Lisa McNeely - Renaissance Woman

Studio & House - Highland Park, Los Angeles

Lisa McNeely is authentic, raw, yet dreamlike, like an Eggleston photograph. Her studio is an organized mess of found treasures, which she navigates with a dance in her step while puffing the end of a neighbor’s joint. She is a bold and confident force - the kind of person who you suspect has been through a few lifetimes though her youthful energy is undeniable. Lisa is a multi-media artist and performer whose life is whimsical and real.

What brought you to LA and how did you find your way?
Mostly my siblings because they are here, and I knew I would have a strong support system. Also, I needed a bigger stage. I had been in Northern California for almost a decade. It’s a great, little community, but there are not many jobs paying artists to do anything.

How do you define yourself career wise?
I’m a Renaissance Woman. That’s a big factor playing against me being in Los Angeles - everybody wants to brand themselves. That’s a big part of getting paid and getting hired for shit out here, if it's known that you do this one thing really, really well. And, I’m just not like that. I do a lot of things very well, and it’s super important to me to keep up every part of my craft - all facets of it. I am not just a dancer. I am not just an actor. I don’t want to be just a fabricator. I don’t want to be just a puppeteer. I want to be Lisa Mother Fucking McNeely that does all of those things on a regular basis. That’s the thing.

Have you ever been called a hipster?
Not that I'm aware of, but I wouldn’t take it too offensively because... I am pretty hip, but I do believe at the same time, it has a lot of negative connotations in this time, in our generation it is defined as someone who is doing something that is cool because it’s been established that it’s cool. 

What does being a millennial mean to you?
Being jaded and disenfranchised. Alienated and lied to. Millennials represent a prime example of the ‘existential dilemma’. We millennials encompass - or rather, were forced to confront all of that.

How do you feel connected to your generation?
I feel mostly connected through technology and social media because we are the first wave of experimentation with it and sadly that's how most of us interact with each other. And therefore, I also feel disconnected from it because I love nature, being wild, and it’s really hard to live in a technological metropolis for me. I find it difficult. I don't want to look at my phone or computer all day. I am super lucky to have found the spot I live in; it's wild and full of nature. Not that - I don’t think that millennials are not into nature; we just may not have had that much exposure… this is hard because it is a generational thing, right? As a generation we are even represented through technology. Some have coined us as "The Oregon Trail Generation". We were the first ones to have computers in our schools and to play video games to help us learn. But, we also learned how to write in cursive and everything else for the most part was still analog. You still had to write. We weren’t allowed to use websites as references; you actually had to go look up a book. (Laughs) Do the whole bibliography thing. So, we are interesting that way. We still know what it’s like to do physical labor rather than receive total instant rewards of technological convenience. 

What do you love about living in Highland Park?
We are pretty much at that the base of Mount Washington right here. There’s a Self Realization Fellowship Center at the top of the mountain. Elysian Park is also really close. I have this beast, so it's nice that I’m able to walk him around without a leash. Nobody really cares except for people who fear for their little dogs. But, my beast Link is so much better off-leash and truly has no interest in other dogs, especially little yappy ones. They scare him. 

What are your favorite spots in Highland Park?
I don’t really go out much, due to limited funds. (Laughs) I do love Footsies, which I just recently learned is curated and ran by the same people who run Cha Chas, which is another place I really love. I like the aesthetic: beautiful, over-the-top, glamour women, drag queens, Mexican decor - darkly lit. Love that shit. 


How do you get around the city?
I have a car, but it is an ‘81 Honda Civic wagon. It has some issues. But, I do live right next to the Metro Station, so I take the Metro a lot. I love the train; it takes just about as long as it would take me in a car except I can read and do other things than drive, which is nice. Blessed be public transportation or else I don’t think I would ever read. I would like to ride a bike. I possess a bike, but I am also mildly terrified of riding my bike in this city. But, I know that would be a good mode of transportation for me. 

Do you see yourself staying in LA?
I am in LA, so yes I can see myself here in LA. For how long is a whole different question. There is much to do here, much to see, and I currently have time and patience to allow myself to grow in this place. I grow fond of it more everyday, and somedays I wonder what I’m doing here. 

What is your favorite thing in your closet?
My closet is full of all of these rad pieces that I never get to wear. Right now, I think my favorite is this Naval military fancy-suit-jacket. Though I don’t wear it very often because it could be viewed as offensive, and I just don’t feel like dealing with people most of the time. But, sometimes it’s good to wear it. 

What does a typical Sunday look like for you?
Sunday, I work at The Natural History Museum or The La Brea Tar Pits either puppeteering or hosting a Sabertooth Cat Ice Age Encounter show or a Dinosaur Encounter show featuring a Triceratops and/or a Tyrannosaurus Rex. After that, I usually come home and play as much music as I possibly can. That’s the thing that is motivating me right now. I shoddily play bass and guitar. My skills are pretty rudimentary and that’s okay because it’s just another vessel or tool to help me tell stories. And, I love to sing. Singing, singing, singing all day, everywhere. I’m really lucky my father is a musician. He can play any instrument he wants; he just picks it up. I do not possess that skill. But, with enough time and practice, I can play any instrument well and accompany myself. 

What are you working on right now?
I am working on a project for WIFE (Jasmine Albuquerque, Kristen Leahy, and Nina McNeely) Enter The Cave. I’ve built headdresses for them and am singing along with my two good friends, aka singing sisters, Blake Perlman and Danny Axley. Upcoming shows in August at Mack Sennett Studios.

What’s your favorite film?
I’m just going to say that for the day… Drop Dead Fred.

What’s your favorite album?
Again, for the day… Yellow Brick Road by the one-and-only Elton John.

Who would you invite to dinner living or dead?
Robin Williams. I’m really upset that he’s not around to meet or talk to. 

Where do you want to travel to?
Italy. But, I have no plans to go anytime soon, since I’m afraid I will never return!

What inspires you?
So many things. I like stories. Things that inspire a story or tell a story are the things that I find myself most compelled towards and also I find myself wanting to create.

What’s your astrology sign and does astrology play a part in your life?
Sure. Call me foo fooey if you will, I can sometimes be that way. I can be philosophical like that. Shit, that’s what I chose to study when I went to school. (Laughs) Like, if I’m going to sit through 4 years of academia, at least I am going to read stuff that interests me, which is the why and how. My sign is Virgo. The reason that I put some faith in astrology is because I believe that all planetary bodies definitely have some kind of gravitational pull. And, our bodies are mostly water, so it would be idiotic to think that they don’t have some kind of pull or sway over the way we function, be it daily or based on the day that you are born. (Laughs) But, yeah, I’m a Virgo. I’m very Virgo. I think my order in the birth canal has more influence over me than my sign, just having siblings is a big part of who you become, who I am becoming. For example the way one interacts with those sibling signs. And, I’m the middle child, to put things into perspective for you. 

What is your Myers-Briggs personality type?

What are your favorite qualities in a human?
Honesty and vulnerability. The best form of every human is one that is fully exposed. 

What is your idea of happiness?
An ecstatic state of no cares or worries - that beautiful moment when you’re not thinking about much.

What is your favorite color and flower?
Again, these are daily things. I would never ever have an all-time favorite of any of these things. Magenta. And, the passion flower. 

Who’s your favorite artist?
Death to these questions! Favorite artist? I’m going to say Michael Jackson.

Do you have a motto?
Laugh 'til you cry. Cry 'til you laugh. 

Is there anything else you want to say?
Sometimes life is scary. Sometimes life is hard. But, it’s ultimately about finding joy, and that joy in those things that will make us better human beings. Just be honest and feel it. No masks, no hiding - unless they are used creatively.

For further Lisa McNeely related discovery follow on Instagram @wisa_woo.
Check out WIFE.

This portrait is part of our ongoing collaboration with Millennial Instinct.

Photography: Camille Cotteverte