Two bright red cherries hugging each other, a poster that reads “I am woman hear me snore,” these are just two of the lively, smile-inducing works that you might find in the studio of Libby Landauer, an artist, creative director, and most recent collaborator for the Two Chairs Art Program.
As a co-founder of Fruit Salad Club, a creative studio based in Portland, Libby collaborates up and down the West Coast on a wide range of projects focused on branding women and LGBTQ-owned small businesses. I was introduced to Libby via her work for High Five, a local, female-owned nail salon and immediately drawn to the freedom and lightness of her work.
As a small business owner, freelancer, and practicing artist, her work is multidisciplinary, involving a mix of painting, installation, movement and poetry. We were originally drawn to the meditative nature of Libby’s watercolor series, which we collaborated on for three colorways unique to Two Chairs. We sat down with Libby to #TalkTherapy, her creative process, and her own personal journey with mental health.
A Conversation with Libby Landauer, Artist and Creative Director
At Two Chairs, we think a lot about how physical space can influence mental states. As a creative director, how do you think about designing spaces and sets?
Designing spaces, sets, and installations is one of my favorite aspects of my work. It’s such a fun exercise to play with color, lighting, shapes, and negative space to create a specific effect. It’s quite similar to a painting I think, you want to lead the viewer through the space and guide their experience while allowing them to have delightful moments to discover the details and nuances. For the first iteration of Fruit Salad Club we wanted the space to feel cozy and friendly, a place you would want to stay, chat and make, so we incorporated lots of light colors, plants, and warm lighting. We also designed the space around a large table in the middle that served both as our desk space and as the workspace for anyone who came in for a meeting or workshop to create a truly collaborative environment. We’ve since moved to a private space as we’ve transitioned to a purely creative studio, though we’ve implemented some of the same design principles to make a bright and welcoming space for anyone who comes to play.
You recently helped open High Five’s permanent San Francisco location, can you tell us about that project and how that has played into your broader work?
One of my dearest friends Annie Stancliffe is the founder of High Five, a reimagined nail salon, opening its first brick and mortar location in San Francisco this month, and I’ve been a part of imagining and implementing the creative vision of the company since its inception. Annie and I have worked closely in creating the identity for High Five and it’s been such an exciting step to translate the brand into this physical space. I have designed retail spaces before; I’ve helped with retail activations for Adidas and Nike as well as designed the first public facing space and gallery for my creative studio Fruit Salad Club, but this is absolutely the largest physical undertaking for me to date which is pretty exciting. I find it really fulfilling to be able to use different media and color to impact the customer in a positive way. It’s actually quite similar to a painting I think, you want to lead the viewer through the space and guide their experience while allowing them to have delightful moments to discover the details and nuances. I can’t wait to share all the delightful moments we’ve cooked up in the space with San Francisco.
We’re so excited to have your pieces on the walls of our clinics. Can you tell us about the process of creating them? Where did you take inspiration from? What did you aim to communicate?
My meditation pieces came out of a desire to make art that felt soothing to make, in a time that was internally tumultuous. I picked a brush that brought me the most joy, and started creating patterns. Initially they were more confined to shapes and as they progressed broke free into their own forms. They started out just for me as a way of meditating but I hope they communicate that same sense of calm that I get to the viewer.
In describing your Meditation Series, you talk about a “meditative sense of release” and finding balance between control and spontaneity. Can you tell us more about that?
These pieces exist in a place that treads the line between control and flow. For me both the feeling of control and the feeling of flow are cathartic. With these pieces I have to deeply concentrate to make the stroke precise but there is no plan, so from one stroke to the next I can move freely on the paper. That particular type of concentration without critical thought allows me to achieve that meditative state.
What attracted you to Two Chairs mission and why were you excited about this collaboration?
As a person who has been to many therapists, part of the process that is most daunting is finding a therapist, making sure they take your insurance, and then going in to a, usually, weird brown office a few times, only to realize you aren’t a great match, and have to start the process over again! When you’re in a darker moment in your life these are real challenges, and sometimes can seem insurmountable. I think the model that Two Chairs employs to eliminate many of these challenges is brilliant and so needed. The brand and offices of Two Chairs is such a welcome change to the stale aesthetic that has dominated the therapy scene. I’m thankful to be a part of this positive transition in therapy spaces.
We hear a lot about “self-care” and “self-kindness” — what does that mean to you? How does mental health play into your life?
Tending to my mental health is a priority for me. I’ve struggled with mental illness my whole life and in the past the poor state of my mind have caused a mass derailments in my life, so I treat mental health very seriously and often. I find in most cases my mental wellness comes down to eliminating destructive patterns and replacing them with positive ones, so I’m constantly examining my habits and evaluating if they’re helping or hurting. There are destructive behaviors that I know come up again and again and the sooner I can spot them and switch gears to put into place behaviors that make a positive impact the better my mental health can be.
I imagine that patterns and habits must be hard to cultivate with so many different projects going on at once. How do you balance that with your current creative process? Where does your art fit in?
Depending where my mind is at I can access different aspects of my creative process. When my mind is foggy or I’m in a depressive period it is harder for me to make visual work and I am often more drawn to writing. Writing helps me release circular patterns of thinking, which can then unlock more nonlinear and creative thoughts.
How, if at all, has therapy (in the traditional sense) fit into your life?
I began therapy quite young and have been in and out of therapy most of my life. My most recent stint was the most helpful and changed my life radically. I currently do not go to a therapist but use the tools that therapist and I built together everyday to maintain my mental health. I’m happier and healthier now than I’ve ever been in my life and I owe much of that to my last therapist.
(In the non-traditional sense) I’ve learned for me that exercise is a cornerstone of my mental health. Getting that daily dose of endorphins is a great way for me to create dependable clarity. I’ve practiced yoga for many years and love how it gets me calm and moving simultaneously. I also try to dance everyday and truly nothing brings me more joy and release than wiggling.
When you think about the state of mental health, what do you hope to see in the future?
I think we are moving towards a space where mental health isn’t as stigmatized and more and more people are willing to be vulnerable and accept help. This is huge and I am excited to see that trend continue.
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