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