In the Studio with Lauren Elder

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In acrylic and cut-outs, Los Angeles-based artist Lauren Elder adds a modern, abstract gloss to the everyday. By altering and reshaping the mundane, Elder endeavors to create engaging objects that comment on consumer products and their commercial promise. Her work, removing the core function of each real-life item, is a manipulation of symbols, wherein Elder creates a unique language, untethered by history or fact. A freshly minted 25, the young artist is currently preparing for a spring show at Honor Fraser Gallery in conjunction with post-identity art collaborative Miami-Dutch. SIXTY visited the Art Institute of Chicago BFA graduate to talk accidental studio finds, oppositional truths, and the current state of the Los Angeles art scene.

Former occupation:

When I graduated from college, I started working as a freelance graphic designer and later worked as a creative assistant to my good friend and film director, Luke Gilford. Working within the film industry was one of the most exciting jobs. I would work on treatments and creative ideas. It was amazing to see how everything would come together on set and how many people were involved in such a short amount of time. The highlight was working on a short film with Jane Fonda and Pamela Anderson. I was Pam’s personal driver for that week.


Were your parents interested in the arts? What did they do for work?

My parents have always been interested in the arts. My father is British and works in the computer industry as a designer and systems architect. My mother is Iranian-Iraqi and runs her own fashion company. From an early age we would go on all these road trips together all around the US and Europe and see every museum and important landmark. Two of my siblings have also studied and pursued the arts. My sister runs a project space called Born Nude in Chicago.


Were you interested in art as a child?

Yes, I have always been interested in the arts. Growing up in Los Angeles, I was surrounded by entrepreneurs in the movie, arts and fashion industry, which really motivated my creative interests. I also remember always working with my hands. I loved the physicality of ceramics and photography. Working in the darkroom, processing my own film–these things were always attractive to me.


How did you find your current workspace and where is it?

I found my studio by accident. The agent was supposed to show me a loft that was a live/work space in downtown. She ended up taking the wrong set of keys and took me to another building where there ended up being a lot of other studios. It’s in the middle of downtown and it reminds me of being back in Chicago.


What’s the most important thing in a studio for you?

Plants, stacks of computer paper, 4B pencils, a scanner, computer, and a Wacom tablet.


What’s the hardest part about being an artist in LA right now?

One of the hardest things about being an artist in LA for me is that places are very spread out. It’s easy to get really comfortable and get deep into your own lifestyle and routine. I tend to spend a lot of time by myself and be completely fine with it.

What’s the best?

Right now LA feels like it’s at its prime. There are so many amazing and talented people moving out here. It really feels like it’s the Wild West where anything is possible. Within my studio practice, LA has been a fruitful environment. The architecture, landscapes, and interior spaces have really worked to inform some of my work.


Does art ever feel like a boy’s club?

Yes, sure. But, if anything, this has always motivated me to work consciously and confidently and embrace any sense of femininity within my work.

Female artists you admire:

Nina Beier, Kerstin Bratsch, Mary Weatherford, Lynda Benglis, Tauba Auerbach, Aleksandra Domanovic, Petra Cortright, Dwyer Kilcollin, Lauren Keeley.


What’s a day typically look like for you, from start to finish?

I typically start the day by having a cup of coffee outside and catching up on current events. I tend to exercise in the mornings. Right now I am really into hot yoga. I like to prepare my lunch for the day before heading to my studio. Generally I’ll make a massive salad with whatever I can find in the fridge then go to my studio. I stay in the studio ’til around 8 or 9 when the traffic has died down. Then I go home and read, or watch a movie, or meet friends for dinner.


Do you listen to music while you work? 

When I am working on the computer, I enjoy listening to music that is more ambient: classical music, Deep Forest, or Brian Eno. I like it when music feels a bit more backgrounded because it helps me stay concentrated. Once I am off the computer and working with my hands, I’ll switch to listening to my SoundCloud.


What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on multiple things at once. A lot of pencil drawings, mold making (pouring resin and foam), mocking up plans to CNC, downloading objects and models off of TurboSquid, etching and constructing sculptures in ceramics, and piecing together fragments of wood into somewhat of a three-dimensional puzzle.


What themes are you exploring right now?

I have been focusing on domestic spaces and have been analyzing the interaction of objects in space. I have been forming these connections and generating information that is redistributed to create other works. These connections of objects form a constellation and a myth-like narrative.


What medium or tool are you most interested in presently and why?

I am really interested in how the hand is translated through digital output. I use the laser cutter machine often to create icons and templates for molds that begin as graphite drawings. The laser cutter can really be my scissors. I also often use digital processing as the foundation for my sculptures.


Least favorite question people ask you as an artist:

When people ask what kind of artist are you: a painter or a sculptor? It’s really hard for me to answer that question and translate my practice into a couple of words because my practice is really interdisciplinary. It consists of so many different materials, mediums, and processes.


Describe the feeling when your work travels from the studio to the walls of a gallery just before an exhibition:

It is always this nervous and exciting feeling. For so long I just visualize all the works in my head, trying to piece it all together to create the conversation that I want. When all the works are in the space together, there is the greatest sense of clarity. My sculpture works generally tend to work in unison with the wall pieces; it kind of feels like a mathematical equation.

What informs the sculptural aesthetic in your work?

I like thinking about oppositional truths or where things contrast one another almost to a point of contradiction. I think a lot about simulation and simulacra. Materially, I am drawn to the contrast between earthly materials and machine-processed products.


The first sculptural piece you encountered that moved you and why:

One of the most memorable sculptures I’ve encountered is the large Picasso sculpture by the Daley Plaza center in the Chicago Loop. I would pass by this sculpture every day as I got on and off the train. It is 50 feet tall and built out of the same steel as the plaza. It feels like it holds the same sense of weight and presence as many of the buildings surrounding it.


What book/ film/ work of art most recently captured your attention and why?

I recently came across an Urs Fischer book at a friend’s apartment while I was last in New York. It was a compilation of work throughout his practice. It really captivated me, as I was able to see his main concerns as an artist. I was especially taken away by his wax figurines.


What’s the best piece of advice you were ever given?

It’s your journey, your story.

Photos by Tyler William Parker for SIXTY Hotels.

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn

Jenny Bahn is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn, specializing in music, fashion, the arts, and culture, both high and low. Her work has been featured in Cereal, Lenny Letter, and more.