Interview With Billi London-Gray

Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what kind of work you make?
I'm really interested in revisionist narratives – about my own life, from memories within my family, and throughout human history and mythology. My work, which includes installation, digital video, photography, sound art and poetry, explores the ways our stories change and offers alternatives to stereotypes. My practice consists of research, studio production and field production. 

Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
I'm inspired by discovery. I like to think of myself as a polymath in training, eager to learn about everything. I'm just a curious person, and I'm driven by questions. I consume a lot of media – news, academic articles, books, blogs, magazines, videos, films, albums, social media – and I take photos and notes throughout the day. All these sources fuel an internal dialog that breathes life into my work.

Let Me In Let Me Out Acrylic yarn, chain-link fence, cotton flannel and digital video projection with sound 80 x 48 x 2 in.

Let Me In Let Me Out
Acrylic yarn, chain-link fence, cotton flannel and digital video projection with sound
80 x 48 x 2 in.

What is your most important artist tool? Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?
My cat, a gray tabby named Chuck Norris. She interrupts me throughout the day, plays with my materials, and naps at my feet. Her presence reminds me to enrich my life and my practice. Art thrives in the pleasures of making, researching, thinking, and beauty. I can lose sight of that when I'm stressed by details. My cat, on the other hand, is a total hedonist, and I really appreciate her reminders to calm down and enjoy my work.

What types of obstacles have you run into in your artistic practice and how do you go about navigating around them?
Personally, my biggest obstacles are clinical depression and anxiety. When I am down, I can quickly descend from minor frustration to a point where I lament, "Why on earth am I an artist? I'm a fool for thinking I can do this!" I have dealt with these conditions since college, at first on my own and later with the help of doctors, professional counselors, medication and cognitive therapy. I work best when I am mentally healthy, optimistic and looking forward, but I need help to be that way. I seek feedback from trusted friends, who remind me that making art is the role I chose in society because it fulfills me as I make my contributions. 

What do you feel are the recurring themes in your visual work?  
In exploring revisionist narratives, I revisit themes involving inequality and disparate truths. I have repeatedly addressed gender inequality, gender roles, bias in the historical record, contemporary racism, and cultural hegemony. I am critical of any system of apologetics that presupposes, "We're right, and we've always been right."

Is there a particular artist you feel you relate to? Who are your role models (artists or non-artists)?
I often refer, mentally, to the work of Barbara Kruger. Her work is confrontational and verbal, which are not always qualities I seek to emulate, but I admire how she uses art to make powerful political statements without taking the posture of a bully. As for role models, I take cues from my parents, my grandparents, my partner, and friends I love and respect. 

What is the best piece of artistic advice you’ve been given?
Keep going.