Interview with Lance Turner


By Jesse Butcher

Lance Turner photo by Jaime Harmon
Lance Turner photo by Jaime Harmon

Lance Turner has exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the United States, including the Los Angeles Center for Digital Art in Los Angeles, CA; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, TN; the Visual Arts Center in Punta Gorda, FL; The Southern Nevada Museum of Art in Las Vegas, NV; The Farmington Museum of Art in Farmington, NM; and the Woodruff Arts Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Atlanta, GA.

His work was recently published in issue 118 of New American Paintings. Lance Turner was born in North Carolina in 1985. He graduated magna cum laude from Memphis College of Art with a BFA in Painting and Art History, and a MFA in Painting at Savannah College of Art and Design.

Number: How does the internet and pop culture or pop-culture nostalgia influence your practice?

Lance Turner: The internet tells me what I have to paint. I try to never paint the same thing, but I can’t paint simple images of things because it’s already on Google. I can’t call pictures of the sky or cats or my dinner art because it doesn’t aspire to anything more than the average Instagram post. I want to make work based on experience because it is really the only thing that communicates the sublime nature of having everything, including #psychedelic available for you on Tumblr.  Although, my life experience comes from growing up in the ‘90s and being a skateboarder, I like the pollution and slime that was in like half of the cartoons in the early ‘90s, and painting exploded faces and fuzzy noise came from my interest in skateboard graphics and making punk flyers.

Lance Turner at Crosstown Arts
Lance Turner at Crosstown Arts

You’re about to start a new residency at Vermont Studio Center in November. At your recent residency at Crosstown Arts in Memphis—you were the first resident artist there—you created a fully immersive painted room. Are you planning on doing something similar in the new residency, or will you be using this opportunity as a chance to experiment in ways that you might not have been able to in your current studio?

Both. I have 4 feet of space to make work in right now, but want to make art that the viewer experiences. I really like making artwork that gives you a different experience by reimagining what a room is supposed to be. Crosstown definitely gave me the time and room to experiment with space and lighting. It was a great experience, and I really liked being motivated by having to make an art show at the end of the residency. I am going to the residency at the Vermont Studio Center, but it will likely not be work toward a big show at the end.

 Do you have any books, movies or music that you plan on inspiring the work you will make in your upcoming residency?

I just read a biography on Alan Turing. Turing was a code breaker and an inventor of computing machines in the 1940s. I also read a book on the algorithms that make the internet work. I have been working for a while on how paintings can incorporate systems to overlap imagery, and these two books are showing me a really interesting history of how very basic systems get manipulated to the point where I can send this encrypted email. I don’t know how it will influence my residency in Vermont. I think that time will be most beneficial if I figure out what I’m doing once the residency has started.

 Is there a question about your practice that you feel should be asked that has not been?

Yes. I don’t feel like I am restricted by a specific medium or intent. I cycle through ideas as I come up with questions to figure out.