For this edition of Fan Mail, Lauren Marsolier of Los Angeles, CA has been selected from our worthy reader submissions. Two artists are featured each month—the next one could be you! If you would like to be considered, please submit your website link to email@example.com with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line.
Seven years ago Lauren began her Transition series, compiled from photographs taken in the US, France, and Spain, though the images are none of those places exactly. She describes her phenomenological pursuit as first “being in a place we know but can’t quite identify” and then as having a gestalt change, that is, a shift in how the world is seen. Her images are formal, both serious and superficial, deep and void. They are pleasurable to view—maybe it’s something about the symmetry. But, her photographs seem to play a little trick on us. They look so real at first, too real, and so elegantly plain that we know that something is wrong.
Most recently, Lauren’s work was displayed at the Flash Forward Festival in Boston. Her work will be a part of “31 Women in Art Photography” at the Hasted Kraeutler Gallery in NY opening next month. Last year she had a solo show at Robert Berman Gallery in Los Angeles and paired up with Marc Fichou for a show at E6 Gallery in San Francisco.
How are these images titled?
All my titles are generic, just like the elements I choose to compose my images. I tend to combine basic elements. When I construct the image of a house I don’t intend to make a specific house with its own particular history. To me it is the idea of a house—the house as a universal type. Although all the parts of the photographs I use exist somewhere in the world, the new landscape they form only exists as an image. They loose their particularity to take on a more general meaning.
Do the images create transition in your life?
When I started this work, I was going through a radical and long period of transition in my life and I became interested in how transitions affect our consciousness, our perception of who we are and how we view the world. It is a fascinating subject to think about because we now (and more than ever) live in a world where we constantly need to adapt to change. Our fast evolving technologies require not only that we adapt to them, but they also greatly affect the way we live, the way we work and how we handle our relationships. These changes are not always smooth. They often cause a period of disorientation during which the perception of our reality is shifting. It is this psychological experience that I explore in my compositions.
You don’t provide an intricate world of sociality and signs, but rather a stripped-down image, like a parking garage in dirt-piled background with only sky beyond, on the edge of nothingness.
By being increasingly connected to mediated and virtual worlds, we tend to favor mental over body experience. There is great attraction to living in our heads. Bad memories can be put aside, truth can be rearranged, nothing is definite. In our heads, there is no linear timeline, no actual life: nothing gets old and rotten. A tweak of the imagination and we can escape to another reality. The mind can be a place of creativity and serenity, but it can also be a place of disconnection and loneliness, like my landscapes. I tend to erase unnecessary details from my images, like the mind filters out what it deems unimportant or inconvenient to build its own subjective view.
What is fabricated in your images, exactly?
All parts of my images are derived from real photographs that I digitally alter and seamlessly combine to create a new landscape. In other words, the parts are almost real (I say “almost” because they are often manipulated) and the whole is fabricated. My process feels a little bit like building a puzzle except I don’t know beforehand what the final appearance of the image will look like.
The borderline between a sense of reality and a sense of fabrication is essential in my series. I manipulate and combine photographs, but I do it in a way that raises doubts about the nature of my images. Digital manipulation when not obvious, can propel us outside of the frame and make us question the medium itself. The experience of transition is about shifting perception and redefining what is around us. And I feel that the uncertainty regarding my medium (real or simulated photographs) adds to the uncertainty felt from my subject matter (transition rendered as ambivalent landscapes).
When I look at your images, I reference my own experiences, finding places in my memory like your places. Your images remind me that: “All art is at once surface and symbol” and “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors,” from Oscar Wilde’s introduction to The Picture of Dorian Gray.
You might find my landscapes alluring or unnerving, serene or lonely. One spectator might see one or the other, and that is where my images can act as mirrors. But ideally I’d like all these opposite feelings to emerge simultaneously in the viewer’s mind, because this is what going through a period of transition often feels like. For a while you feel in between two perceptions of reality and you tend to go back and forth between one and the other, a bit like when looking at a Rubin vase.
Why did you move to Los Angeles from Paris? I admit I’m guilty of assuming that you must be “american made” when I first looked at your images.
When I am here I feel history does not weigh as much on me and I feel a sense of freedom that breeds my creativity. I also like the cultural mix and I am fascinated by the fact that the city developed around the huge image factory Hollywood has provided. When I drive in many neighborhoods, I see so many architectural styles, a lot of them copies of European styles (built differently but looking very similar). LA sometimes makes me think of replicated fragments of the world blended together. Maybe a bit like my images?