Moments that look as if they come from the childhood of each of us are depicted by the American painter Lisa Golightly. She draws inspiration from found photographs, whose stories she doesn't know, simplifying them into these intimately familiar scenes. In addition to childhood games, the paintings feature favorite sports such as swimming and bathing, boating, cycling, tennis, and golf. Her acrylic figurative paintings play with the memory of photographic media and engage each viewer in finding their own stories within them.
She initiated her artistic career as a photographer, and it is also in photography that her current work begins. Lisa Golightly doesn't capture images by pressing the shutter button; instead, she searches through old houses, flea markets, and online auctions. It is in these places that she discovers decades-old photos. She neither knows the authors nor the stories behind these frozen moments. Anonymity is crucial for her, allowing the artist to continue working with the image. "All the pictures are found, so they can come from anywhere and are not specific to a certain time or place. Some photos simply attract me more than others," described the painter's process of finding her inspirations.
In Lisa Golightly's paintings, everyone can find their own nostalgic memories of childhood
She subsequently adjusts and transforms photographs without known stories, context, time, or place, combining them with images from her own memory. The missing information becomes a space for her imagination and artistic input. "I need enough distance from the source material to play with it and twist it a little more than I would with my own personal photos," she explains. The resulting artwork transcends the boundary between personal and anonymous, creating a space where each viewer can find a part of their own memories.
Lisa Golightly's paintings significantly differ from the photographs she draws inspiration from. To modify them, she initially uses digital tools, which strip away details, plays with exposure, and manipulates colors, often shifting them into pastel, seemingly overexposed tones. This approach directs the viewer's attention to the main subject, avoiding focus on the background or details, while enhancing the overall atmosphere of the scene. "I try to see if the absence of details in the paintings allows them to resonate with greater clarity and depth," the painter explained.
Lisa Golightly works with acrylic and high-gloss enamel, applying them with bold brushstrokes, often letting the paint drip across the canvas. Her distinctive painting style draws inspiration from impressionism, pointillism, and artists such as Fairfield Porter and Lois Dodd.
Sport is one of the universal memories for the painter
A significant portion of Lisa Golightly's work aims to capture the universal experience of childhood memories and generally nostalgic reflections on the past. Her paintings depict nostalgic scenes of childhood games, summer relaxation at the beach or by the lake, as well as winter outings into nature. They also portray various sporting activities, whether recreational such as swimming, cycling, walking, or skiing in a snow-covered mountain landscape, or sometimes transporting the viewer to a stadium, tennis court, or racetrack. For Lisa Golightly, sports are a part of life, a pleasurable moment shared by most people, and one to which we gladly return.
A central theme in the painter's work is memory and how it influences, changes, or perhaps even transforms photographs. "My paintings capture attempts to freeze a moment. While my work often evokes a sense of quiet and calm, memory is in constant motion, changing, evolving, or fading. Therefore, I explore this unstable and easily alterable medium on which we rely so heavily," she described her motivation. People tend to consider photography as something definitive, capable of preserving the truth, yet at the moment of its creation, the author shapes their own perspective on the situation through the choice of perspective, context, and expression.
The same photograph can have different meanings for different people. Moreover, if we lose the story behind the original photograph over time, the image itself becomes much less significant than what we imagine behind it. This applies both to the painter's perspective, who incorporates her experiences into the processing of the photograph into a painting and to the viewer who looks at the painting in the context of their own memories. By selecting images devoid of their original context and transforming them into paintings, Lisa Golightly challenges the notion that photography brings a single universal truth.
Lisa Golightly is an artist based in Portland, Oregon. Despite her father being a painter, she began her career as a photographer. She earned a BFA in Studio Art from the University of Arizona in Tucson, but during her studies, she gradually shifted her focus to painting. "As straightforward as it may sound, I fell in love with the brush, colors, the intimate experience of painting, and creating my own world," she recalls. Throughout her career, she has had numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Tayloe Piggott Gallery in Jackson, Billis Williams Gallery in Los Angeles, Linda Hodges Gallery in Seattle, and the Kingston Gallery in New York. Her work has been reviewed in magazines such as Paper Magazine, Luxe Interior and Designs, The Huffington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. She has created a promotional campaign for International Women's Day in London and is the visual stylist for the musician Alec Lytle.