Red Lodge Clay Center – Short-Term Resident 2011
Lauren Mayer is a ceramic sculptor, who lives and works in Colorado. Lauren received her BFA in ceramics from Michigan State University and a post-baccalaureate degree from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth. She received her MFA in ceramics from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2009. She uses mold making, hand building, slip-dipping, and burnouts to investigate the physical manifestation of memory, trace, and loss. Through slip-cast pieces of furniture associated with modes of storage or display and accumulated objects, like unopened letters, Lauren’s work also addresses notions of what divides a public space from a private one. She teaches at Metropolitan State College of Denver teaching Ceramics and Foundations. Currently, she is enjoying a residency at Anderson Ranch Arts Center after which she will be a resident at Red Lodge Clay Center in Montana.
I am drawn to the human tendency to physically and psychologically accumulate objects. I believe memory attaches itself to objects, especially to objects that exist within and around a personal living space like a bedroom or living room. The reasons for such a simple act as saving are extremely complex. This action of saving has the ability to disinter the more tender portions of the self and one’s history. An object, be it a letter or a piece of furniture, possesses the capacity to act as a proxy for things beyond itself and its seemingly simple material existence. They can subtly disclose elusive, but poignant aspects of someone’s internal life of the places they have called home, perhaps whom they have loved, and what they have left behind out of necessity or sheer abandonment. I want to gently reverse the roles of what is public and private and to reveal a person’s will to hide and desire to be found out through his or her saved objects. I am drawn to the metaphorical nature of these things of the traces of life they carry and the simultaneously objective and subjective memory that can be found in the contents of a bureau’s drawers or literally written or scraped on its surface. They exist beyond metaphor.
I want the presence of one thing to show the absence of another and to be understood by the element of trace. For me, trace emphasizes the presence of an absent thing. This “absent thing” cannot be rendered into physical form itself, but is made tangible through a residue or displacement of another substance, like foot steps in the snow or finger prints in dust. A trace acts as a subtle sign- it is fragile and delicate and often unseen because of its quiet presence. It is a stand in for an actual thing or past action. A trace is evidence of something that is past tense, but is suddenly brought into the present by something peripheral. It is akin to memory and memory attaches itself to objects.
The source objects I choose to use, like a chest of drawers or envelopes, possess their own metaphorical significance and hidden narrative through trace. The processes I employ in making help purvey this minute detail. Much of my work is slip cast, made from plaster molds from old pieces of furniture or involves dipping objects in slip and burning them out. Both casting and dipping serves a duplicitous role. Plaster is capable of capturing the smallest of details that can bring the artifice of reality, while dipping objects in slip entombs them. After the firing, the integrity of the original is preserved in its porcelain shell. However, all that is left is a hollow, fragile representation of the real thing. This reality captured in both processes makes the object recognizable and situates it within our everyday experience. We have a pre-existing relationship with them, but this relationship is obfuscated because the fabricated object is now separate from the real and is merely a transformed representation of the real. The object is one step removed from its original self.
Clay, as a material, innately lends itself to such a transformation, from a permanent thing, to a trace and back to a trace of an impermanent thing. I use clay for its elemental and these transformative properties. The raw whiteness of the porcelain in my work is an anonymous color, blank and unassuming. It holds a quiet, delicate beauty. The whiteness of porcelain adds another level of complexity to the element of trace as well. Blanched, the clothes are only a lonely vestige and their texture only hints at the color and life they once possessed. I want the work to seem both dead and alive as well as something that comes from our daily reality, but also is derivative of fiction. Seemingly drained of color, the texture and fluidity of the clothes and the scratches found on the pieces of furniture, provide a trace of life, a visual imprint of memory that is simultaneously dead and full of life, past and present.