Lauren Parent: Carefully Categorized Chaos

October 6th, 2011  |  by Published in featured, featured artists

As a new member of C3 I would like introduce an artist who is both new to me and new to the Pioneer Valley.  This past spring Lauren Parent and her husband Trevor Healy moved from the Bay Area to Easthampton.   They moved into a shared studio/shop space in the west-end basement of the Eastworks building, down the hall from my own studio.  Having been rumored by Eastworks management that the new artist made topographic models of ducks, I greatly anticipated her arrival.

I was delighted to experience Lauren’s work in person. She is capable of skillfully harnessing generally disregarded bits of matter into elegant and complex compositions. I am captivated each time I walk into her new space. Lauren’s drawings, prints and sculptures have a striking presence in the midst of her husband Trevor’s thoughtfully designed workshop. I look forward to the work that will continue to be made in this space.

What are you trying to communicate or explore with your work?

My work explores issues related to control at both ends of a broad spectrum. This manifests itself through a process that starts with investigating something out of my control and then designing a system or creating a structure of organization related to what I find. This may involve reconstructing something in a new way, creating a map, or counting and categorizing all the different parts. I started this work a few years ago after going loosing my Dad to cancer – a time when I had no power over a situation. This total lack of control was one of most powerful emotions I have experienced.

My work exists heavily in the realm of process and I have investigated the relationship of process vs. product for years. I studied textiles as an undergrad and my method of working still includes a lot of repetitive, meditative movement that you might associate with techniques like knitting or weaving. A final product is something that I have always desired, but also something that I question. This influences my selection of materials (drawings on tracing paper that deteriorate quickly, for example) and subject matter. I like to work with detritus that has been left behind, or is overlooked including rubber tubing, dust, plexi glass and foam core left over from other projects. Most recently, air bubbles have become a large focal point in my work because I like that they teeter on the edge of physical existence.

Where were you when you created one of your favorite works?

One late evening, I made a drawing in about 20 minutes. I was a graduate student and was feeling pretty overwhelmed by school at the time, and the piece I am thinking of just popped out. The drawing is a simple tracing of an image, but I dipped my hand charcoal as I worked on the piece. Every time I made a new line, the charcoal transferred onto the page and became incorporated into the composition. The piece was finished when I could not see the underlying image anymore – literally getting in the way of myself. I never work that quickly, or that freely, which was nice, but the work also accurately expresses my state of mind at that time. The ability to express that feeling was also a way to overcome it, so it was a small victory. I affectionately call this piece “Pig Pen.”

How do you see your art in relation to cultivating community and how does community affect the work you make?

My studio is in the Eastworks building, in Easthampton, and there are a bunch of artists and craftsman around at all times. Sometimes just knowing that someone else is working down the hall is perfect, other times we get together and dream up ideas about utilizing our communal space, talk about new projects, or just grab a beer. My practice is pretty solitary, so having other people around makes it less lonely. I also cannot think of anything more inspiring then visiting another artist in their studio. Ultimately, my community makes me want to spend time in the studio and I work harder because of it.

What is your spirit animal?

The momkey. An awesome first grader made this drawing. I have the good fortune to work around and with a lot of children’s artwork and this drawing is on my desk, next to an equally amazing drawing of some jellybeans – my spirit candy.



What places in Northampton and around are you most curious to see inside of, or to make work in?

I recently moved here from San Francisco and after living in a big cities for many years, I am really curious to see the inside of more swimming holes. Also, they don’t really have seasons in San Francisco, so I am looking forward to fall foliage this year.

What are some strategies you use to sustain your creative practice?

My husband builds guitars and is a musician, so having a partner who is also an artist is a huge influence on the sustainability of my practice. We spend most of our free time in the studio/shop that we share, and we have designed our life together to revolve around creative work. For us, being artists has involved making some tough financial decisions, but we have supported each other the whole way.

Other strategies that I use to sustain my creative practice include: changing the materials that I work with on a regular basis, surrounding myself with other creative people, letting myself (or at least trying to let myself) make bad art sometimes, and going to see shows, art and otherwise, on a regular basis. For me, it is also important to have a day job that I like and one that has meaning.  I work full time, so spending 40 hours a week doing something that I hate would be (and I know from experience) a huge creative block.

What 5 items do you always carry with you?

I am a total bag lady so in addition to the usual wallet, phone, and keys I have some loose change, dust bunnies, some old Ricola, several pens and at least 4 different types of chapstick/lip gloss on me at all times.

More of Lauren’s work can be seen on her website:

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