Haylee Bolinger is the co-founder of Carlos Queso, a gallery and project space in Los Angeles. She earned her BFA in Art at the University of Wyoming, and her MFA in Sculpture at Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. She has shown her work in numerous galleries and participated in select festivals stateside and abroad. In 2014 Haylee was recognized for her artistic efforts by the International Sculpture Center with an Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award. Also in 2014 she produced many of the illustrations for the science fiction anthology Hieroglyph. In 2013 she exhibited a collaborative artwork entitled ‘A Leap in the Dark’ at the 404 Festival in Rosario Argentina.
Haylee’s artworks are inspired by a broad range of euphemisms created to describe sexual reproduction. Specifically she lights upon the clever way in which the human mind so frequently sexualizes inanimate object. Her artwork is a delightful mash-up of domestic entities with titillating forms and sumptuous textures. In many of her works she incorporates complex systems that operate moving parts in order to convey her more penetrating ideas.
Artist Interview with Haylee Bolinger
by Sidney Mullis
What started your interest in euphemisms used to describe sexual reproduction initially?
Maybe I was being a bit too specific; really any sexually charged act that is described in slang terms is pretty great! To answer the question, I find the whole thing to be very entertaining. When I was young, 10 or 11 maybe, I overheard some relatives discussing my cousin’s new occupation as a salesperson at an adult bookstore. When I heard this I thought it sounded pretty high end! She must be selling some real fancy books, if only adult shop there. Right!? I don’t think it was a secret, but I proceeded to tell anyone who asked about her what she did, including a very religious friend of my grandmother’s… But maybe she didn’t know the meaning of adult bookstore either. So really what excites me most about euphemisms is the possibility of deriving meaning without context like a child might do.
Despite euphemisms employed to speak towards sex, I find your objects are sometimes blatantly sexual in how they mimic forms of genitalia. Could you discuss this contrast?
Definitely! And I agree. I’ve been looking at euphemisms through the scope of sexual development, which if you’re into Frued you might draw the conclusion that it starts at birth and ends when you die. Euphemisms are created to talk about something in code; to either sweeten the way that an idea sounds, or to keep the uninitiated in the dark. I created pieces like ‘Harry Wood’, because I did not want to exclude puberty and the awkwardness of becoming sexually aware.
Is there a specific type of imagery that you look at for reference or as source material?
I watched a lot of animal mating rituals, though that doesn’t come out in my visual process much. I do a lot of thinking on and research into the parallels between sexual attraction and consumer habits. I’ve researched why and how men and women choose sexual partners, the science behind what appears to be a hormone driven mess. Equally I’ve researched the thrill one feels in the acquisition of an object with superior design. I am interested in the unique ways desire for an object can parallel what one feels when perusing a sexual partner. Additionally I’ve researched the fetish object.
Your work reminds me of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party and the group of students/artists that created the multi-disciplinary, collaborative project Womanhouse. Do you think this work provides precedent to yours?
Hmmm, this sounds like a thesis review question, so naturally I want to resist answering it. I absolutely LOVE the artwork ‘Egg to Breast’ exhibited in Womanhouse! The artworks of Judy Chicago, Meret Oppenheim, Kaarina Kaikkosen, and many other powerful female artists have inspired my visual vocabulary… and for that I am grateful.
Does your work have an underlying feminist motive?
Yes, if only in the most basic since.. I am a woman, and I’m talking about sexuality. I think Americans have come a long way, but female sexuality can still be a taboo topic. I think it’s important that we keep pushing for equality in every way possible.
You will be opening Carlos Queso Gallery soon. What was your impetus for opening it? What is your vision for the space?
It is a collaborative effort with my partner Andrew Hadle and our art consultant Chris Rexroad. Our goal is creating a project space for a mixture of emerging and established artists. We are starting out as an event space but we hope to evolve into a fulltime art gallery.
You recently graduated with your MFA in Sculpture from Arizona State University. Congrats! What has your transition out of the program been like? Any wise words for others that are in similar transitions?
Well I moved to a new city where I didn’t really know anyone… I think people often under estimate the value of likeminded friends. If possible seek out other artists through social media, gallery exhibitions, or approach friends of friends. Go to art walks and open studios and then make an effort to get to know the people that you click with. Groups of people that all have similar goals, are very motivating and can help you keep your sanity when you’re trying to figure it all out.
You live and work in LA. What are some of the advantages of being on the West coast?
The weather is always amazing so if I need to work outside I don’t have to factor snow, wind, or extreme heat into the equation. There is always something going on music, art, comedy, etcetera. Really there is too much to choose from… I’m glad you didn’t ask about the disadvantages;)
What artists are you currently interested in?
Just found an awesome zine called the LAZY MOM presented by LAZY CHOW, they’re pretty radical. I love their unique combinations of food and non-food stuffs. They have a blog on Tumblr too. Another rad zine I just found is Troll On by Benjamin Bergman this one is hard to describe, you’ll just have to check it out.
Also, I recently bought a couple of books I’ve been perusing in my free time. Art – A Sex Book by John Waters and Bruce Hainley, AMAZING! There’s some really out there stuff in this book and I dig their loose commentary format. Also the book What Nerve! : Alternative Figures in American Art 1960 to the Present has some excellent artists, including the art collective Forcefield. They are worth looking into.
Any upcoming exhibitions or projects you would like to share with us?
The grand opening for Carlos Queso Gallery Oct 3rd. Please check out future dates on our website.
Thank you for sharing your work and thoughts with us!
To find out more about Haylee and her work, check out her website.