Sa Lawn Dreams
By Dave Jasmon
Published Issue 092, August 2021
Meet Kyle Singer, the artist behind Meow Wolf Denver’s multidimensional “Sa -Lawn” that features an alien fashion show.
“You walk in and it’s just, hopefully, an overstimulation of all the color … But quantum leap back into the conversation, something else just popped into my head …”
When Kyle Singer speaks, conversational quantum leaps seem to happen on the regular. The self-described “color slut” of Waffle Cone Club, Kyle is an interdisciplinary artist and the squiggly brain behind Sa Lawn, an installation at Meow Wolf Denver — opening fall 2021 — that he sums up as “a multidimensional pamper paradise inspired by Memphis Revival Group.”
“I want to say everything and explore the ways a conversation becomes a branch and each branch becomes a branch and each thought becomes a subthought and then it just becomes this web,” he explains.
For Kyle’s colorful contribution to the upcoming Denver installation, his web was made in the form of a hair salon. It features big, blocky shapes and colors, an undulating waffle bench, and plenty of “human cultural references.” Stirred by fond memories of sitting in his mother’s salon chair, Kyle’s Sa Lawn art space is a mixture of loud serenity and nostalgia for Vaporwave via artist Patrick Nagel’s Duran Duran posters.
One of the space’s focal points is a vintage beehive hair dryer complete with a screen inside. Visitors can stick their head in and watch an alien fashion show featuring a blend of animation and performance movements. Then there’s the salon vanity, whose mirror projects otherworldly hairdos and fashion over participants’ faces like some sort of multiversal Instagram filter. The designs for selecting your ultimate alien look are based on characters Kyle created, with names like Power Wig, Rain Brain and Aqua Orb.
“I started with the question of: ‘What would a multidimensional being think humans like, from the outside perspective?’… and then threw in a bit of nostalgia. My mom was a hair stylist and hair cutter and beautician, and even when she got done working as an actual stylist she would just cut friends’ hair in the kitchen. She’d always have people over, just chatting with hair on the floor.”
Kyle was born in Washington and raised in Illinois, where he met partner Marjorie Lair. Their paths collided at Eastern Illinois University, but serendipity ultimately led the pair to Colorado. Kyle has since received his master’s from Colorado State University and spent time adjunct teaching before landing in Denver.
“I did my best to help my students develop ideas and encourage them to be the biggest weirdos they could — and to inform them that art school is not about getting a grade, it’s about forming a practice that you will continue when there isn’t a grade, when there isn’t someone asking you to do it. I had plenty of students who would draw beautiful landscapes, but then they told me at the end of the semester they secretly draw anime, but they don’t show anyone. So I’m like, ‘If no one was here, and you were forced to do art. Are you going to draw a landscape for fun or are you going to draw anime?’ And they’re like, ‘Anime.’ I’m like, “Well, then that’s where your art should go.’”
As a result of encounters like these, an ethical disconnect formed between Kyle’s beliefs in the fluidity of art and an art school pipeline that felt rigid in its lessons, resulted in debt, and rewarded students with a degree that felt useless in helping to eliminate that debt. Of course, turning away from teaching meant diving headfirst into the hustle of the gig economy, which Kyle currently supports through a day job at the Denver Art Museum.
“The funniest thing was not a single thing came from me getting my master’s in fine art,” he explains. “I got some ‘Best in Art’ awards and all these things. I did every extracurricular. I helped to make beehive sculptures to increase bee populations. I helped curate a show … and none of that got me where I am. What got me where I am was meeting Annie [Phillips, former Meow Wolf-er and founder of IRL Art, an ever growing database of living, working, experiential artists], and then Annie giving us a bunch of other gigs and kicking our name up to Meow Wolf. All the skills I learned to make the project that I’m making — all the CNC (Computer Numerical Control) knowledge — that was one class. That was just one semester, one class to learn that.”
There are multiple times throughout our conversation when Kyle makes sure to emphasize the significance of Scott Kreider on the CNC cuts and fabrication for Sa Lawn, and Annie Phillips and IRL Art on his career.
“It really does come down to just knowing the right person,” Kyle says — “and we got lucky right there. Life was favorable to us.”
He credits meeting Annie at the Sonic Bloom Festival with subsequent gigs doing murals, live paintings, and creating an “Angler Fish of Lost Souls” for Colorado Burning Man: Apogaea. There was also a 10-foot “cat dragon” for a Meow Wolf sponsored event with Far Out Factory, a sensory escape and music festival, because in our shared dimension … of course there was. Annie even suggested that Kyle submit a proposal for Meow Wolf Denver, and so he did, and so now he’s doing it. A branch becomes a branch.
And now we find ourselves back at the beginning … a quantum leap, as it were.
‘What would a multidimensional being think humans like, from the outside perspective?’ Kyle asks himself. His answer: ‘Well, they would think humans like lawns,’ because it’s the highest crop with no yield,” Kyle states matter-of-factly. “And people like being pampered, and people like color and lights and all these strange objects. I’m going to be filling it [Sa Lawn] with a bunch of thrift store knick-knacks that are decked up and painted — things that maybe they (multidimensional beings) would find interesting. And then kind of mash it up with a Pee-wee’s Playhouse sort of vibe. I always loved that loudness and the wackiness of the ’80s/early ’90s.”
It may be a tangled, maximalist web — the kind of thing you won’t see taught at art school — but it’s exactly the kind of art that gets made when a multidimensional color slut follows their waffle-textured heart.
“If you’ve ever been to a festival and talked to the artists there, the people going out of their way, hauling easels and canvases and extension cords and blankets and paint water and boxes of every tool out into the middle of a field — two miles from their car — just to set up and paint in front of a show … that’s more love of art than I’ve seen from a lot of people getting A’s in classes. All you gotta do is just do art.”
See both Sa Lawn and Marjorie Lair’s Psychic Shop when Meow Wolf Denver opens in fall 2021.
To receive further updates on Meow Wolf Denver, sign up at https://meowwolf.com/visit/denver.
THIS FEATURE WAS PRODUCED IN PARTNERSHIP WITH MEOW WOLF.
Denver-based independent photographer Kennedy Cottrell graduated from the University of Arkansas school of Journalism and Strategic Media with a degree in Journalism (copywriting) with focuses in Advertising and Public Relations. She is a photographer for 303 Magazine, Do303, and Ultra 5280 and Meow Wolf Denver, is on the media team for ESPN X Games each summer and winter, and also shoots various events and concerts around Colorado. She’s photographed for Taylor Swift, Paramore, Billie Eilish, Vans Warped Tour, and many more. See more of her work on her site and on Instagram.
Kate Russell is a photographer and artist. Her only salaried job was when she worked for a circus, and then Meow Wolf happened. Growing up in a town of 2000, with only 2 paved roads, she prefers not to eat vegetables that start with the letter A, can be compensated with fresh raspberries, and loves a good handstand. She tried to re-name herself Ace at age 6, though it didn’t stick. At one time, she was among the top 20 best female mogul skiers in the country, was a professional furniture maker, ran a marathon, without training for it, in under 4 hours, has jumped out of planes and off bridges, successfully, and can offer a good shoe shine, when needed. Follow her on Instagram.