There is an aspect of artistry that contradicts the most important part of being an artist. The main purpose of an artist is to create. However, a creative must also shed away in order to begin anew and within the same token must preserve their foundations so that the seeds of creation can grow.
Presa Hall, a new artist to the city of New York, has proved herself worthy to the progress of life. Originally from Utah and raised in a strict, Mormon family, she has been influenced by her own spiritual struggles and seeks to explore the “good and evil that battles inside all of us.”
At age nineteen, Presa slowly began to doubt her religion after a personal struggle influenced her to look deeper into the beliefs she had been raised with since childhood.
“After studying and actually learning about the values, I started to doubt because it didn’t fit with what I thought my values should be. Instead of leaving the religion right away, I decided to study a little bit more about other religions and [make a] full decision about leaving it. After I finally decided that [it wasn’t] the religion for me, it was like a weight off of my shoulders. I felt really good about myself,” says Hall.
The years following this epiphany inspired Presa to discover what was beyond the standards of Mormonism and what she considered a sheltered upbringing. In her painting called significantly The Black Sheep’s Glory, a group of sheep is depicted with one black sheep in the center. This piece encapsulates Presa’s personal experiences and rather than falling prey to negativity surrounding her upbringing, she chooses to remain light-hearted and uses humor to establish her narrative language as an artist.
“A nickname given to me was ‘the black sheep’ and it’s a joke with my family and I. As a kid, I followed the religion to the T but I always had this outlook about what people who aren’t Mormon do. I thought it was in the club, throwing bottles, being crazy, being sinful, and it was almost like this painting is a satire on what I thought as a kid. I painted that black sheep in the environment that I imagined to shed light on how silly it is because obviously there are different shades of white and black, there’s gray. It’s not black and white. It’s not this is evil, this is good,” says Hall.
Coming from an artistic family Presa has been influenced by a ballet dancer for a mother, a published author for a father, and a painter for a sister. Being the last of five children, a young Presa found ways to stand out amongst the gaggle of family. She learned to express herself not through words, which were sometimes lost, but through visually representing her feelings. According to Presa, the best way to get to know her would be to look at her artwork.
“When I was a little girl, I wouldn’t really say much that was emotional or personal. I didn’t feel like I had to say it in words. , I would talk a lot to shout over my brothers, over my sister, over my family and I would never get responses or answers. So I would go do my own thing and then eventually my family would want to see all my artwork. Then you can’t ignore that, a piece of art that your kid made to show how she feels about something.”
Although some of her work stems from past challenges in her life, Most of Presa’s pieces seem to represent the musings of a young woman exploring her newly found independence and contrast within herself. As a further extension of her talent and her need to express emotion, most of her work has been inspired by her poetry and life experiences. “I want my paintings to tell a story, and invoke the emotion I had while creating it. I hope that my paintings will portray a moment in my life, a feeling, a person or place that made a significant impact. Colors can symbolize the feeling I want the viewer to have or invoke an emotion or memory of their own.”
Like many artists and ambitious individuals, Presa dreamed of coming to New York since she was a teenager, a dream fueled by the idea that the city was a hub for serious artists. Eventually, as Presa grew older, the dream rose up again when after many years of living on her own and working at jobs she wasn’t passionate about, she decided to make the big move. Presa describes New York as a challenge and felt it was the driving force on what has kept her on an artistic path.
“When I had to make that final decision of should I go to L.A., should I go to New York…it was kind of a toss between the two…I decided to go with my original plan of when I was a teenager and envisioned that life for myself and just took a chance. It was kind of spur of the moment, got a one way ticket, and just came here with one bag.”
After three years in New York and many layers shed to form the woman she is today, Presa feels more confident as an artist because she is finally being true to herself. Despite many spiritual and lifestyle differences, her family shows pride in their daughter’s success. A lot of us can relate to Presa’s story of feeling out of place and realizing that some values you’ve been raised with are no longer who you want to be, but this artist has clearly made peace with the past and carved out a place in the art world where she can be free to express herself. This ambition and fearlessness has earned Presa numerous solo shows, mural spaces, and a place in this year’s Miami Art Basel through Hangar Gallery where she showcased her most recent series of work called Eye Constellations. In this collection, Presa juxtaposes close ups of irises, star constellations, and NASA images of stars. Gleaming off of the idea that the eyes are windows to our soul, Presa uses the glints in eyes to form the star constellations of different astrological signs. Each piece in the collection represents a different constellation, utilizing color and features of the eye to represent the “personality” of that sign. A both clever and beautifully conceived collection, Presa hopes to continue the use of texture that she created with recycled materials dipped in acrylic and ceramic base in her future pieces.
“I wanted to show a little bit more depth because I feel like in my life, a lot of my friends’, and when people talk to me there’s always a struggle in the day-to-day of even simple decisions and a lot of self-doubting. I want to have pieces now that represent that conflict. I want to evoke a feeling the moment they look at it.”
For further inquiry about Presa Hall, please check out her website at http://www.artbypresa.com
Article to be published in April 2014 for NY Centric Magazine (nycentricmagazine.com)