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Lily Formato


Performance Artist


Lily Formato (b. 2000) Virginia, living and working in Chicago. Art takes up every facet of my life. I have a romantic relationship with art. When I watch a movie, I find scenes that could be a painting. I might see someone sitting pensively, and try to capture that story. I get inspired by people, human connectivity, and everyday mundaneness, like the girl sitting on the couch eating toast. I look at everyday life through the lens of art. I incorporate the female experience into my work. Early in my journey, I discovered artists like Alice Neel and Jenna Gribbon; Their influences come together in my pieces through themes of femininity, the inner child, and the human experience. 

The people where I come from are significant to me; Right now, most of what I paint is Appalachian life I see every day. Addicts walking down the street, cows grazing in the field, and myself. I’m not fond of explaining my work; I want the viewer to experience my world full of lines, color, texture, and vibrancy. 

Inspired by a typical Virginia sweltering summer day at Mcwayne Community Pool in my hometown, I had this idea to do a series about water. “6 FEET” was challenging because I didn’t understand water. As a self-taught artist, I was timid about this project, but I wanted to challenge myself and paint something that would also be reminiscent for me. I stretched a 58”x48” oil painting of a pool scene. My first instinct was to spray paint blue on the bottom half of the canvas, and the story began to arise. A young girl in a red swimsuit is swimming like a mermaid under the water. One girl, goggles in hand, about to pounce, waiting until the other is out of the way so she can safely jump in. Another cool girl sitting by, dangling her feet into the water, feeling it rush between her toes—the cracks in the concrete of an old community pool, weeds are growing through them. Older sunbathers lounging. Dads’ ugly sandals and shorts while they talk to each other in the corner. A mother putting pool floaties on her baby’s arms. Kids lining up to get $1 ice cream. 

My goal for the viewer is to have an honest conversation with my work. What do the color and figures say to you? Russian playwright Anton Chekhov once said, “The role of the artist is to ask questions, not answer them.”

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