Ink collage & paint on paper.
First exhibited at G Fine Arts in Washington, D.C.
Lisa Marie Thalhammer looks at another group of parking lot denizens — a subculture of hookers called “lot lizards,” who troll truck stops for johns. These ladies of the night are the subject of Thalhammer’s collage drawing series “Welcome to Lizard County.” The artist pieced together images of women’s faces and body parts cut from Playboy and Vogue magazines, among others (many sport nice heels or other designer duds), to make Frankenstein monster-style bodies that the artist places on top of drawings she’s done of the hoods of semis. The fact that Thalhammer made her lizards out of pictures from magazines shows how women’s bodies are essential fuel for economic engines. The female form becomes a coat hanger — for clothing and, metaphorically, for male fantasies. Thalhammer’s idea is rich… -Jessica Dawson
Lisa Marie Thalhammer was a Catholic prep school student working as a waitress at her family’s truck stop in Troy, Ill., when she first heard the term “lot lizard,” trucker slang for prostitutes who turn tricks in the parking lots. Many years later, the 25-year-old D.C. artist would be mistaken for one.
Last summer, after her parents decided to sell the business her grandfather bought in 1972, Thalhammer went back with a camera to document the place where she spent nights and weekends as a teenager. As she walked around the lot—and, later, the lots of other truck stops in Maryland and Virginia—truckers would stop her and ask what she was doing. She told them stories about serving fried chicken and mashed potatoes at her family’s truck stop and about her art.
“They would say ‘Yeah, I knew you were too pretty to be working the lot,’ “ recalls Thalhammer, who moved to D.C, in 2004 and recently received a Young Artist Program grant from the D.C Commission of the Arts and Humanities. “I was like ‘Oh my God. I’m getting out of here now.’ “
The experience inspired Thalhammer to create “Welcome to Lizard County,” which opened Saturday, June 2, at G Fine Art. In most of the 15 collage, oil, and ink pieces included in the exhibition, lot lizards lounge seductively on the hoods and in the cabs of line-drawn semis; mismatched high heels dangle over truck grilles or from side windows. The women, whom Thalhammer assembled from snipped-up lad and fashion magazines, are abstract and comely hood ornaments, faces posed in the sultry expressions of models and prostitutes. The images, Thalhammer says, are about voyeurism and how women deal with it.
“The point of the drawings for me was to take an American subculture that is generally looked down on and give it, in a sense, some kind of empowerment, make it about the women, not about the men,” she says. As such, truckers themselves are absent from Thalhammer’s Lizard County; the work focuses on the women, the trucks, and the flat landscape and summer sunsets of the American Midwest. On the borders of many of the pieces, Thalhammer appropriated Gospel illuminations. “I chose to border the drawings to attempt to give a similar sense of importance or reverence to these figures,” she says.
Though she never met any women she was certain were lot lizards, Thalhammer says they were like mythical creatures constantly on the lips of truckers and other workers. And, even if her family’s truck stop has since changed hands, the impressions it left her with are deep-seated; Thalhammer plans to continue working on the theme, which she says could resurface at an exhibit at Transformer scheduled for September. “I miss it,” Thalhammer says of the place where she learned about lot lizards. “But I am glad I have it in my memory.”-Joe Eaton
Washington Post Express
Lisa Marie Thalhammer’s “lot lizard” drawings emphasize the role of women in American mythology, recasting truck-stop prostitutes in a more sympathetic light. Her use of religious iconography highlights the centrality of this narrative, one that ignores or subjugates women. In fact, the West ain’t so lonesome for those who live a life on the open road, but the stories of the prostitutes are skipped over in favor of the stories of the drivers who enjoy their company. Thalhammer’s Mary Magdalene-identified collaged drawings are strong. But similar works have seen a lot of play in recent group shows — not to mention Thalhammer’s solo at G Fine Art… The word “sass” connotes, to this writer at least, not merely attitude but also insight. Work by the D.C.-based artists Bass and Thalhammer offer plenty of both… -Kriston Capps