FROM THE IAP BLOG: LAUREN FENSTERSTOCK’S BLACK GARDENS

Lauren Fensterstock combines art historical references from French Baroque garden design theories to Minimalism and Land Art in her dense installations of handmade paper flowers, charcoal and plexiglass. Her meticulously built monochromatic gardens appear minimal from afar, but a closer look reveals a Victorian feminine attention to detail.

Fensterstock presented her most current body of work – spanning about the last seven years and including the work – during a gallery conversation on Sunday, August 3, 2014.

IAP Director Martina Caruso recently interviewed her to recap her three months exhibition at Independent Art Projects (June 26 – September 21, 2014).

 

Martina Caruso: You said your most recent body work started when you bought your first house in Portland, Maine. The house has a tiny back yard in which you started growing a garden, that quickly became an obsession. What inspired you most in the developing of your actual garden, and your work of art?

Lauren Fensterstock: For a first time gardener, I was amazed by how many opinions I already had about gardens, nature and the aesthetics of nature. I realized that none of these ideas actually came from my experience with nature, but were all formed through culture; for example nature as depicted in art or nature as a backdrop in movies and literature. I started asking questions about my relationship to nature, and as always, the best way for me to contemplate a topic is through the studio.

 

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MC: Can you explain to us what brought you to work with paper, and specifically the quilling technique?

LF: I have a background in jewelry, so the highly detailed ornamentation of quilling is a natural fit with my training. But working in paper is a much healthier and quicker process than working in metal. Jewelry is a highly specialized field, but anyone can cut paper with scissors. I love the fact that although the work appears complicated there is something utterly basic about its construction. Any viewer can see my work and immediately understand how it was made. I think that allows for a strong contrast between illusion and artifice.

 

MC: What do you think is the most important message communicated through your artwork?

LF: In some ways, I think my work is about getting away from central messages or narratives. A personal perspective is the result of thousands of years of overlapping activities. It is the result of trade, economies, languages, wars, stories, and so many other things. We often want to wrap things up into a single understanding and put it under a neat label, but the world is messier and more complicated than that. I try to blend together contradictory views to give a truer sense of the ways varying perspectives overlap and influence each other.

 

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MC: The installations we had on view at IAP were perfect, neat, minimal boxes, from outside; but when you look at them closer you discover a messy dark crafted inside. Can you tell us a little bit more on those pieces?

LF: The cubes bring together a few different references. On the outside I was thinking about minimalist sculptors like Tony Smith whose work often takes shape as black cubic forms. The minimalists were interested in creating objects that were rooted in their literal material form and veered away from the pictoral and illusionistic. You can best understand their meaning when you consider them as a reaction to earlier forms. In my cubes, their literal simplicity butts up against an interior that is illusionistic, decorative, pictoral and highly feminine. My hope is that the contrasting inside and outside can still work together seamlessly; allowing us to move away from a singular ideology without having to make unnecessarily limiting choices.

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MC: How is your working process in terms of time, assistance, and labor?

LF: I work all of the time! I am in the studio every day from early in the morning until late at night. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Right now I am alone in the studio, but I will sometimes hire assistants for a few hours a week if I have a big project.

 

MC: I found the reflections aspect of most of your work really intriguing. Do you plan those small pond, mirror scenes, as an actual pond reflection in which the visitors see themselves?

LF: The reflections are a central element of the work. The entire black series started with my research into a kind of black mirror called “Claude Glasses.” The ponds are both a reference to nature and to that mirror. Other references pop up, notably including Robert Smithson’s mirror works. The mirrors offer a view into an illusionary world, and project your own image into that landscape.

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MC: Can I ask you how you support yourself? I am sure there will be young artists who would love to hear few tips.

LF: Working as an artist can be tough! There are definitely periods of feast and famine. I have been lucky to have Sienna Patti Contemporary as a gallery for over ten years. Their tireless support has created a lot of opportunity for me through sales, commissions and museum projects. Finding an advocate who understands your work, is willing to dedicate themselves to your vision, and will do all the other work while you are in the studio is truly a gift. My advice to young artists is: relationship building is essential. Be appreciative of any teachers, curators, or collectors who support you and they will keep on being your advocate.

 

MC: What are you working on right now? Any exciting new projects on your schedule?

LF: I’m getting ready to show my work at Pulse Art Fair in Miami this December with Sienna Patti Contemporary. I’m really excited for that opportunity!

Otherwise, I am working on a related but new body of work focused on the history of caves. I’m exploring natural caves, decorative garden grottos, as well as the cave in philosophy, literature, and art. I’m working in a lot of new materials so it has been fun to experiment. I am looking forward to debuting it soon!

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Lauren Fensterstock is an artist, writer, and curator based in Portland, Maine. Lauren’s work is held in private and public collections in the US, Europe, and Asia. Her work was the subject of a major solo exhibition at The John Michael Kohler Art Center in 2013. Other recent exhibitions include Austin Contemporary (TX), The Bowdoin College Museum of Art  (ME), the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design (CA), the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art (OR), The DUMBO Art Center (NY), The Dorsky Gallery (NY) and the Oliver Sears Gallery (Ireland).

Lauren Fensterstock is represented by Sienna Patti Contemporary.

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