Maiden Resident Artist: Lucy Bilaver
"I admire anyone who fights people’s perceptions and becomes something bigger."
In this interview, I spoke with Ravenswood resident Lucy Bilaver, our former Maiden Resident Artist, whose intergalactic resin designs lit up the Maiden display…
Collin: Tell me about how you made it to Chicago.
Lucy: I was actually born in Ravenswood! But I kind of grew up in Cleveland and spent my twenties in North Carolina, so I’ve been moving around a lot—big chunks of my life at a time. And each city I go to is a new experience, a new life. I feel like Madonna. I reinvent myself often. About a year ago—year and a half now—I just felt homesick. Chicago always felt like my final destination, I knew I would always end up here. And I was like, I’m done, I just want to go home. I didn't want to move around anymore. So I came back to Chicago. I have family here—my dad’s here, my brothers are here, my mom and my grandparents come out from Arizona. It’s just home to me. I actually live in the same block across the street from the house that I was born in. We own the building down the street, so it was just easy for me to move back into the neighborhood. I wanted to get back to my roots.
C: How did you start making art? What inspired you?
L: Like most people, I think art starts when you’re young. You just kinda know. I was in high school and I started painting in acrylics. And then I studied Art Education in college—I wanted to be an art teacher. I remember my art teacher in high school being so influential in my life. She would let me skip other classes and hang out in her room. I was just that type of kid who would hang out in the corners like, “oh, she’s painting again.” I didn’t finish college, I was working a lot, and I found a different career path in restaurants—but that’s a different story. I painted a lot of animals. I loved the concept of endangered animals, and it was very therapeutic for me to be able to paint animals that I felt for. Then I started to get into pin-up models too because I love that fashion trend and that whole classic style. Then I started blending pin-up models with endangered animals. For a while there I was getting too hard on myself. I would get really far into a painting, almost done to other people, but I would be like, no this isn’t what I was going for, let’s start over. And I would start a new painting, and a new one, and a new one, and a new one… That was the cycle, that was the painter’s block. It was constantly hitting a wall and feeling like, this isn’t what I’m supposed to do—like most people in their twenties! I don’t know what happened, but I was online and I saw resin paintings and how easy it was. I get that it’s a trendy thing to do because it’s fluid art, but I started doing it and was just so excited. I love the colors, I love the way they blend. I love that you don’t expect what comes out at the end, which is satisfying, rather than hitting a point and saying, “I can’t finish. I’m a failure.” Being able to finish a painting in one session and say, “this is beautiful,” was such a confidence boost and it trickled into other parts of my life. It was such a snap—this is it, this is perfect, this is the medium I need to be working in. It’s for me and other people like it. It’s a win, win, win situation. I covered almost every painting I had in my studio—I had 22 or 23 unfinished paintings, and I went one-by-one covering them in resin making them new paintings. Those paintings all sold, which was awesome. I wasn’t trying to sell them until I was trying to move to Chicago. I put them up online and to my friends and I sold out of everything. It means a lot to me too because those were covered paintings.
C: It’s almost like a little Easter egg—you get to put a piece of yourself into that and have it be this beautiful thing for someone else too.
L: Right! If I ever die in the future and someone x-rays my paintings, they’ll find a pin-up model with a tiger head. I see the universe behind you, and I’m a big believer in the laws of attraction and things coming together the way their supposed to be. And the moment I decided to use that medium, the moment I decided to move to Chicago, every single doubt, every single problem I ever had fell away. It was just like, click, click, click, click… Everything started to come together. The transition was smooth—I got a job as soon as I got here, I got an even better job soon after that. It was just like, oh, this is what it feels like to put the right puzzle piece in. When I was speaking at the F.I.E.R.C.E. event—that was a lot of fun, it was so cool—it kind of rolled out that my art is not about feeling perfect, it’s about winging it and watching it come together.
C: I’m not entirely familiar with the medium of resin, but it seems like you have to let it do its thing and see what happens.
L: I’m starting to control it more, so I’m going into more of a galactic direction. Now I can control it more, and that feels good too. I tell people who are like, “will you do one for me?” I’m like, “we can do one together.” It’s fun and it’s something you can add a personal touch to. I’m not an artist who claims they are ridiculously talented. I’m doing it, it’s fun, and I love it.
C: Is there a particular person or an artist that you follow or something in your world right now that’s really inspiring you?
L: I find inspiration everywhere, but if I had to be cheesy and pick one—I’ve always been influenced by Michael Jackson. And I think it’s because he always fought people’s perceptions, constantly. I admire anyone who fights people’s perceptions and becomes something bigger. I like that Oprah got fired, too! When I read that I was just like, that’s awesome. She got fired from the news because she was too emotional! I was like, that’s amazing—she’s a billionaire now! And there are so many other people like that too, who are hitting their prime later in life. I’m 31 now, and when I was in my twenties I was like, what am I going to do? I failed school, and I’m not going to be a teacher and this isn’t going to work and I’m a server and am I going to be a server for the rest of my life, you know? All of that is bombarding, it’s so depressing for so many people. I think once I grew up a little, hit my thirties, everything lined up. I get inspired by everyone that I meet who feels that way.
C: Growing up in Ravenswood you’ve probably seen so many different versions of this community and this neighborhood. Do you think that growing up here has influenced your art in any way?
L: Absolutely. I went to college at Kent State University in Ohio. Being an actual resident of Chicago, I always felt like I was in a different world. You go into a smaller city and you start talking to them and it’s like, oh! You’re real! No matter what their opinions are, it’s fascinating. I think being in Chicago, being in Ravenswood, it was all very influential because it was always home, no matter where I was. I was in Cleveland for so long, I was in North Carolina for so long, I would always come back to Chicago and it was my recharge vacation. I would go back home, remember who I was, and then being able to go back to wherever I was living and influence my daily life and my artistic life that way. Wherever I was, I was like, I want to go back to Chicago, I want to go home. After a certain point, that inspiration burns out because you get submerged into a culture wherever you are, you adapt to that, you assimilate. And every time I felt myself assimilating, I was like, no this isn’t home.
C: Is there anything about the process of using resin that you find particularly interesting?
L: The best ones turn out on panelboards. Panelboards are a firm surface that have a little texture so that they can hold the resin. Resin is a two-part chemical bonding. Once you mix them together they turn into this beautiful clear plastic. A lot of people use it for crafts. You can use it for a lot of different things. I’ve made tabletops and things like that. I know someone who does flooring as well. There’s a lot of options. For my paintings, I like to use acrylic ink. It flows very smoothly. I don’t use any fluid art mediums, it’s just the ink and the resin. I like it because the ink sinks into different levels depending on how thick the resin is. When the ink sinks under you can see different layers. It catches the light differently through the clear resin, bouncing off the inks. I use pearlescent inks as well because I love glitter. I love the way it looks. They add more dimension, especially for the intergalactic pieces—they add more stars.
Ravenswood born artist, Lucy Bilaver, expresses fluid thought and freedom of movement in her abstract resin designs. An oil painter by training, she studied art education at Kent State University, traveling for several years before coming back home to Chicago. Inspiration for her work comes from a deep interest and trust in the universe and the color palettes from everyday life. Appreciating the abstract in day to day life is a lesson learned from her studies painting from a realistic perspective. Through her work, she has a message to share to her viewers and fellow artists. “Obsession with perfection takes the beauty away from the ebb and flow of life.” Let go of perfection and get lost in the pearlescent colors flowing into itself like gases in a galaxy or water in the ocean. The resin and ink medium create a sleek glass-like finish, locking in a clean beautiful design. She has used this process on surfaces such as furniture, flooring, decor, and accessories and is available for custom work.
“I create pieces with thought, care, and gratitude and I hope to share those vibrations with everyone who appreciates them.”