A graduate of the University of Washington ceramics program, Lauren Grossman works in a variety of media--from porcelain to cast iron to insect-encrusted fiberglass. Her provocative installations and objects wrestle with the ever-shifting meanings of Judeo/Christian imagery in contemporary culture.
Since the early eighties, she has done over twenty solo shows as well as numerous regional and national group exhibitions. Reviews of her work have appeared in Art In America, Sculpture, American Ceramics, and other periodicals. Her honors include a Flintridge Foundation Award, two Groot Foundation awards, a Seattle Artists Award, and two Kohler Arts/Industry residencies.
For years (decades) my studio practice has involved rummaging about in the imagery of Judeo/Christian culture and translating archaic sources into the language of contemporary art. In the current profusion of identity politics, this material is my assumed heritage as a half-Jewish/half-Presbyterian woman born into a secular community. Now that the dominance of western visual culture is eroding, I look to canonical texts and art historical precedents for imagery that might be ripe for re-examination.
The materials as well as the allusions in my sculptures have the quality of being well-worn. I like to apply a functional sort of hardware-store aesthetic to slippery spiritual ideas. In my work, structures and scaffolds become a stand-in for imposed organization—somewhere between church hierarchy and medical prosthetics. I aim for an awkward, ridiculous and uncertain beauty.
Many of my pieces and installations employ do-it-yourself mechanisms to allow viewers to interact with the work and have a literal relationship to the subject matter. In other pieces, I use simple movement to animate objects. For example, “and This They Begin to Do” vibrates like an 11 foot tall tuning fork at the slightest touch. It feels uncomfortable to stand nearby.
I am also very interested in the physical manifestation of language—translating printed word into sculptural form. Many of my objects are composed of their own descriptions. Word made flesh. Labor is an important part of my practice.The long hours invested in carving, cutting, burning, incising, stretching, casting, and stacking texts become a kind of haptic learning process for me. I think the labor shows in the finished work as a sense of earnestness.
Since installing “Leviathan Helm” in a water tower, I have become obsessed with the Tower of Babel. In just a few sentences in Genesis tucked between the Flood and a listing of the generations of Noah’s sons, the Lord decides to prevent the peoples of the earth from sharing a common language and ambition. Why this would be a positive thing seems murky, as we suffer the consequences of splintered communication in our current social climate.