A conversation with Alexandra Wallace


    Chris Lambert spoke with Alexandra Wallace about expired milk, the texture of pebbles, whether creativity should come from an organic place, the complication of compensation and a day in her life five years from now.

    I remind myself that it’s not worth it to “chase” someone, and that the best results always come from enthusiasm and kindness.

    Chris asked Alexandra what comes to mind when she meditates on these animals.

    Boredom. I immediately think of my childhood doctor’s office, which had a fishtank in the waiting room.

    Nothing. Rabbits are adorable, but if you look into their eyes, you will see a vast inner emptiness.

    Content. I’ve never seen an unhappy turtle; they just seem very set in their ways, and in their own bubble of existence.

    Fear. Remembering the scene in Grizzly Man when Herzog listens to the audio of Timothy Treadwell being mauled.

    Nostalgia. An odd mix of Frog and Toad stories from childhood, and of catching a frog on a humid evening in Louisiana three years ago.

    Joy. I love seeing elephants — the way they interact with each other and with humans.


    Chris Lambert

    For two years now, you have been running Coyote + Oak Magazine out of your own home, doing everything from coordinating the players and stories to laying out the actual pages. What misconceptions did you have going into this project, and what lessons did you learn along the way?

    Alexandra Wallace

    Looking at the big picture, and stepping away from the small stuff, I think I made some pretty big assumptions about how people would respond to being asked to work on a publication that is based solely on collaboration. I discovered from the get-go that many artists feel insulted by the insinuation of doing “free work”; that they feel taken advantage of, and that it undermines their craft when they do it without compensation. It took a few run-ins with this before I learned that it’s nothing personal against me, or the project. We’re shaped by our own experiences, and while I’ve personally credited my career successes to a lot of unpaid hours, it’s not the same story for everyone else. At this point, I’ve started to really practice patience; I remind myself that it’s not worth it to “chase” someone, and that the best results always come from enthusiasm and kindness.


    How do you define a “creative”? What are the qualifications for someone to consider themselves a creative, and why do you think there is so much eye-rolling at the term?

    I think that the eye-rolling comes from the same place that the veganism eye-rolling does. A lot of people are getting a pat on the back for their “creativity” when it’s not coming from an organic place. It seems like we’re wading through a crowd of people putting things out into the world that are coming from a lot of different motives. I wish I had a more unique way to put it, but I don’t; true creativity and true art comes from the heart. And as much as I might find myself being critical of others, I know that I can’t truly be a judge of someone else’s work and whether it’s “valid” or not. I can feel just as much creativity when I drizzle sauce on a dinner plate as I do when I finish a day of shooting photos for eight hours — and I have also put out work that I know I didn’t put even close to 100% into. Regardless of the result, it’s all about where the root of it is coming from.


    As a photographer yourself, why do you prefer to feature other photographers’ works in your magazine but not your own?

    It feels weirdly self-serving to me, and I find myself trying to explain that concept often, often without much success. This is maybe the best way to put it: I created this magazine as a tangible source of publishing work that didn’t have anywhere to go. I’ve had so many opportunities to have my photography work featured, and continue to. But at this point, I don’t need this vehicle for my own work; I’d much rather get to work with other photographers — whom I would otherwise have no opportunity to — and see how they interpret a subject and their story.


    Please list several things that can reliably be found in your refrigerator (and tell us a sentence or two about each one).

    f Apricot LaCroix. This is a current favorite flavor. It is so subtle and goes with everything.

    f Sesame oil. I’ve been getting really into cooking ramen dishes lately, and sesame oil is essential.

    f Expired 1% milk. It’s always at least half-empty, but I really put off emptying the remains down the sink. I have a distinct memory of watching my mom clean out my grandparents’ fridge when I was about thirteen, and seeing how it had transformed from a liquid into a congealed, lumpy mess. I never let things get that bad, but the mental imagery definitely stuck with me.

    Each side is getting so abrasive to the other that it’s exhausting everyone. American history is built on overcoming obstacles of every kind, and I don’t believe we’re at the end of that tradition yet.


    It’s very difficult to get two people with two different sets of experiences to agree on something divisive. What is the proper pronunciation of the LaCroix beverage?



    With the increasingly hostile division between political parties, do you think that the proverbial genie can ever be put back in the bottle? Do you envision a time where conservatives and liberals can communicate civilly again?

    I absolutely do. Call me a nutty idealist, but I believe that we’re in a time where the pendulum is swinging so hard back and forth that eventually it will begin to slow down. I can see the process in moments, even at this time — each side is getting so abrasive to the other that it’s exhausting everyone. American history is built on overcoming obstacles of every kind, and I don’t believe we’re at the end of that tradition yet.


    I haven’t necessarily worked out my own beliefs when it comes to past lives, but throughout my childhood, I had an unusually strong connection to the sinking of the Titanic. Tell me where you think you may have been before you were born in this lifetime.

    A screenwriter in 1940’s Hollywood, using my small prestige to smuggle information to American allies.


    Please describe, in detail, a random day in your life, five years from now.

    I wake up in my own house; it’s small, but sunny. It’s my family’s day off. I have a glass of orange juice, with pulp, and take a shower. I walk out to the living room, and see my husband playing guitar as our toddler sits contentedly on the rug with our large, friendly (and slightly dopey) dog. We have hardwood floors, and it’s a great, squishy rug. We spend the morning at home, but decide to go out for bean and cheese burritos for lunch.

    After eating, we go for a drive, and throw the ball for the dog as the baby becomes fascinated with the texture of pebbles. We go home, and I make dinner while Graceland plays. We eat, and read a chapter of Brian Wilson’s autobiography to lull the little one to sleep, and then stay up for a couple more hours to watch the newest HBO true crime documentary. We both fall asleep on the couch, before eventually making our way to bed.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 170
    Curated by: Chris Lambert
    Conducted by: Google Hangout
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: April 17, 2018
    Total questions: 6 + 8
    Word count: 1200
    Reading time: Four minutes
    Imagery: 6


    Animals: 6
    Fear: Null
    Source: ∞
    Burrito: Accessed
    Communication: ∞


    About the subject

    Alexandra Wallace is a photographer, visual artist and the founder of Coyote + Oak. She resides in Orcutt, California.

    About the curator

    Chris Lambert is a singer-songwriter and recording engineer from Orcutt, CA. Since 2016, he has hosted a weekly podcast called Are We Okay? where he has conversations about creativity, positivity, and the meaning of life with a new artist every Tuesday.


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