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Eps 25: Artist Joan Lemay-Celebrating Lives, Supporting Artists & the Music Industry

Updated: Dec 5, 2019

Joan LeMay (American, b. 1979 in Houston, Texas) is a portraitist and illustrator who is interested in pattern, gesture and Byzantine halos. She loves painting people, animals, plants and things (a kind of anthropomorphic approach to portraiture) in equal measure, and packs referential objects, color-based symbolism and other subject-specific elements into the busy backgrounds of her work in order to reflect the soul and life of the person or creature depicted. She is currently focusing on work that celebrates what soothes us (and what soothed her in her childhood)--over-the-top portraits of beloved TV and pop culture personalities and public role models, food, fellow artists, and portraiture of medications. The medication work is also designed to help those who rely on medications to celebrate the existence of treatments instead of feeling stigmatized for having to take anything in the first place. She also takes pet portraiture and memorial portraiture very seriously.

Her work has been exhibited in Houston, Texas (Blaffer Gallery), Pomona, CA (Glass House), Koln, Germany (Kunst Kunst Gallery), Los Angeles, CA (Showboat Gallery, Unitard Gallery, Four Eyes Art Collective), Seattle, WA (Tether Gallery, Velouria, Solo, Crocodile Cafe', The Anne Bonney, Ghost Gallery, Derek Erdman's International House of Paintings), Portland, OR (PDX Salon, Mississippi Studios, The Woods, Tiga, Disjecta Contemporary Art, Albina Press), Anacortes, WA (Cascadia Contemporary Art), Austin, TX (Monstrosity Gallery) and New York City, NY (Manhattan Borough President’s Office, Holiday House NYC, Brouwerij Lane, Oslo, HiFi).

Her illustration clients include Lenny, Damn Joan, Racquet Magazine, Topic, Punch Drink, Novation, MLM LLC, Jamie Walters Interior Design and others. Her paintings have appeared in Architectural Digest, Apartment Therapy, Juxtapoz and other publications.

Her album artwork appears on LPs by Benjamin Gibbard, Laura Gibson, Dave Depper, Clint Michigan, Jennifer O'Connor, The White Papers, and others.

She is currently creating artwork for the upcoming documentary film "It's Not A Burden", produced and directed by the Emmy-nominated team at Greenie Films.

She is also, and always, taking portraiture commissions for pets, people and places, and continues to illustrate for multiple outlets from her studio in Santa Fe, NM.

“I’ve seen scarier.”--John Waters on Joan’s portrait of him

“I love the painting, it’s just perfect”--Amy Sedaris on Joan’s portrait of her

“I love this! Thank you!”--New York Magazine Art Critic Jerry Saltz on the unsolicited portrait Joan painted of him

Podcasts/music shows mentioned in the interview: 

Jealous Curator: Art For Your Ear podcast


Alain de Botton and John Armstrong, Art as Therapy

Joan Lemay:

20x200 is going to release two signed and numbered editions of Joan's work March 5th and March 20th. She created original, exclusive work for them and I'll be selling the originals on her site.

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1 Comment

A very cool article, I was completely captivated by it, your writing and presentation of the text is very eloquent and reveals the full essence of all the issues. In general, being an artist is not so easy, you are more exposed to criticism and negative emotions than others, you miss the mark more than others. I experienced this to the fullest when I was designing, but thank goodness these guys from helped me overcome the period in my life when everything was falling apart. I will say that the realisation that you are not the only one who has faced a problem gives you the strength to solve it.

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