Natalie Irish Making Art One Kiss at a Time

27 09 2011

Houston Artist Natalie Irish has garnered a lot of attention for her unique painting style.  But she’s a lot more then just a pair of pretty lips.  Natalie Irish is a survivor, a complete artist, an inspiration and a cyborg…well sorta.   Here is our Q & A with Natalie about her Pearland upbringing, UNT ties, and much much more.

1.  What’s it like now that you’ve transformed into a Cyborg?  Do you feel any difference in your ability to kiss a canvas?

No, fortunately the diabetes and insulin pump has not affected my kissing abilities.

2.  Ok, so the first one was a nod to your wicked sense of humor.  I’m curious what part of H-Town did you grow up in as a child into your high school days?

I was born in New Orleans and grew up in Pearland, just south of Houston. Now residing out in Brazoria county. I like it out here, a bit of land, quiet…I can spend my days painting and talking to the cats.

3.  As a Mean Green Alum, I was quite saddened and shocked to read the UNT elements in the Houston Press piece (which I thought was an amazingly well done piece).  But I’m curious if you were able to take anything out of your short time in Denton?

Denton was fantastic, I just had that one unfortunate run in with the disabilities board. I studied metalsmithing and ceramics at UNT. It was such a great place….I lived in that glorious metals studio…so many tools!

4.  Can you please talk about your love of fellas with the name Dennis?  What stuck out to you so much in the way Dennis LaValley‘s teaching style so inspired you and do you have any fun projects he made you do that helped with your growth as an artist.

Ah yes…my Dennis’s…. LaValley has built a truly amazing program out in Alvin. It’s a beautiful, open work space with high ceilings, opened garage doors, and a seemingly endless amount of clay mix. Everyone, of all ages and backgrounds, is welcome. Dennis has a very laid back teaching style, everyone is encouraged to go at their own pace and are welcome to go in whatever direction the clay takes them. He has shown me that even though throwing pottery is a craft that has been practiced for centuries, there are still new shapes to be created. I will never tire of it. And that you should never become attached to a work, until it is out of all it’s firings! There are so many elements to ceramics too, maybe that’s why I love it so much, so many things to learn and continuous experimentation. I could sit at a wheel for days, throwing, but that’s not all there is to a piece. There are many more steps of trimming, surface decoration, multiple firings, and of course….glazing. Dennis once suggested I spend some time focussing on glazing samples. I put up a fight at first, but eventually threw myself into it, an entire semester in our tiny glaze mixing room, studying recipes and weight out bits of earth and minerals and powders.  At the end of it all…I had a single Raku glaze that I felt was acceptable. I am very proud of that glaze.

5.  The lipstick paintings have really blown up because of the video.  What made you and your husband decide to put the video together?  How did the process all play out, with the fact that this style is obviously quite time consuming?

Dennis(the husband, Dennis) came up with the idea to make videos. So many times I try to explain my technique and people get confused, rightly so! Sometimes they can even see the work and it doesn’t quite “sink in”. I ran into an old high school friend, Chris O’Malley, at a benefit and he had started making films. I love collaborating with other artists and we work really well together, bouncing ideas off one another. The “Influence” video was a challenge for me because we decided to tackle the time lapse idea. There was a lot of pressure. We started at 4am that morning and went all night. At the end….I tasted a bit of blood.

6.  Can you talk about how Jermaine Rogers helped facilitate a lot of your early buzz and also talk about what made you choose to make Jimi purple with your Urban Decay choice of lipstick?

I met Jermaine a couple years ago at a VANS opening. I have always been a huge fan. I brought him a reproduction of one of my pieces and we really hit it off. We stayed in touch and he has taught me so much about the screenprinting world! and a super cool dude as well! When he asked me about the commission for the Hendrix piece I was so excited. It really couldn’t be any color other than purple.

7.  The self-portrait you did for the Houston Press piece is so amazing, have you thought more about portraits of folks or gotten offers for portrait work?

Thank you! I enjoyed that piece a lot. It made me feel like I was back in school again…I’ve quite a few self portraits under my belt….in many different media. It goes with the territory of  art classes. I do a lot of commission work, for everyone from the average joe to celebrities, and in many different styles and subjects.

8.  Speaking of self-art, can you please talk about your tattoos and especially your unique diabetic tattoo?

I love tattoos…just another canvas! We’re in the process of finishing my upper arm piece of the cowgirl riding a nuke. It’s being done by a good friend of mine and ridiculously talented artist, Chris Sparks. As for the diabetic tattoo, I got that years ago, just was tired of wearing ID bracelets. 

9.   The HP brought up Ripley’s already commissioning a few originals.  I’m curious what other offers/ideas do you have upcoming art wise?  What’s next?

I have several upcoming festivals and benefits, such as the Via Colori here in Houston , Scottsdale next March, and the Rosie O’Donnell Show next month . Will be releasing “Revolutionary” this week, it is a work that is very near and dear to me. I want to continue exploring the lip painting technique, combining it with painting as well. I also want to expand on the simple idea of taking an everyday object and using it in a way that it wasn’t intended. I have been making textiles and crochet pieces with materials like recycled t-shirts, metal, and plastics. I’ve also been working on a series of copper jewelry pieces that display bits of colored wool in place of gemstones. But it’s all every organic process…and six months from now…who knows where art will take me.

And here is one of my favorite pieces from Natalie!




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