Images by Abby Wright
“I’M CONSTANTLY ENGAGED IN IDENTIFYING BOUNDARIES
AND LOOKING FOR WAYS TO PUSH
FOR SOMETHING NEW IN WHAT’S FAMILIAR.”
— JOANNA BERAY
Joanna Beray is an artist who lives and paints in Los Angeles. She has a BFA from CalArts, where she pursued “bioscience, mechanics, and the human condition with aesthetic intent as if Lisa Frank watched The Doom Generation on continuous loop.” View her portfolio here.
Abby Wright is a photographer in Los Angeles, CA. She first became interested in the history of portraiture back in middle school when she would wander to the Ringling Museum of Art, where she admired the paintings of John Singer Sargent and Albrecht Dürer, and discovered the small photographs of André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri’s carte de visite. She likens the process of taking a photograph to the feeling of being lost in time, like the transcendence of a dream. View her portfolio here.
I walked into Joanna’s apartment and set down all of my equipment. I was immediately greeted with a warm hug and smile from her. I looked around the apartment to find a place to photograph. She has so many great books and she works so much that her paintings fill up almost every corner. As I looked at her work, we chatted, and it seemed we had known each other for awhile, even though we had just met. Her use of color was what drew me to her in the first place, and her work is even more wonderful in person.
T-shirts can be all things to people, from a status symbol to a memory trigger. What do they represent to you?
T-shirts are an essential, classic part of cultural Americana. A simple white T is sexy and cool. I’m trying to get minimalist, but I seriously can’t get rid of my punk band tees or my tie-dyed ones with howling wolves on a moonlit landscape. I’m a sucker for grand gesture, regal, animal tribute tees.
Do you recall your first favorite T-shirt?
When I was a kid, I had this Janet Jackson Rhythm Nation shirt that was so huge on me, it served as a full-length nightgown. It transformed me. I wore it so much, it broke apart.
How would you describe your style?
My closet lives many different lives. My outfits manifest in consideration of eras and attitude. I’m a girly girl but also a total tomboy, and I enjoy both to the extreme. My favorite thing to paint in is a big, baggy T shirt. It’s easy, breezy, and I have a huge stack ready to go whenever I feel creative.
What inspires you?
The sunrise reflected on these beautiful, tall buildings in my studio view of downtown LA…those colors, the city, the fantasy of euphoric love. The power of dreams and time. Desire. Contradiction. I’m constantly engaged in identifying boundaries and looking for ways to push for something new in what’s familiar.
What do you most like about your line of work?
Searching to communicate reality in a composed illusion. The wine. The cheese. Fancy stuff. Staying up until 5 am because I can’t stop. Most of all, that perfect moment when I’m covered in paint, look at a piece, and feel it’s just right.
Anytime I wrote papers or did homework, the radio had to be on or nothing would get done. My first serious painting attempt involved a vigorous rendition by Sid Vicious of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” played on repeat. Sound has been so influential. Lately, I’m curious about playing with the look of music. Record covers, show flyer aesthetics…I just want to paint more, always.