I am so excited to have the third article by guest editors for Working On Gallery.
Francesca Preston introduces Lauren Ari who is a Richmond-based sculptor and painter. Her work is poetic and philosophical. Her art show has been well received. It may be a bit old, but there is a You Tube video that shows her ceramic works that can give you context. She also had a great profile in the Fouladi Project and its studio visit.
You may also like Preston's past article about her creative process.
Circumstances Happen, & I Follow Them
Introducing Lauren Ari
Guest Editor: Francesca Preston
Lauren Ari and I first met many years ago at a class called the Drawing Circus. It wasn’t so much of a “class” as an opportunity to make self-directed art within a constantly shifting cacophony of moving models, objects, light & music.
The teacher’s name was Ed Stanton, and he was notorious. (Once, in the middle of a session, a half-nude model pulled a boa constrictor out of her attache case.) Lauren and I were drawn to each other like ants to honey. Perhaps there was a certain hunger, or visual language, we recognized in each other. We had each been to our own version of the underworld, and the class was like a weekly godsend.
I was coming out of a health crisis, and during the class discovered my signature sumi ink on vintage paper pieces, which Lauren described as “impossibly elegant.” “You were so cool,” she said. “I didn’t think you’d want anything to do with me!” Lauren was in the first years of raising a daughter, and finally clawing her way back to art practice.
I remember her saying, with a brusqueness and humor typical of Lauren, “I feel like my legs have been cut off.” I adored this honesty. No sugar coating. And no wonder the body so often figures in various forms of transformation or truncation in Lauren’s work. “Most of my life is about trying to keep myself steady,” she says now.
We lost touch for years, and reconnected during the pandemic, after Lauren read my newsletters and piece for Working on Gallery. She invited me to her studio for tea and small molasses cookies.
I felt a shocking lust for her artwork. I wanted to touch everything I saw, take her sculptures and dictionary pages home with me, learn their sharp curves and lick their buttery edges. Words and faces lace many of her pieces. As a poet and mark-maker, I feel at home in her earthy, papery terrain. (But I am envious of her prolific nature!)
Soon after, I visited her show DREAMFORMS, at the Richmond Art Center in the East Bay of California, where our Drawing Circus class first set up its wild tents.
I remember Lauren saying that a gallery is not the ideal place for her work; she wants her art to be surrounded by people living and eating, by the joyous jumble of a cafe or a garden. And yet, her vivid paintings on pages cut from an old Funk & Wagnalls dictionary, and large multi-layered clay urns dreamily intended for recomposted remains, seemed to become eerily animate as they sent sparks across the space.
About her own work, Lauren Ari writes:
My art making has been a source of refuge and meditation. My studio is where I revisit what happens in a day, both internally and externally. I rarely have a particular agenda except to follow what wants to arise.
I work with many materials, but the foundation of my art always comes back to drawing. Working in clay, wood, metal, and textile enables my drawings to be three-dimensional.
I feel my artwork speaks from a freedom of process that can be difficult for many to achieve. When you look closely, you feel as if you've gone — with my permission — into the recesses of my mind, where light and dark co-exist. I suppose my gift is that I am able to quiet the judgmental, critical mind, and keep moving.
My process is like traveling. I might start with a drawing, then do a little writing about the drawing. Then I might take the drawing and create a sculpture related to it. I bounce around between different mediums within a day, and it’s a bit like having a conversation. Each material inspires something different within me.
The energy that creates my art is faster and more capricious than my actual self; I feel as though it moves me and moves through me. I trust something bigger than myself. A lot of what I do is intuitive; I don't set out with an agenda, method or finished product in mind. Circumstances happen, and I follow them. When a piece wants to come out of me, I have to move fast. This is heaven. And the best feeling for me is when someone feels met in my art, so that they're moved to take a piece home with them as a reminder of their own inner freedom.
"Lauren Ari's art roars out of the deepest part of her psyche and arrives with great tenderness into the world. It is fiercely honest, playful and provocative. She speaks directly what is still unfettered in all of us, our wild, free, animal selves."
Lauren Ari is an artist and educator based in Richmond, California. She holds a Masters in Fine Arts from U.C. Davis after undergraduate study at the Rhode Island School of Design and CCAC. Her primary focus is on drawing and sculpture. Lauren's work is in the permanent collections of the Legion of Honor Achenbach Foundation and the De Young Museum. Instagram: @thelaurenari
Francesca Preston is a writer and visual artist based in Petaluma, California. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Fence, Phoebe, Crab Creek Review, Stonecoast Review, Feral: A Journal of Literature and Art, Ambidextrous Bloodhound Press, and RHINO. The chapbook If There Are Horns is available from Finishing Line Press, and her microchap This Was Like I Said All Gone is part of Ghost City Press' 2022 Summer Series. Instagram: @francescalouisepreston