm again hits me on “Surrealist Eyes,” as Topher switches from drum machine to kit effortlessly. This, along with the Mike Wallace sample, makes “Surrealist Eyes” one of Introspective’s best.

“The Day Before Tomorrow” is another highlight, the most extravagant on the album. Like “Iceland,” it’s another song that builds an environment. The reversed sounds fly by like the Aurora Borealis on a desolate glacial landscape. Being that Topher is a Florida native, I can only assume these sounds are coming from a feeling within, rather than from his surroundings. It becomes even more obvious when you take into consideration the feeling these sounds give you, the self-reflection of the songs, and the name of EP.

Okay, enough spiritual talk, back to the music. I have a bone to pick with  Introspective: the guitar melodies aren’t as strong as I would have hoped. It could be that Topher isn’t as comfortable on guitar as other instruments, but the good majority of the guitar parts aren’t nearly as impressive as the rest of the instrumentation. On “Surrealist Eyes” it doesn’t ruin the song, but I don’t think guitar adds anything to the piece. “Golden Ratio” is another place where the guitar pull down the song. The piano is interesting; I love strings in the break of the song, but the guitar is just okay. Luckily, the EP doesn’t end there. It is followed by “Sheep in Fog,” my favorite on Introspective. So, I can forgive. The best guitar melody is on “Carnival of Light,” but it’s my least favorite song of the whole project. The first guitar part you hear is pretty interesting, but as another layer comes in, the first is drowned out. With a title like “Carnival of Light” I expect something far vaster, more exciting. Adding piano melody would have made the song much more expansive.

Altogether, I love Introspective. The way the each song flows into the next is beautiful, as if the EP was recorded in one session. On “Greenwich Village (Intro),” the listener hears Topher footsteps as he walks on stage and starts playing. Other raw elements, like his coughs or his instrument’s feedback, add to the personal feel. Topher allows us into his home, his mind. Finally, on “Sheep in Fog,” he sends you on a walk through an empty city, over Introspective‘s most beautiful sounds. Then, he walks away.