Click on the image below to check out my thesis paper...
Opening May 1st, 5-7pm
METAXU: an MFA thesis exhibition
The University of Maryland MFA Thesis Exhibition showcases the artwork of graduating students from the Department of Art. Included in this year’s exhibition is the work of two degree candidates who present the culmination of their three years of creative research.
The Greek word METAXU is translated as the preposition between and was used by Plato to refer to the dynamic exchange of abstract ideas and the material world. Modern and contemporary philosophers have developed this word into a theory of intermediaries. Both Lauren Frances Evans and Lauren Shea Little adopt this philosophy as a way to consider ideas of embodiment and the relationships of interlocking betweens.
Little's current work is based on a process of recording by way of performance. Still engaged in the language of painting, these images are a continuation of Little’s investigation into self-portraiture as pre-linguistic autobiography. Her current area of research is how material embodied practices influence self-formation.
Evans’ work addresses the body as a site of irresistible paradox. Prompted by urges and the allure of origins, her work is primarily sculptural, ranging from meticulously layered collage to large mixed media structures. Inverting the boundaries between what is and what is not, the work draws attention to the void of longing.
thisismetaxu.tumblr.com | laurenfrancesevans.com | laurenshealittle.com
May 1 through May 23, 2014
Opening Reception: May 1, 5-7pm
The Art Gallery
1202 Art-Sociology Building
University of Maryland
College Park, MD, 20742
Gallery Hours: Monday - Friday: 11 AM to 4 PM
Contact: The Art Gallery: firstname.lastname@example.org | 301-405-2763
This week a nice little write-up was posted on Parallel Planets about my work. Nicole Lane, who wrote the article sent me these questions in prep for the piece. Answering them proved to be a really enlightening exercise for me. Since they weren't posted along with the article, I figured I ought to post them here, if only to not forget - where I've been, where I am, and perhaps where I'm headed. As I've been working on my thesis, I've been asking myself a lot of grand existential questions - and here I try to articulate some of these thoughts...
1. How do you work? Do you have your own studio space at home?
I’m really lucky to have a beautiful spacious (and free!) studio right now since I’m in grad school. It’s a luxury, really. I’m getting ready to graduate this spring, so that’s all about to change. I can already feel my work shifting a little bit – as if it’s trying to prepare me for this loss in some way. Recently I’ve been really absorbed in these tiny and labor-intensive collages. I try to have a number of projects going at once, but there’s usually always one that occupies most of my time/studio/headspace. It’s always changing. I have a tendency to start projects on impulse, spend a lot of energy on them, and then abandon them once I find something I’m more excited about. There are a lot of abandoned sculptures in my studio. But often I revisit them. I feel strongly that an artist shouldn’t force something into existence – the work itself needs some freedom in its own becoming.
2. I read in some articles that you were originally a business major! Did you ever practice any art before you entered college? What was the process of deciding on art?
I was totally enamored with art in high school. I was invigorated by the creative freedom it provided and would spend all my spare time working on projects. But I had absolutely no clue what it meant to be a professional artist. When I started thinking about college, I didn’t even consider majoring in art. It was just something I did for fun. Once, as a freshman, I went to a visual arts club meeting, which was held in the sculpture studio… I completely fell in love with the cavernous mess of a space! I knew I had to take a class. Once I did, I was hooked. The more I learned about the wider discourse of art/art history/theory, the deeper the urge grew to be a part of it. By that time, I was pretty deep into my business studies, so I chose to double-major. I was quite conflicted about art as a profession because it didn’t seem to have a useful place in the utopian theories of anarcho-capitalism, by which I was quite smitten at the time. I still don’t quite know where it fits, but I know it’s critical to humanity. Unlike business, art is irrational, and I’m okay with that.
3. How has your practice changed over time, especially since graduating from undergrad?
It’s changed a lot. In undergrad I was making huge interactive installations and I couldn’t imagine making anything else. When I got to grad school, though, I had the time and space to work on multiple things at once. I was encouraged by my professors to try lots of things, to take risks and not be afraid to fail miserably. I once made a sculpture that (seemingly out of nowhere) combusted and caused a fire in my studio. That was mildly traumatic, but ultimately a good thing for my practice. I was afraid to work with a lot of the materials I had previously been working with (particularly the oil-based polyurethane) so I started toying with collage. Thanks to that shift, I was able to work out some ideas more quickly. I started to pay closer attention my impulses, which has since revealed a lot to me about my work, the world around me, and my on-going role as an artist.
In other ways, it hasn’t changed much at all. I find myself working in certain ways over and over again, without even intending it. Like, I have this tendency to wrap things in a circular motion, be it cardboard, little magazine clippings, tracks of hair, whatever. I tend to work repetitiously and in layers. I fill things with other things – from pouring plaster into my belly button to stuffing animal intestines with insulation. Examining these patterns leads to research, often of a philosophical nature, which helps me to gain insight into ideas I didn’t even know I had.
4. What are your goals when going into a piece?
I typically don’t go into a piece with many expectations. The impulse to make a certain thing is often rooted in a material interest or curiosity. I tend to get fixated on a certain material and then try to exhaust its array of possibilities – which often involves combining it with other materials of interest. Other times I’ll start with a form in mind, but have no clue what it should be made out of. Ultimately, my goal is that the finished work will have a certain familiar ambiguity – though my work is non-representational, it’s often evocative of a variety of conflicting associations. My hope is that the viewer can sense this tension, even if he/she can’t articulate it.
5. Can you expand on your use of the word “ontology” in your artist statement and its relation to your work as a whole?
That’s kind of a lofty word, isn’t it? Ontology is basically just the study/philosophy of origins and existence. It begs the questions “why is there something rather than nothing?” and “what does it mean to bring something into existence?” I think about these things a lot. Ontology is such a big part of being an artist. As one who creates, the artist is constantly bringing new objects, images, and ideas into existence. I like to think about this in terms of the overlapping of creature as creator and the creator as a god. Much of the content of my work is also concerned with origins, both physically and metaphysically. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about holes and the concept of the “omphalos” (greek for navel). Physically, there’s the belly button, this curious depression which marks our physical link to the past as well as our individual existence apart from it. Then there’s also this broader notion of the “navel of the world” or “axis mundi” which refers to various symbolic “centers” believed to join heaven and earth. Ultimately I’m interested in looking at the body as a microcosm for this wider scope of thinking – the body as a temple, so you could say.
6. Where do you collect your materials?
You’d be surprised what all you can find on Amazon. I get my animal innards from a company called “The Sausage Maker, Inc.” – the intestines are packaged and sold primarily as natural sausage casings. I spend a good amount of time in thrift stores digging around for wigs and I get hair extensions and eyelashes from various beauty supply stores. My mom saves up her fashion magazines and mails them to me every few months, so I’ve always got plenty collage material. And my husband (who is also an artist) currently works in retail so he’s my go-to guy for cardboard boxes whenever I need them.
7. What do you do to stay inspired?
I read a lot. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit that right now I have 50 books on loan from the library. Lately I’ve been really into metaphysics and existential theology. I stumbled upon a book called The Meaning of the Creative Act by Nicholas Berdyaev in a used bookstore a year or so ago and it has radically affected how I think about my work (and my vocation) as an artist. I try to stay open to providential occurrences such as that. I also try to look for parallels – because they are everywhere. Kids really inspire me too - I can’t get enough of their candid curiosity (and their cuteness)!
I have recently been doing some research into the discussion of whether or not Adam (the first man) had a navel. Apparently it is been a hot topic for debate in certain Christian circles for quite some time.
I came across this article called Pre, Post, and Mid-Umbilicism: Adressing the Question of Adam's Navel. I can't tell if it's a satire or not... but it's quite amusing either way.
Philip Gosse in his book Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot, suggests that a divine creator could have created Adam with a navel, just as he could have created the fossils and other geological indicators of age. He muses...
“What means this curious depression in the centre of the abdomen, and the corrugated knob which occupies the cavity?”
When I start to think about how to structure the paper, I feel like maybe all this info I’m trying to compile and synthesize is better suited for a book. Or a series of essays. Like, I could elaborate on these ideas for years and years (and I hope to do so). So how do I package it all for this context? Am I trying to do too much? It’s a big can of worms I’m opening with all this content, so I feel like I’m going to need to explain myself quite thoroughly. The work makes sense without all the deep research, at least on a surface level, but I really want to try to integrate all the philosophical influences/associations as well - perhaps less so as a defense of particular works in my thesis show, but more so as a defense of making, in general. Why make? Why do I make? It’s something deeply personal and psychological, but it’s also deeply human and spiritual - ontological, at its core. I’ve been thinking lately that I need to start with that. Ontology. Being. What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to simply BE? To be human implies a quest for knowledge - we are homo SAPIENS after all. But to know what? In our depths there is a question mark - our souls yearn to know. In our depths there is a void of longing. Making is revelatory - it is a means to knowledge. Self-knowledge as well as knowledge of the world around us. My work is particularly so because it is an odd mix of compulsion and reflection. I allow myself, in the studio, to be propelled by impulse. I choose materials based on how they make me feel - in the most basic and visceral way - as well as form. The associations come later upon reflection. Artists don’t bestow upon a work its content. The content is what is found, inherent in the work, what is revealed (to artist and/or viewer) once it is made. The materials are simply the medium through which this content is carried. Artistic media has a magical way to convey that which words cannot express. My work is expressionistic in this manner. The work I make doesn’t start in my mind - its impetus is of a more guttural nature. My actions in the studio are simply an extension of urges and impulses that have driven me since childhood. Boogers and scabs and hairballs, etc. have always intrigued me in this way words cannot express. An odd obsession with orifices of all kinds has haunted me for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been a picker, squeezer, squirter, scratcher, peeler, you name it. Naturally, these instincts have followed me into the studio and their relation to some aspect of my inner person, my inner unconscious. So then there’s this aspect of consciousness - a becoming conscious of the unconscious drives or subconscious desires - which takes us back to the earlier point about knowledge. It is in this becoming conscious where the significance lies - this revealed “moreness” is what keeps me coming back for more. Reflection on these urges and inclinations reveals so much more. A thing made reflects its maker - this is inevitable. As a Christian, I believe it when scripture says that we are made in the image of God. Thus I too believe that the artist makes his/her work in his/her own image. This may not be by means of physical representation (though often this happens too) but it means that everything I make reflects some aspect of my being. If this is so, how could I leave an explanation of my work at sheer impulse? Impulses must originate somewhere, right? Even if I can’t uncover their roots, I can’t help but dig a little and hope to find some source of it all. So there’s this psychological component - or perhaps I should say, psychoanalytical. I can dissect my decisions and thought patterns in hopes of finding some explanation for it all, but with psychological analysis, I always seem to hit a wall. I prefer to believe that there are forces more powerful than the mind, thus psychology’s attempts to explain everything away in this manner feels rather narrow. Take Freud, for example - the father of psychoanalysis. Upon viewing my work, it is quite natural to assign Freudian readings, to see all the holes as sexual holes or to attribute impulses to sexual desires. I’m not opposed to a reading of this kind, but this reading alone is much too narrow. What is there to discover if Freud has all the answers? He and his followers provide interesting insights, but they shouldn’t have the last word. I for one do not agree that everything boils down to sex. Desire, perhaps, but not simply sex. Ever since I began making work, viewers have cited the sexual nature of my creations, from “womb-like” installations to humorous collages of fingers poking into holes. Of course I am eager to acknowledge these associations, but from the start, I have refused to assign such a narrow reading of the work. I have stressed, and will continue to stress, what I believe to be a PREsexual fascination with holes (holes of the body as well as holes in general). The metaphorical associations are so much richer. Like Sartre so adamantly asserts, “the cult of the hole is anterior to that of the anus… it is initially pre-sexual: in other words, that it contains sexuality in the undifferentiated state that extends beyond it.” It is in this vein of reasoning that I find the critical concept that all things physical point to the metaphysical. Man functions as a microcosm, continually shimmering of the beyond. Man is matter, but he is unlike all matter in that he has a desire to know.
An unfilled space. An interval. A gap is an area between two points, which often refer to place. In Dane Winkler's performative event The great Divide; Halfway up Mt. Frederica, the artist traverses the gap between 'here' and 'there' and it is through his actions alone that the great divide is bridged.
Jowita Wyszomirska's Purple Line drawings evoke vessels and conduits through which a gap might be traversed. The series' title refers to public transportation - an imagined rail-line that perhaps could take us someplace we've never been. Or at least may facilitate getting to a certain 'there' which is currently out of reach.
In Lauren Shea Little's interactive sound installation, Ventral Stereophonic, the gap is filled by the viewer. Not so much about the 'here' and 'there' but still very much about place (the 'here and now'). The bodily recordings flank (and envelop) the viewer, with a magnetic 'here-ness' that begs to be occupied.
Steve Williams' varied ways of working find their thread in the relation of the 'this' and 'that'. Opposites find their oddly appropriate mates in his poetic juxtapositions of the 'this here' and the 'that there.' The works selected for this exhibition delve into the gap between what is and what is not. Positive and negative shapes are at times explicit (as in the cause and effect relationship of his sculpture, Moult), and at times implied (as in the residue of a scooped out melon). But the richest moments occur when the two alternatives are simply indistinguishable (as in Melon Balled), in the gap between what we see and what we think we see, between what we know and what, quite simply, is.
I'm so intrigued by this book, and I haven't even started to read it. The full ebook is on google books (linked below). This concept is related to a particular piece I've been thinking about making for the past few months... basically, an enlarged casting of my own navel.
OMPHALOS: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot by Phillip Henry Gosse
Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot is a book by Philip Gosse, written in 1857 (two years before Darwin's On the Origin of Species), in which he argues that thefossil record is not evidence of evolution, but rather that it is an act of creation inevitably made so that the world would appear to be older than it is. The reasoning parallels the reasoning that Gosse chose to explain why Adam (who would have had no mother) had a navel: Though Adam would have had no need of a navel, God gave him one anyway to give him the appearance of having a human ancestry. Thus, the name of the book, Omphalos, which means 'navel' in Greek.
Here are two more short videos I've put together. They are better when they loop automatically. See the other two, which are similar, a few posts down.
Here are some installation shots of some of my most recent work. I set up a clean gallery (empty studio) space with work in attempts to avoid the distraction of clutter in my studio. This was technically my last real faculty review before my thesis next semester. Eek! Luckily it went well. I got some helpful feedback as well as encouragement to move forward with gusto. I need to tighten up some ideas (as well as techniques), avoid ornament, and think more deliberately about some display alternatives. Thesis, here I come!
Here are some of the completed animations from my Drawing 2 class. We watched William Kentridge's Anything is Possible in preparation for this project. It's a really beautiful film, and if you haven't seen it, you really ought to!
My drawing 2 students are working on an animation project, so in prep I put together this gif of photos - just to make sure it's as easy as it seems. Sure enough! http://imgflip.com/ makes it super simple...
I've recently been working on some digital prints... scanning in collages, and printing them at a larger scale. There has been a huge learning curve for me working in photoshop, but I'm starting to get more comfortable with it. After doing so much zooming in (to edit), I've come to think these close crops are even more interesting than the collages themselves. I imagine something like this being printed at quite a large scale (at least 3-4 feet wide).
I'm not exactly sure what the finished product will look like, but I've started tossing some ideas around that involve found footage of sunday school songs centered around various spatial metaphors. There's a lot to talk about here, but I'm still trying to figure out what exactly I'm trying to say. Here's what I've got so far... "Deep and Wide" and "Full Up My Cup"
I'm in the process of planning a serious casting project - and these photos are helping me tremendously figure out HOW this might possibly work. A fiberglass mother mold - why didn't I think of that?!
She keeps coming up - and I'm conflicted by this. Some work I love and some of it I can't stand. Perhaps it's a good thing. I should probably read up on her... if only we could get past all that feminism.
This work is from the current Carnegie International - images sourced from Contemporary Art Daily.
Just a few tweaks here and there....
Skin is a barrier denoting interior from exterior (subject from object), yet it’s full of its own physical intricacies, hollows and bumps that muddle those very distinctions. Just as the material of our bodies is made up of many layers, so too are the flesh's various associations. As flesh becomes a tangible metaphor, a subtle surreality manifests.
I am motivated by an existential understanding of holes, which is rooted in an ontological (and thus pre-sexual) desire to fill voids. Inverting the boundaries between what is and what is not, my work draws attention to the void of longing. The sculptural process of casting finds its significance here: the body simultaneously functions as mold and molded, container and contained, while shifts in scale work to further this ambiguity.
My approaches are varied. Ranging from crisp and elegant magazine clippings to playful assemblages of chewing gum and hot glue drippings, the work addresses the body as a site of irresistible paradox. Both the beauty store and the butcher serve up my materials of choice. In their joining, imitation intermingles with the all too real.
The result is an odd tension of visceral compulsion and grotesque desire in which the seemingly familiar is wed with the infinitely unknowable. The physical finds its parallel in the spiritual, whereby the body functions as a microcosm, continually giving glimpses into the beyond.
"Go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow , for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something."