I’m going back in time, because I can. That’s the power of imagination. I am going back to the Summer of 2017. It was unbearably hot. There was no AC, just these big industrial- sized fans blowing the hot air around the massive warehouse that was Jeff Hamilton’s studio and host of the Street Art Fair. The heat didn’t matter, because everyone was in good spirits, enjoying all of the amazing art that was created by a few dozen artists.
I saw a lot of smiles that night and felt a lot of what one might call “good vibes,” but there was one smile that seemed larger and more inviting than all the rest. It belonged to an artist named Crystal Lyn, whom I had just met. Her work, I found, was simple; not showy, not trendy, not pop art, not street art, but her own thing: beautiful geometric shapes, like clouds floating in a vacuum. Like the shapes we find in clouds, they could be anything, and anywhere, really. That was very hopeful and matched her smile. So, here we are, two years later, finally getting an interview out of her.
You were born and raised in Wichita, Kansas. What was the art scene like there, or were you too young to be involved in that?
It is very hard to say exactly because I was so isolated growing up that I barely knew anything of the outside world. I wasn’t exposed to the arts growing up and didn’t have the freedom to venture. I’d like to believe that I would have been able to discover some sort of art group, but from my experience, I can’t imagine Wichita being very keen on the arts. From what I’ve seen, it’s not regarded as being anything other than a hobby there. Wichita is the largest city in Kansas, but it is mostly industrial, with several aircraft manufacturing companies and factories.
A lot of your images, while abstract, actually look like clouds. Clouds are also symbols of celestial mobility because many gods used the cloud as a vehicle on which they traveled. Do you travel in the clouds?
That’s very interesting you see clouds in my paintings. I like to leave my art open to viewer interpretation. The shapes and imagery I use in my work are meant to evoke an emotion or awaken ones subconscious and imagination. As for traveling in the clouds, sometimes that is the only way to travel when you cannot do so in the physical realm. Imagination allows you to transport yourself anywhere you want to go. From a very young age, I have had to be grounded in reality. Creating gives me the ability to be weightless.
Do you still find yourself suffering from PTSD related to your early experiences with childhood sexual abuse and homelessness? Is that something you want to talk about as a survivor?
Yes, I still experience PTSD, but I am better today than when I began my healing journey. I think it’s impossible for someone with such a background to come out of it as if nothing ever happened and they grew up in a conventional manner. It has nothing to do with their strength abilities. Even the strongest person couldn’t escape those circumstances unscathed. Sometimes some things are beyond your control. For me, I was so young when everything started happening, I really couldn’t comprehend what was going on. I had fresh eyes to the world and was just beginning to discover life itself when it became a nightmare.
I feel that stealing someone’s innocence is akin to committing murder. The abuser kills the person the victim could have been. I can’t say that it wasn’t hard growing up homeless either. I was fighting so hard to make it to the other side of pain from my abuse, and becoming homeless brought up so much humiliation. My abuse was behind closed doors, but my homelessness was in the light of day free of any walls. I had to face people. Both family and strangers looked the other way when I needed help to stay alive. I had to adapt and mature rapidly. Early on, I made the choice to not let what was happening to me define me, I chose to look outside my situation and observe the characteristics I believed were ideal, i.e. kindness, understanding, empathy, compassion, and love, among many others, and I rooted them deep within myself.
It is those characteristics that helped in a huge way to get me through not only the abuse but also becoming homeless after my parents’ divorce. I survived by knowing who I am inside, my faith, the love I share for my brother, my mother, my pets and all breathing creation around me. I held onto hope, the wanderlust for a world I had not yet seen or experienced but believed with all my heart existed somewhere out there. There is so much I can speak of on both aspects and nothing I wouldn’t do to help those who have been or are going through the same not to feel alone or ostracized. The most important thing I would like to tell others out there is, never ever give up! You may feel so hopeless that you think you’re never going to feel whole, that you’re never going to be “normal,” but it does get better, and I know it’s a cliche to say that things take time, but they really do. I never cared for that saying because I felt like I had already lost so much time. I’ve now found that it’s something that just resonates in your spirit and becomes so clear at some point. Everyone goes through difficult periods in life. The key is to find yourself, your balance, and to hold on to it. Always remember you are perfect just the way you are. Inside and out. No one else is you and no one can ever take that from you.
Where have you shown since being in Los Angeles, and how long have you been here?
I moved to Los Angeles in the end of 2013. So I have been here a little over 5 years. Since being here I have had the privilege to show in four Street Art Fairs, live paint at a vegan event, display at Fathom Gallery, and was hand selected by Six Summit Gallery to show in Art Heart Fashion’s Los Angeles Fashion Week for three seasons
You’ve mentioned before that Matisse, Van Gogh, Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy are inspirations. Can you give me some more details about how their work influences your own work?
Their work inspires me, but I wouldn’t say that they influence my own work in any way, because all of my pieces come from within myself and they aren’t ever pre-conceived visions. I discovered a few of Kandinsky’s works randomly one day in a coffee table book in Kansas just before I left. Prior to that, I had never been exposed to art and I had no knowledge whatsoever of art history. When I started showing my work, I began getting many comments from various people that my paintings resembled Henry Matisse. While I was grateful to hear such a compliment, I’m sure an expression was on my face like I had no idea what they were talking about. I didn’t know who he was and had never seen any of his art. Being so embarrassed motivated me to research him a little bit and then a very good friend of mine gifted me a membership to LACMA where I was really able to learn in depth about Van Gogh and Matisse.
One day, while at LACMA, I stumbled upon Moholy-Nagy’s plexiglass sculpture installation exhibit entitled “Future Present” and I was taken away. Nagy had faced many challenges in his lifetime, in many of which I’m sure he experienced darkness. Here there were these sculptures that illuminated light in a way that really captivated me. I’m excited just talking about it! I feel the same way about Van Gogh, Kandinsky, and Matisse. Although my work isn’t influenced by them, I am inspired by these artists because, through their whole careers, they were able to stay true to their vision simply by being themselves. The people we can know by their name and a little piece of their soul they placed on canvas.
If you were no longer a painter, what would you be doing?
That would never happen, that would be like asking what I’d do if I could no longer breathe. I’d cease to exist.
You once hid inside a large box and painted behind some sort of veil. Can you describe that experience and what inspired it?
I was invited to live paint at Burgers and Budz vegan edition. The thought of having everyone staring at me made me so nervous. When I paint I usually like to be alone so I don’t feel inhibited. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to go through with it. I sat down brainstorming how I could possibly do it without actually being stared at, or feel it, while painting, and how I could still make it entertaining. I had a glass table top I planned on painting on and somehow thought of shadow puppets and wondered how I could merge the two. Amazingly, I found the exact pieces of wood, fabric, a light and mini fan to make it work! I had a wonderful time inside my makeshift box. Inside the box, I had a little fan, a light, water, paint, and a few paint brushes, and that’s all I needed. I lost track of how long I was in there, honestly. I was able to hear people’s raw reaction as they were watching as if I was a fly on the wall. I think everyone wants to hear what people are saying when they are engaged in your art and this gave me that opportunity. In the future, this will remain my live painting signature.
You always seem to have a smile on your face. What’s your emotional state these days?
Thank you, I strive for everyone around me to feel comfortable and hope to always be a shoulder to lean on. I hope my smile tells those around me that I greet them with open arms and without a single judgement. I believe it is human nature to experience a wide array of emotions daily, although I try to pick one and stick with that haha. I guess that’s all I can say about my “emotional state” I’ve never thought of myself as emotional but rather an empathic person and thoughtful. As for what I am currently working on.. I just finished new paintings for Six Summit Gallery in Art Heart Fashion’s LAFW show that was March 21st-24th and am working on new paintings and poems as my days go along.
What are you working on?
I am currently working on new paintings and getting ready for the upcoming Art Heart Fashion’s LAFW show thanks to Six Summit Gallery.