Laurie Lipton and her piece The Dead Factory
Laurie Lipton and her piece The Dead Factory
Melissa Williams

Introducing: Dave Barton's Local Art Blog

Today marks the beginning of OC Weekly art critic Dave Barton's weekly art blog, which will feature news and notes about everything art-related in Orange County. -- Lilledeshan Bose

Eleven Questions for the Anti-Disney: Artist Laurie Lipton

Turn any page in the new book "the extraordinary drawings of Laurie Lipton" and you'll be either awed or assaulted by over thirty years of the artist's, well, extraordinary images lying inside.
Skeletons dance, toothless old women sell candy, parents cannibalize their children, dollhouses reveal hidden secrets, vaginas sport teeth, '50s housewives sell their souls for a new appliance, capitalist war-mongers smile and smoke as the world burns around them, little girls snuggle with Death and...not a single one of these descriptions even remotely describes the passion, obsession, wisdom or humor on display when you ponder one of her incredibly detailed pictures.

After devouring her book, I am utterly convinced that Gertrude Stein was writing about Lipton's work when she said, "If every one were not so indolent they would realize that beauty is beauty even when it is irritating and stimulating not only when it is accepted and classic."
Ms. Lipton took some time away from the studio--as well as her current exhibition "Weapons of Mass Delusions" at Grand Central Art Center--and graciously answered eleven questions about her life and work.

OC Weekly: Do you do take notes, do preliminary sketches when the ideas hit or do you just start working? 
Laurie Lipton: I have notebooks scattered around my home & in handbags. They are littered with quick sketches, written ideas & titles for drawings. My work arrives into my brain as a sharp picture, but comes out fuzzy and needs to be worked on over a long period of time to sharpen it up again.

Does a picture ever end up being something far different from your initial vision? If so, is there an example in your book?
All of my work winds-up being different to the initial idea. That's the fun of it. Once I get it down on to a piece of paper it starts to evolve. It's a bit like writing a book; you have the plot and characters, but then the details start to take over and lead you into new and un-thought of directions. For example: my drawing "On". I had the idea of a 1950's TV housewife standing in front of a wall of technology. The wall got more & more intense and the technology turned rococo. I couldn't have planned that.

On (2008)
On (2008)

On (2008)

You've called yourself the "Anti-Disney". Why?

Why not? "Disney" signifies, to me, all the cutsey, depth-denying crap of modern culture. It's the McDonald's of art. Don't get me wrong; I adored Disney movies as a child, but

Grimm's Fairy Tales

are more true to life and honest.

Children are often the focal point of your drawings, usually in some sort of doll form, like an old toy that has been discarded. Where do you feel this comes from?
I was the denizen of a Perfect Suburb with Perfect Parents. I was a Perfect little girl, very pretty and well behaved. My mother used to dress me in frilly clothes, like a doll. I had unPerfect feelings swirling around inside of me, though. Fears, nightmares, rage... where did they belong in that Perfect environment? This dichotomy is what interests me in my work: the difference between the social self and the secret Other.

You have a fairly rabid following on Facebook and I see that you update and drop notes to people on the page. How important is new media to someone who so embraces such an Old Masters way of working?

Vital. I work all the time and hardly ever go out. I can't schmooze or booze or party my way on to the art scene because I'm too busy making art. Social networking sites have been a real boon for people like me, and I love hearing from fans and interacting with them. They give me perspective on what I'm doing and encourage me relentlessly. It's like having thousands of Jewish Mothers.

You've spoken frankly in the past about your sexual abuse as a child and your problems with alcohol. Do you have any advice to other artists who struggle to deal with similar issues?
I am wary of giving advice to anyone on such intensely personal matters. For me these things have been a weird sort of gift. I've been able to use my negative experiences to make art and to create instead of being destroyed by them. I've been extremely lucky.

Your pictures embrace the darker aspects of life--death, sickness, abuse--but also celebrate the embracing of the pain that flows from them. Can you explain why you're drawn to subject matter that so many people turn away from and why you think it's important?

My work has served as the repository for all my "Anti-Disney" feelings, ever since I was a child. I was very lucky to have had this outlet. I think I would have imploded otherwise. It's important for art to speak about the deeper aspects of life. I always receive much more insight about myself and my life after seeing/hearing/reading something that addresses profound questions or anxiety and fears. However...I see a lot of humor in life too and there is a ton of tongue-in-cheek in my work. 

What scares you?


You read a lot, on a variety of subjects. You're on a desert island and you get five books....which would they be? Ha! That's a tough question. I have phases I go through where I read on one specific topic for a while. At the moment I'm only reading pop science books on quantum physics (yes it sounds nerdy, but if it's any consolation it fries my brain). If I pull 5 immediately up out of my proverbial hat, they would be: "The Tao of Physics" by Fritjov Capra, "The Uses of Enchantment" by Bruno Bettleheim, "Villette" by Charlotte Bronte, "The Golden Bough" by James Frazer, and a survival guide for desert islands.

You're gay, a woman, Jewish: How do you feel that these labels have helped/hurt you in your career? If anything I've tried to avoid those labels and any others that crop up. My art work is not about my gender, my sexuality, or my (lack of) religion... it's about being human, being alive and living in the 21st century. I hope that anyone who sees my work can relate to it.

Three images that describe how you feel about Orange County? Sunshine, smiling friendly faces, and endless sky... obviously not inspirational for my work, but wonderful for my Being.

the extraordinary drawings of Laurie Lipton is published by beinArt Publishing. Hardcover, 95 pages. $39. "Weapons of Mass Delusions" is at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana through June 13. Free.


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