Laurie Shapiro’s work first grabbed my attention when she did her installation at Radiant Space last year. I was walking down Sunset Boulevard and saw a line that stretched around the block – 300 people or more – all going to see her installation at Radiant Space. I had never seen so many people lined up to go to an art show, and it compelled me to find out more about the Artist and whether or not she ever gets any sleep.
Your installations seem kind of daunting. How long do they typically take to install? Do you plan it out for months or weeks? What’s the process? Do you ever get a decent night of sleep?
Installation work takes anywhere from a few days to a week. I only plan out very basic concepts and outlines: everything else needs to flow naturally and intuitively, so I very much “go with the flow.” I’ve been making these spaces with my paintings and lights since I was in college; it’s now a natural process for me. I love the work, and I even thrive off the stress of a limited time to install. In times where there’s a big crunch, I’ve been fortunate to receive help from friends and interns. When I’m installing, I think of the installation as a giant painting: the work guides me and I enter the creative space of where it wants to take me.
You’re funny – I get sleep! My favorite routine is going to bed at a decent time, then getting up early to paint and create. I like waking up between 5 and 6 am, meditating and having coffee, then getting to work. Of course, I must go with the flows of life, but when I am in this routine, I feel best and most connected to my creative source. My creative energy is so sacred to me. It’s not uncommon that I’ll spend days alone – sometimes not even leaving my studio – just to recharge and connect to that energy.
You went to Carnegie Mellon University, correct? Was that to study art or were you getting a backup plan together? Do you believe in having a backup plan or just giving it your all and letting life play out?
Going to CMU completely changed my life. When I was growing up, I was encouraged to go to college. I am the first woman in my family to graduate from college. Having a family who understood that I was going to do my own thing and support that is something I am really grateful for. Nobody else in my family is an artist, so I’ve really had to figure out this path by trial, error, and – most of all – by intuition. I realized I needed to be an artist in high school and it’s been driving me ever since.
In my life, following my passion (for art) has led me to the most wonderful things. There is no backup plan. The work is truly my life. I mean this in the most authentic way: I need to make art, and I need to make it at this capacity. It is no less important than eating or sleeping. My artwork is about my life and it is my life; there is no separation.
Your time and energy is important. We only have so much time here; use it intentionally.
You’ve mentioned Roy De Forest as an artist that you admire. What is it about his work that you are attracted to? Or what attracts you to other artists in general? What moves you?
I’m moved by passion, depth, and authenticity. I first saw Roy De Forest’s work at the Oakland Museum of Art. At the time, I was living in Oakland, and one of my professors from CMU, Bob Bingham, was in town for Roy’s retrospective. Bob worked for Roy forty years ago, and told me that Roy painted every day, for six to eight hours a day. Painting was his life, and you see that in the work. I am moved by such devotion.
You start your paintings by screen printing stencils of your drawings. Did you start off as a screen printer, or is that just a technique you picked up along the way?
Well, I start my paintings with loose sketches and then blow them up. Everything is intuitive and I let the work guide me. Screen printed drawings of flowers are cut up and sewn into parts of the pieces as patterns. It’s something I did in college on these huge, colorful phallic sculptures I made for my “Forest of Phallicies,” which was the name of my first full installation. This is so funny to think about: it was basically a ton of work smashed together with these big penis-like sculptures that were covered in screen printed flowers. Anyway, visually, the repetitive pattern worked. Later, I decided to incorporate this sewn/collage element into my paintings.
I know a lot about screen printing because I co-owned and ran a screen printing shop with my ex for a few years when I lived in Oakland. I’ve always learned best from experience, so that’s really how I learned the ins and outs of screen printing. We wanted to spend all our time together and be artists in one of the most expensive parts of the country, so we opened a shop. This wasn’t the way I was meant to live, but I learned a lot about life, love, generating my own income, and, yes, screen printing.
When I first left that part of my life, I didn’t want to talk or look back on it; I left it for me and I left it for my work. Now that more time has passed, I can look back and appreciate that time for leading me to where I am now. Those years showed me most what I wanted from a relationship, as well as what type of lifestyle and commitment to my art and career I needed.
What was it like being in Turkey and how did that influence your work?
When I was in Turkey in 2011 as an exchange student, I felt isolated at first, and I didn’t have more than a few hundred dollars at a time, but I had a large studio at my school, Bilkent University in Ankara. I bought cheap fabric and some paints and started painting directly on the fabric. I painted many contour line faces and then decided to sew them together, not knowing at the time this method would become my painting process.
Turkey was fantastic. I stopped feeling isolated when I became friends with other exchange students. I never really partied at Carnegie Mellon; it’s just not that type of school. In Turkey, I went out and had fun and traveled and didn’t go to class. I hitchhiked and ate out of garbage cans and did a lot of things that are better to do when you’re young.
Can you tell me a bit about your most recent installation at Paramount Academy of Music? Was that similar to what you did last year, or are things changing and developing for you? Do you always try to add new elements or do you want to bring a similar experience to a different space and audience?
My most recent installation at PAM was organized by Mia Orozco, the exhibition coordinator at Radiant Space Gallery. When Mia asked if I’d be interested in being part of an event she was organizing at PAM, I was thrilled because I like working with her and the passion and drive she brings.
When I did my installation at Radiant Space last year, that was about showing my installation “Before You Were Born,” to LA. Bob Bingham, the professor I mentioned earlier, told me that he likes to always show an installation twice. Sometimes, I remember comments from people in my life and go with that. I knew “Before You Were Born” needed to be shown in LA; the first installation was in San Jose during a residency at the San Jose Quilt and Textile Museum.
My work is always growing. I find what works and go with that. My process itself is meditative; it gives me the time and retrospection to learn from all of my experiences, good and bad.
I am feeling very good about the installation at PAM. Things are clicking for me.
The installation at PAM is called “Temple of the Future.” There’s a bucket of water surrounded by flowers in it. Within the bucket is a mirror, more flowers, and the words, “Believe in you: you create your future.” The bucket is close to overflowing because that is how I feel in love and in life right now. I want to be part of a generation that shows young people that they can do anything, they can have a positive influence, and that they are so powerful.
Along with my work, Darren Sarkin is also showing new pieces at PAM. I met Darren when I moved to LA; I actually lived in his loft for my first five months. I’ve always loved his artwork, which clearly comes from a source of spirituality. Darren works with mediums that I haven’t seen before in fine art: mirrors and lights. This leads to a participatory experience with the viewer: you look into a piece, and you look into yourself.
In addition, Mia is also organizing another show at PAM this upcoming Saturday, January 12th. There will be music performances and vendors. If you missed last week’s show, or want to come out again to a chill, welcoming and fun event, please grab a ticket while they are available. There will also be a wine night for collectors and fans who want to purchase work, although that date hasn’t been set yet.
All this being said, I’ve been in LA for a year and a half. I left my old life about two and a half years ago. Otto, there have been so many changes in my life, and it’s been really fantastic at times, and really lonely at times too. There are moments where I have just stopped and started crying, a lot of the time because I have been given exactly what I asked for.
What I realized, and what I want to share is that if you have something that drives you, do it, because it is bigger than you.
Your installations usually only last a few days or a month at most, then what happens to them? Do people ask you to create permanent installations for them?
Most of the time my installations last for at least a month. It takes a lot of work to put it together. Sometimes things are shorter, but once the work is up, well, I think people want to keep it there! My installation at Mars Gallery in Chicago was originally only going to be up for a few weeks, but it’s been on display for almost four months now.
It’s important to remember that all of my installations are made up of paintings and sculptures. Sometimes the paintings and sculptures sell individually, and sometimes entire installations are sold. I’m open to all of it.
I’ve sold installations to businesses and to collectors. Same thing with individual pieces.
I recently got back from Ohio, where I created a permanent installation for Otherworld, which is opening in Spring 2019. Otherworld a fully immersive art experience in Columbus, Ohio.
How can your fans have a piece of your work, if it’s just an installation? Is it just about enjoying the experience and not having something to keep other than the memory?
Fans can have a piece of my work in so many ways because it’s not just an installation. My artwork is most impactful in installation form, so I present it in this way. However, my installations are paintings and sculptures. Each part stands alone as well. I sell work at different price points: prints and merch, individual pieces, and full installations. I promise I am working on my online store; it should be up by this week. Many pieces are up on artsy, or if you’re interested in anything at PAM, Mia Orozco is the person to contact. There are price labels on the work too.
The work is about life; it can be enjoyed as an experience or it can be purchased. And, to be frank, buying my work is the best way to fund this artist. I love selling my work; I love the work having a home or space. My work is maximal, but my life is very minimal. I don’t have much stuff: basically, I live in my art. Clearing out pieces gives me room to make new work, and I love creating. That is the essence of being human: creating.
In times where I’ve felt the worst, I’ve longed to be held and loved. When I started making environments, this is the feeling I was looking to create.
Going back to art school, going back to your question about CMU, this time in my life was so essential. I dove into my work. I don’t know how I did in school grade-wise, because it wasn’t my focus; making art was. Being in an environment where you are challenged and encouraged to create meaningful artwork…what a privilege to experience. Education changed my life, and I’d like to give back in ways to make education and opportunity more accessible to all incomes and classes in our country.
What’s up next for you?
Working all the time. I have so many ideas, and I’m excited to be in my studio to make them happen. My work takes a lot of time, so I’m just putting in the hours, and to be honest, it makes me feel most alive.
I always post stuff on Instagram, and I try to send out emails when I have shows and events. If you want to stay up to date, just follow me there. I promise, exciting things will happen.
Also be sure to check out Stars In Your Eyes Weekend Two!
An Evening of Interactive Installation Art, Virtual Reality, Live Music Performances and Shopping!
Last weekend was such a great success we added another night of fun! Start the year by manifesting your dreams and goals inside the “Temple of the Future,” a solo installation meditation chamber created by Laurie Shapiro featuring artwork by Darren Sarkin throughout the venue. Purchase a new wardrobe to adorn yourself as the fabulous 2019 version of you! Celebrate the new year dancing with your new and old friends! We added in our amazing Virtual Reality friends from ROTU Entertainmentt!
This event will be taking place inside of Paramount Academy Of Music, the most innovative non-profit music school benefiting children across Los Angeles by providing scholarships to those who need financial assistance to gain music education.