For the past fifteen years, Lia Halloran’s studio practice has been in dialogue with science and nature, often interweaving ideas about sexuality, intimacy, and physical movement to produce projects that discuss topics such as astrophysics, magnetism and gravity, perception and scale, giant crystal and ice caves, cabinets of curiosity, taxonomy and classification, the periodic table of elements, and interconnected relativity. Halloran grew up surfing and skateboarding in the Bay Area and developed a deep love of science while working at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, her first high school job.
In 2009, Halloran began working on a performance-based photographic series called Dark Skate using long-exposure photography to document trajectories of Halloran’s movements on a skateboard in urban architectural space at night. This series consists of site-specific two-dimensional images that are part photograph, part performance, and part self-portrait drawings, created by affixing a light to Halloran’s body as she moves through space. Dark Skate explores relationships generated between the body and space, expressing the universal and intimate qualities of each. Halloran has traversed a variety of unique urban terrain during the development of this series, exploring, skating, and photographing concrete riverbanks, dams, skateparks, underpasses, and abandoned architecture in Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, and most recently in Vienna, Austria.
Halloran began a new body of work is titled Your Body is a Space That Sees in 2015. This work consists of a series of large-scale cyanotypes that present the history and discoveries of a group of women known as “Pickering’s Harem,” or later as the “Harvard Computers.” Working at the Harvard Observatory from the late 1800s through the first half of the 20th century, the members of this group made significant strides in the field of astronomy through the use of photographic glass plates, establishing classification systems for the size, brightness, and chemical content of stars. The contributions of these women were highly impactful, yet they have been largely excluded from the common history of astronomy.
The works in Your Body is a Space That Sees offer the experience of a female-centric catalog of stellar objects in immersive cyan blue and visually illuminate the curiosity and richness of the night sky through depictions of craters, comets, galaxies, and nebula. Halloran's cyanotypes are created through a process of painting and printing, beginning with visual cues from the “Computers’” research. Translations of stellar objects are painted on semi-transparent film then placed on top of paper coated with light-sensitive emulsion—the film and paper are then exposed to direct sunlight. This process results in the production of two related works: a cyanotype print of the positive image in equal scale to its matching painted negative, both created without the use of a camera.
Halloran has participated in several interdisciplinary projects and collaborations including curating exhibitions, creating platforms for critical dialogue on contemporary art, and establishing connections between science and art—most notably coauthoring a book with the award-winning theoretical physicist Kip Thorne about the warped side of the universe. Her series Deep Sky Companion, which reinterprets the 18th century French comet hunter Charles Messier’s “Catalogue of Deep Sky Objects” in 110 paintings and their 110 photographic twins, is on permanent display at the Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, CA.
Lia Halloran was born 1977 in Chicago, IL and lives and works in Los Angeles. Halloran received a BFA from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1999 and an MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University in 2001. She is the recipient of various awards including a C.O.L.A Master Art Fellowship in 2020; 2018 LUX Art Institute Artist Residency and exhibition, Encinitas, CA; 2018 Artist Residency at the American Natural History Museum Astrophysics Department, New York, NY; 2018 Pioneer Works Artist in Residency, Brooklyn, NY; and a 2016 Art Works Grant from the National Endowment of the Arts for the project Your Body is a Space that Sees. Halloran’s work is held in the public collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Escalette Permanent Collection of Art, Chapman University, Orange, CA; Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi, TX; Speyer Family Collection, New York, NY; Progressive Art Collection, Cleveland, OH; Microsoft Art Collection, San Francisco, CA; Fidelity Investments Corporate Art Collection, Boston, MA; Simons Foundation, New York; among others. Solo exhibitions of Halloran’s work have been held at LAX Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, Los Angeles, CA; Exploratorium, San Francisco, CA; ArtCenter College of Design, Pasadena, CA; University of Maryland Art Gallery, College Park, MD; LUX Art Institute, Encinitas, CA; Cahill Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Caltech, Pasadena, CA (permanent installation); and the Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, OR; among others. Halloran has been profiled in publications including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, ArtNews, and New York Magazine.