There’s ink in the palm of her hand that reads, Carry The Fire. She’s the warrior of the valley, she’s the lover of the desert souls, she’s the weaver of poise and humility. Artist and homesteader Lala Abaddon is the work of art. She walks alongside the feminine silhouettes of artists and their ghosts who too, left the Coasts, to wholeheartedly immerse themselves into the ruggedness of the Southwestern landscapes. Abaddon’s reverence for the land and desire to protect the magic it holds is intricately interlaced with intimate memories, spoken or veiled. Her ink work and watercolors, metaweaves and photographs, chisel a narrative of oneness – all spirits and beings, all hues of emotions, co-existing and embracing both inner conflicts and a longing for balance. What secrets does her heart hold?
Hello Lala! How would you introduce yourself to a newcomer? What are some things about yourself that make you smile and you’d want people to know?
Hello Newcomer – my name is Lala. I live off-grid in the middle of nowhere with my three wild dogs, goats, horse and chickens. I love being a connector, bringing people together, bringing joy and light and laughter into the world. I love communing with nature, facing life’s challenges, and being in wild situations. Some might say I’m an extremist, others might say I’m crazy – generally I’m inclined to agree. I know what it means to work hard, and I’ve made some really wild life choices… But I really love living my life outside the normal confines of society. If you know me, you know I won’t likely mention that I’m an artist unless I am directly asked, or a friend brings it up.
Can you tell us a bit about how you live and where? What made you decide to come out here, and what makes you stay, every day you wake up?
I live off-grid in West Texas, in the mountains of the high Chihuahuan desert. I’m surrounded by wild animals like mountain lions, bears, coyotes, foxes, eagles, snakes, birds and reptiles of all kinds. I have been out here now going on 6 years, and have managed to build a tiny home and a pretty big ranch. I live pretty primitively still, with no real running water, basic solar system to run my freezer and fridge, I use a wood stove to heat my home in the winters… It’s a very isolated spot, within a greater community, and each week I face some sort of new challenge that I may or may not have had any experience with. At times I think it may break me. Even though I’m not sure I’ll ever understand the answer completely, I do know just in my heart, and my soul, that this is where I am supposed to be. The Valley and the Mountain called me here. They are my protectors. They have eased my anxiety and the pain from past traumas, and have strengthened me beyond measure. They continue to teach me each day and hold me in their favor – so as long as I feel that, I’ll be here.
“All my life, society tried to break the magic I carried. I’ve never really fit into the societal confines or normalcy and success. I don’t measure my success the average ways.”
When you were younger, could you ever have imagined your life as it is today, and if so, how do you think your younger self would feel about your walk of life thus far?
To be honest, I say this all the time, my younger self would be so stoked on the life I have created! All my life, society tried to break the magic I carried. I’ve never really fit into the societal confines or normalcy and success. I don’t measure my success the average ways. Success to me is being totally blindsided by life and adventure, to being constantly in awe and amazed, and to relinquish control to truly experience life’s gifts. So yeah, my younger self would be so happy to hear that I’m still talking to the plants and animals, never wear shoes, often forget to do “Adult” things in lieu of the things that give me pleasure. My kid self would think I’m such a badass…!
I would like to dive more into your life as an artist. Do you have any rituals when it comes to getting to work on your art? Have they changed over time?
Getting to the point of creating art is very ritualistic for me. Whether it is taking photos or designing my weave patterns, or painting completely free of any conscious thought – there is a ritual. I need to be in the right mindset, my space needs to be cleansed and organized. I like to create an atmosphere because when I’m actually weaving or painting, I will do so for hours on end. Over time, as my homestead has grown and life course has changed, I find it harder to find the time to create this space for art. I’m still living in a tiny home, and building a larger home and studio. I feel like when that studio is done, I can have a designated space to create, and that may ease getting into a flow state.
“Success to me is being totally blindsided by life and adventure, to being constantly in awe and amazed, and to relinquish control to truly experience life’s gifts.”
You’ve decided to walk away from the typical and archetypal dynamics of artists represented by galleries (most often with tight exclusivity contracts), and have worked to build a much more intimate relationship with collectors, galleries, museums and lovers of your work. How has this impacted your life as an artist? What blossomed?
It’s natural for me to reject the systems that are designed to repress, and the art world is no exception to that trend. I have been in cases where galleries have straight up stolen my work, and found it very hard to win a lawsuit and get it back. I didn’t do that just because they deprived me of my life’s-savings but because I wanted them to know good would prevail. The RIGHT thing could still happen. They fought me tooth and nail and all the way through the court system and… I won! So, would I work with galleries again? Sure! But I much prefer showing in museums or university galleries. Through this I have learned to say no to unfavorable situations. It’s definitely harder to do it all by yourself, but ultimately it’s the only way I can feel comfortable and secure. And my relationship with collectors is so important to me. I feel my work. I want it to be in the homes of people who feel it as well, who look at it every day, who share it with others. I’m proud to know things about the people who collect my work. I see them as family. They have literally given me my whole life!
You often use images of yourself in your practice. Is the woman depicted intended to be a representation of only yourself or does she speak about some women, or all of us?
Using myself in my work had become a theme because these past ten years I’ve really been going through a long rebirth. The woman I depict in my self-portraits is a reflection of my own experiences, but also experiences that women on a whole might understand or have their own relationship to. But really, I think of my body more as form and light. It’s my greatest tool for expression in all meanings of the word. So it just has become a tool in my practice.
“The Valley and the Mountain called me here. They are my protectors. They have eased my anxiety and the pain from past traumas, and have strengthened me beyond measure.”
I think about the warrior often perceived or portrayed in your work. What makes women so unique and powerful in your mind?
I see the strength in women to endure. I see their incredible ability to suffer and then to create something more harmonious or altruistic from that pain. There’s something we hold generationally as well that I think, especially in certain bloodlines, creates something inside of us that directs our ship to whatever trauma needs releasing – and to do that, you truly do need a warrior’s heart. A fierceness for living. A distaste for complacency – through understanding empathy and tribulation.
With this in mind, I now must ask…What is the importance of love in your life? Love for places, ideas, souls?
I mean, love is everything. It’s everything I chase. It’s the ultimate high. I am a deep lover of all things. Love for self – for the beings around me, for the land, for the ancestors, the spirits, for the lost, the forgotten, the poisonous. It’s just something that has been in me from birth, a love for all beings, respect for all perspectives, even the ones I don’t understand. I try to see the best in everything, in everyone. You know, you experience great love, and it is inevitable to experience great loss. Loving hard has taught me a lot about the impermanence of life and the importance to be honest and thoughtful for where you share your love. Really understand that power and the responsibility you have to it. When I came here I said, I love the land, I want to protect it. I made a promise to her, to do my best. And so that is what I do each day, and what dictates my course, because this great love I feel comes with a heavy responsibility – and I can’t just go making these promises out of love and not back them up, right? Not give it my all. That is the whole point of love: to push past discomfort to experience a higher level of bliss and connection.
“I mean, love is everything. It’s everything I chase. It’s the ultimate high.”
What does the future hold for you in terms of dreams? Any plans for upcoming shows or projects you’d like to share?
Right now I’m at the point where I truly don’t know what the future holds. I have some sort of comfort now with the way I’m living, and the support system I have. I have some commitments, like my animals and my homestead, but I have been seeking out adventure more – experience more. I don’t know where that will take me, so I’m not putting any limits to what I can or want to do in the near future. There is a short documentary directed and produced by Stephen Michael Simon about my first few years living off the land and building a sustainable homestead – it premiers sometime this winter. I have been working on a body of work called ”Vessel”, and one day it will be made public. I have also been working on a series of highly detailed surrealist watercolor paintings that have just been taking over my heart and mind. For now, a lot of my work has just been going directly to collectors, and I’m not sure how my next show is going to manifest but it will be my first solo show in a few years, so it’s bound to be something magical and completely unique.
Story and interview: Adele Jancovici @adelejancovici adelejancovici.us
Model: Lala Abaddon @lala_abaddon – lalaabaddon.com
Photography: Carly Tise @carly.tise