Lauren dela Roche: Day Lily (Q&A with the artist)
Sean Horton (Presents) is pleased to announce Day Lily — the New York solo debut of Lauren dela Roche. Roche’s layered and dynamic works on paper illustrate harmonic environments and depict scenes of empathetic touch and connection. Using nude female figures as the central subjects of her work, Roche distorts, elongates, and duplicates the female body in moody washes of acrylic paint and ink. Decorated interiors meld with exterior presences like wild animals, butterflies, and flowing rivers to create dream-like settings that explore balance and unease at once. Roche draws her influences from classical Greek mythology, handmade embroideries, domestic interiors, and her vivid dreamworld.
In Sulfur Cosmos, 2022, two nude female figures lounge above an arcade of rounded arches while streams of water pour out from amphoras, flowing between their bodies and through the architecture. Tables, plants, candelabras, and paintings, among other objects, fill the setting, giving it a home-like atmosphere. Meanwhile, in the background, two felines charge into the scene while a third remains confined to the lower right corner of the painting. Roche distorts the illusion of depth created by linear perspective resulting in a layered composition reminiscent of collage. The female figures, appearing unfazed by the simultaneous motion and idleness of their environment, engage tenderly with one another in a state of rituality and ceremony.
Roche’s interest in interior imagery began at a time in her life when she was bedridden due to a back injury and working from a specially-made drawing easel, the artist states, “I was in a lot of physical pain at that time. I really checked out mentally and found myself just drawing lines and trying to figure out how to portray spatial perspective by looking at my surroundings in my bedroom, it was sort of a coping mechanism.” Finding comfort in the repetitive line work of stairways, doorways, windows, and tangible objects, Roche began blurring boundaries between the internal and external.
Lauren dela Roche (b. 1983, Santa Rosa, CA) lives and works in St. Louis, MO and rural Minnesota. The artist received the 2019 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Fellowship and the 2012-13 Jerome Foundation Visual Arts Fellowship. Her work has been featured in exhibitions at Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, CA; Bockley Gallery, Minneapolis, MN, and New Image Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. She participated in the 2021 Bed-Stuy Art Residency, Brooklyn, NY. Notable collections include the North Dakota Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.
Q&A with Lauren dela Roche
There is a harmonic ambiance in your work where interiors and exteriors meld into one another. In your studio practice, do you shift from working in indoor and outdoor atmospheres as well?
I usually work indoors, but I think the transitions and blurred boundaries from exterior to interior is more of a headspace metaphor for me, inside my head versus outside my head. My interest in interior imagery started at a particular time in my life a few years ago when I was bedridden with a back injury for about a year. My friend made me a drawing easel for my bed, and I was in a lot of physical pain at that time. I really checked out mentally and found myself just drawing lines and trying to figure out how to portray spatial perspective by looking at my surroundings in my bedroom, it was sort of a coping mechanism. Around that time I started to find comfort in really simple repetitive line-work, and stairways, doorways, windows, and tangible objects started to show up in my work a lot, they feel like digestible metaphors for me.
I often have this recurring dream about a haunted house, and there are always hidden doorways, stairways that lead to nowhere, rooms that take my breath away when I walk into them, rooms where the lights don’t turn on- and I always reflect on the symbolism of the different rooms, with my head being the “house”, and the rooms being different parts of my exterior life.
You have said that the literature of Haruki Murakami and the poetry of Kathy Acker have been influential to your practice. Could you elaborate on the influence of literature on your work?
I was obsessed with Kathy Acker as a teen. Reading her work felt like listening to someone describe a dream or delusion, and there is so much vulnerable yet fearless feminine energy in her stories. I used to skip school and go to the bookstore and just read for hours until it was time for my parents to pick me up. I started to draw feminine figures around this time, and I think I always tried to mimic that vulnerable yet unflinching energy in my figures.
I started reading Murakami at a really sad and scary time in my life, a good friend of mine had been killed, and around the same time, I had been awarded the Jerome emerging artists grant. The grief sometimes felt unmanageable, and I wanted so badly to be able to utilize my art practice as a channel for my emotions but the process just felt so incredibly dark. A friend recommended a Murakami book to me, and I fell in love with the suspenseful and surreal storytelling he uses to paint very visual and metaphorical narratives. Sometimes the mysteries never get solved and the tunnels don't lead anywhere, but the stories and visuals still transcend time and space. I adopted this theory for my practice. Sometimes, even when there is profound meaning in a story, not everything will resolve in the end, and it might not make sense, and the process can be messy and doesn't always follow a storyline with a beginning, middle, and end.
Female nudes, animals, and vessel objects are recurring subjects in your work, what draws you to these particular subjects?
I've always been interested in the concept of channeling forms of energy through my body and telepathic communication. When I was 16 I was coerced into participating in a very performative, cult-y religious group that spoke in tongues and would “fall over” when touched by “the spirit”. I did not grow up practicing any form of religion, and at the tender age of 16 I was really seduced by this idea that my body could serve a purpose as a “vessel”. I was also in the midst of discovering my sexuality at this time, and my sexual orientation (homosexual) was seen as a dark force that inhibited my body that needed to be “cast out”. I now see how damaging that was for my psyche as a kid, but at the time, I thought it was sort of magical. I've spent a lot of time healing deep wounds created by those ideas of what is “magical” and a lot of themes in my work touch on these experiences of toxic spirituality.
Your compositions are layered and dynamic, yet organized in a specific way. Do you plan out your arrangement of forms beforehand or do you work intuitively?
I usually start a piece with the female figures' faces, and sometimes I will draw the face a few times until it feels right, and then slowly work from there. There are remnants of my process of mistakes and mark-making on the paper (sometimes with hidden faces on different parts of the paper) but sometimes I will start over with a new piece of paper. I don't plan anything compositionally, so it's all very intuitive and takes a few days to get the framework down. The figures really initiate the narrative and configuration, and the animals and objects fall into place throughout the process, playing off of the communication and body language between figures.
Your paintings contain patchworks of patterns that are reminiscent of quilt arrangements and textiles. Do textiles and fabrics influence your patterns?
Yes, absolutely. My mom is a weaver, and all of the women on her side for many generations were quilters. I’ve also started painting on very old cotton feedsacks that have been mended and used for farming purposes. I like to go to the goodwill bins and find old textiles there. I've found early 18th-century jacquard woven blankets, antique indigo dyed overshot coverlets, and countless hand-stitched floursack quilts. I feel so humbled by the history and craftsmanship I've seen in many of the pieces, I get emotional over them. Sometimes it almost feels wrong to be able to touch it, but yet, many times they were created with utility in mind. I try to copy patterns I see and the process can feel therapeutic when there is predictability involved.