Lauren Schwartz: Hi! Thanks so much for having me! That’s a hard question; I suppose you could say I focus on acrylic, since I tend to focus on painting and only use acrylic colors. However, I wouldn’t consider it a ‘focus’ each semester… I simply work, and sometimes I produce paintings; other times, I draw, make books, collect, curate, arrange…
PUAM Student Advisory Board: I noticed a lot of collages in your studio space. Where do you usually find your inspirations? Fashion magazines? Newspapers? Is there a common theme you’ve kept in mind when you put things together? You also said you love shiny things – do you center your work around certain colors?
Lauren Schwartz: Haha! Yes, I do love shiny things. Metallic leafing is so magical and delicate! …I use color liberally and with no real agenda. Inspiration (generally) comes from current events, food, history, anachronisms, and fashion. Recently, I’ve been turning to ephemera and newspapers, postcards and letters; things personal, disposable, and associated with communication and travel. Related to this is an interest in the written word; typography and print design, language (I’m majoring in German), and handwriting. There is a small book of cards in the studio that I’m always trying to convince people to sign because nobody pays any attention to how special, varied, and unique your handwriting is.
PUAM Student Advisory Board: I love that you pay attention to so many of the little details! The concept of “handwriting” and design seem very apparent on your walls. I noticed a lot of paintings of bodies and body parts – especially hands. When you’re painting certain figures, do you use yourself most of the time, or base the figures off any particular people? I especially love your creation with you and your grandmother. Here’s the picture…
even your outfits are similar!
Lauren Schwartz: I don’t ‘use’ myself most of the time; I usually try to understand someone by painting them. People are fascinating because you can paint a character, distilling personality or style. Depending on how you render or who you render, it (in part) tells a different story than just looking at the whole. I suppose that’s what they call artistic license. And the viewer always seems to come up with a different conclusion or emotional response, depending on the finished canvas. It’s always really amazing to hear what other people get from a finished product.
I had a conversation with a Visual Arts faculty member several months ago when she saw the canvas I was working on; she commended the feminist statement I was making (I didn’t realize I was making one) and encouraged me to consider a narrative in my own past… which is how I started working on the diptych of my great-grandmother. I used myself as a stand-in to understand (in part) a woman I had never met, whose grainy photo had hung in a dark stairway for as long as I can remember, yet who in a literal sense, is part of me. In that case, it was necessary to ‘use’ myself (the image of my body and my purse, shoes, and clothes in this case) as a base of exploration.
Hands are difficult to draw and paint. In all respects, I’m still practicing.
It’s also funny you mention the outfits. Maybe I’m stating something about my own sartorial tendencies?
PUAM Student Advisory Board: Speaking of your sartorial tendencies, can you tell me what your opinions are on fashion as a sort of self-expression or identification? I noticed a lot of fabrics and use of clothing in your pieces. Also, you said you’re working on creating a dress. What kind of dress are you making?
Lauren Schwartz: Another difficult question! Fashion definitely has the tremendous potential to be one of the most primary non-verbal forms of self-expression, but we’re often limited by what is available to us; what’s in season, in the shops, in your budget(!), not to mention the need/desire to go against trend or ‘fashion’ if we need to express ourselves in clothing. It’s something I’ve thought about and experimented with for a long time.
I’ve saved canvas from discarded paintings that I intend to turn into a piece of wearable art. I’ve been looking at patterns from the 1910s, since it seems to be an overlooked period in fashion history (consider how many flapper/Gatsby or new look/Mad Men trends have cropped up versus, say, an edwardian or golden age/Downton Abbey look you’ve seen in stores?). There are sartorial norms -especially for women- that have been rendered utterly obsolete and anachronistic, not just unfashionable. In a sense, you can only encounter those looks in a period drama, a Gustav Klimt or John Singer Sargent or Philip de Laszlo painting (all of which I am fascinated by).But the article I’m attempting to construct is a woman’s sidesaddle riding habit -right now just the skirt.
PUAM Student Advisory Board: Good luck with your pieces! Maybe we can take a look at them when you’re done? Thanks so much for doing this interview with us and for showing us your studio space!
Lauren Schwartz: Thank you!
* To see more of Lauren’s work, visit http://www.facebook.com/PUAMSAB