Artwork by Lexi Perkins

Lexi Perkins: Behind the Arts Artist Profile

This article originally appeared in Volume I, Issue II of StoryBoard Memphis Quarterly in March 2022.

Eeyore is Faceless Wearing a Fried Egg Necklace

She wore an electric turquoise blazer with piping red cuffs, and a set of matching, turquoise-colored pumps. On the toe of each shoe was a pair of lashed and sassy cartoon eyes. The quietest thing she wore was a sparkly gray bodycon dress. She was the techni-colored dreamscape that adorned the two-story studio called Meaty Graffiti

In February 2022, I attended Lexi Perkins’s solo show at the Meaty Graffiti studio. She caught my eye amongst some strong competition: a sea of men in sharp suits including an Elvis wedding suit, ladies in stilettos and mink scarves, the occasional child in a onesie playing a solo game of volleyball with a colorful balloon. 

I’d never seen or heard of Lexi Perkins’s work until Elisha Gold, metal sculptor and friend of Lexi, urged me to go to her exhibit with a cryptic promise to be “weirded out but awed.” PreauXX—Memphis based rapper and friend of the artist—described Lexi’s work as “in the moment,” “purposely sporadic,” and “raw.”

I agree that her art is of the time. Most of the work displayed was created during the 2020 lockdowns and last year’s snowstorm. Post-COVID contemporary art is emerging as a recognizable period of art, characterized by often re-purposed or crafty mediums and dystopic, plague-like themes. Lexi is a leading artist in this front, using studio trash to create her work; and she is not blind to the despondence that her work evokes.

Among other things, her trash includes pill bottles, empty paint tubes, broken toys, lace, orange juice bottles, plastic bags, fake nails, false eyelashes, wire, and tape. Lexi juxtaposes  the feminine with the grotesque, self-assured with insecure, intriguing with confusing, plastic with plushy.

Because of the advanced grade-school creative process and the bright macabre themes, I would describe Lexi’s work as nostalgic, post-apocalyptic surrealism. 

Interview with Lexi Perkins

I had the chance to interview her after the exhibit. My first question was the name of a piece that transported me from the Meaty Graffiti basement to a tempera-stained wooden table under white fluorescent lights, dodging the secret toothpick cannons of the boys in my class the day that our 2nd grade art class tried scratch art for the first time. 

Lexi: I made dozens of those drawings over the course of a few days last summer. I just called them Soapy Web drawings.  

LeKe’la: Can you tell me the process of creating this piece, and the tools you used?

Lexi: I first spray paint a technicolor gradient on plexiglass. Then when that’s dry, I use chilled dish soap to quickly draw the lines. Immediately after, I cover everything in black spray paint. I let that dry for about a minute and then I use a hose to wash off all the soap, leaving behind crisp bright lines. It’s sort of an inverse of the rainbow scratch art that we did as kids.

There were multiple odd-limbed candy-colored monsters, but a certain double-headed ostrich was my favorite – and Lexi’s as well. The sculpture, titled “And how do we feel about that?” was displayed inside a sort of cage on top of a table. Inside of the little cage, there were easter eggs strewn about as if the strange bird had recently hatched them. It surely matched the opposing head’s shocked expressions. 

LeKe’la: Did this sculpture come about from an idea, or did you sort of piece things together until it was done?

Lexi: Sort of both: all my work feels very intuitive, and most things I piece together until it feels done. I rarely have a plan when I start out. For example, I didn’t know it was going to have 2 heads until I was about 70% done and thought, “This needs another head.” 

LeKe’la: What did you use to make this? 

Lexi: Cardboard tubes (recycled from the inside of rolls of canvas and paper), plaster, air dry clay, paint, fake fingernails, fake eyelashes, easter eggs, fake fur someone donated to me from an old costume.

LeKe’la: The piece that I was most confused (or amused?) by was the plushy Eeyore whose face appeared to have been shot off. Despite his urgent condition, he was wearing a fried egg necklace. I think this plush sculpture epitomizes the way that Lexi’s art style distorts child’s play and symbols in grotesque ways. This plush sculpture is titled “ope, it me.”

LeKe’la: Can you tell me about the pivotal creative benchmarks of creating Eeyore? 

Lexi: My process is very akin to children playing make-believe in a messy room. There is never a plan, so the piece usually reveals itself to me over time. I start by assembling an armature using larger materials like the plastic bottles and grocery bags, then I move on to creating the face and hands (if it has them).  After the base “sketch” is in place, I continue by altering the surface by adding things like paint, more clay, plastic, paper, cellophane, plaster; there’s not really a logic behind this process. It’s very much based in feeling, intuition, and experimentation, trial and error; I make a move, then ask myself if I like it or not. If I do, great. Keep going. If I don’t, great. Take it off or do what you can to make it work. It feels like a conversation between me and the material. The material seems to have more to say than I do sometimes.

With the headless Eeyore, this feels especially true. I found him at a local thrift store years ago and he sat in my studio in an unaltered state until one day I was working on a different sculpture and I needed some polyfill (the white stuffing inside of plushies). So, being the resourceful destroyer I am, I cut the head open and took the filling out. I loved the way the head was totally deflated and unrecognizable, and so I just left it. I’ve always really related to Eeyore. I’ve struggled with depression as long as I can remember, and sometimes feel like I just wanna scoop my brain out and get a new one. So I think the process of making it was kind of accidental.” 

LeKe’la: Why is Eeyore wearing the fried egg necklace? 

Lexi: I made the egg necklace about 2 years ago and it’s just been moving around my studio, so I decided to dress up Eeyore for the special occasion by adding some jewelry. Not sure why, but it just seemed to work. I experiment with placements of things until it feels right, kind of like decorating a room. Sometimes the sense of confusion in my work is felt by me too.

Lexi is unsure when her next show will be, but she guesses it will be in the spring. Be on the lookout for her and her bubbly nightmare work and visit her website for her apparel and prints. 

This article is part of the Behind the Arts Writers Workshop, made possible by an Arts Build Communities grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission and administered by ArtsMemphis.

LeKe’la Jones is a graduating senior at Christian Brothers University, majoring in Creative Writing. Her poems have been published in CBU’s literary magazine, Castings, and the Southern Literary Festival’s 2021 publication.

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