Frank Talks

Lyndsy Welgos – Artist and Founder of Topical Cream

Lyndsy Welgos - Artist and Founder of Topical Cream
Lyndsy Welgos - Artist and Founder of Topical Cream

Get ready for a great read! Lyndsy Welgos is a New York-based artist. She is best known for her portraits of female-identifying artists which have been published widely including Vanity Fair, Vogue, The New Yorker, and PIN-UP, among many others. Welgos is also the founder of Topical Cream, a nonprofit organization dedicated to women and gender non-conforming individuals in contemporary art. Lyndsy is awesome and we loved chatting with her – please enjoy this weekend’s Frank Talk read below!

What was your first job in the Arts? 

My first job in the arts was an internship at AFG (Art and Fashion Group), a photo agency run by Neville Wakefield and Shea Spence, which represented Roe Ethridge, Marylyn Minter and others. 

What was the most useful or important thing you learned at that job?

I learned a lot about the collision of the fashion industry and art photography. I’m not sure I’m allowed to say out loud all the things I learned at that internship. 

Tell us a little more about yourself. When did you realize you wanted to pursue a career in this industry?

I’m still not actually sure I want to pursue a career in the industry. I’m truly not a careerist in that regard, which has worked to my disadvantage for sure. Our goal at Topical Cream is to support the work of others, and that’s what I live to do. 

What do you do now? 

I’m the Founder and Director of Topical Cream. Topical Cream is a New York-based non-profit, supporting the work of women and gender non-conforming individuals in contemporary art through public programming and digital publishing. I’m also a photographer who’s mostly known for my portraits of female-identifying artists. 

Where are you from? 

I’m from Montgomery, Alabama and Jackson, Mississippi.  

What is the arts community like there? 

The South is known more for its literature and music traditions than for its legacy of contemporary art. However, I hope that changes, as the South, and southerners in general, are often the subject of art and creative fascination. One of Topical Cream’s long-term goals is to help develop more arts programming in the deep South, especially in Mississippi. 

Has where you come from shaped what you do in the arts today?

Yes, I think wanting a more inclusive and less patriarchal art world must have come from the pure exhaustion I felt from an early age. By the time I was a young adult and coming into the art world in 2013, I was already completely frustrated at the state of affairs. I just decided to take matters into my own hands and build what I didn’t see. 

What is the best piece of advice you can give about working in the art world?

The best piece of advice I can give is to keep a calm and cool demeanor. 

What is one of your greatest accomplishments in your career so far?

The greatest accomplishment is founding Topical Cream. I’m very proud of the work we do. We recently launched the inaugural Topical Cream Prize, which is a peer-selected prize of cash and recognition given to one artist and one activist from our community.  For 2020, Martine Gutierrez won in the artist category, and Viva Ruiz for Thank God for Abortion won in the activist category. The winners were selected by an amazing advisory board, which included Ebony L. Haynes, Dena Yago, Marcella Zimmermann, Julia Kim, Yulu Serao, Christopher Udemezue, Ryan Jefferies, Lena Henke, and myself. 

What is one of the weirdest things you have had to do on the job in your career?
One of the weirdest things that happened to me, early in my career, was that my skirt flew up in Dolly Parton’s face and I flashed her my whole front side as I was helping her out of her car on the way to a shoot. I was so embarrassed, but when we got in the elevator, we had a little laugh and she said, “Don’t worry bout it darling, at least you look pretty, and your dress is nice.”  

What defines a good employee? What defines a good boss?

I think a good employee is someone who believes in your mission as much as you and is there for the right reasons. 

What do you think makes a person hirable?

I like to hire people who already have a history of activism; someone who shows an interest in civil rights, and human rights, and feminist theory is going to be top of the list. I would take this over someone with downtown clout any day.  

What is your advice to making yourself stand out in your workplace? Any good tips for a giving a great interview? 

If you are knowledgeable about the topic at hand, you will be fine. I like someone who has an obvious sense of humor, which can come in handy during stressful situations. 

Is there any advice you would like to give people entering the art world?
Your good nature will always win out in the end.  

What is the best exhibition you have seen in the last year?

I’m a big fan of Vanessa Gully Santiago’s work. She recently opened her first solo show Young Professional at James Fuentes, which is fantastic. I’ve been around a long time and rarely do I see that kind of vulnerability put into a painting these days. Her work is like the strange love child of Frida Kahlo and Robert Longo.  

If you could own a work by 5 different artists, who would be in your collection?

Lena Henke, Juliana Huxtable, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Vanessa Gully Santiago, Theresa Chromati 

What is your go to snack in quarantine? And your go to soundtrack?

My three-year-old son Aeon is obsessed with David Bowie’s song “Loving the Alien,” so—regardless of whether or not I would like to hear that song fifty-times a day—that’s what we are listening to and singing, too. 

And finally, do you think the art world should be more transparent?

I guess that really depends on what you think the art world is.

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