I am drawn to the human tendency to physically and psychologically accumulate objects. I believe memory attaches itself to objects, especially to those that exist within and around a personal living space like a bedroom or living room. The reasons for such a simple act as saving are extremely complex. This action of saving has the ability to disinter the more tender portions of the self and one’s history. An object, be it a letter or a piece of furniture, possesses the capacity to act as a proxy for things beyond itself and its seemingly simple material existence. They can subtly disclose elusive, but poignant aspects of someone’s internal life— of the places they have called home, perhaps whom they have loved, and what they have left behind out of necessity or sheer abandonment. I want to gently reverse the roles of what is public and private and to reveal a person’s will to hide and desire to be found out through his or her saved objects. I am drawn to the metaphorical nature of these things— of the traces of life they carry and the simultaneously objective and subjective memory that can be found in the contents of a bureau’s drawers or literally written or scraped on its surface. They exist beyond metaphor.
In much of my work I choose to explore these notions of memory, trace, and metaphor through furniture, specifically those that have to do with modes of storage, saving, or travel. In past work, I have dealt more directly with the undeniable relationship furniture possesses to the body. I am intrigued by the routines and habits that surround the things with which we live and how those routines are cerebrally and tactilely manifested in the real and made object. Through our daily use of these objects, like a bureau or bed, they become extensions and tools to fit our bodies. We have all had the experience of sitting in a chair that is shorter than what we expected and fall to the seat below and think for a split second that we are in free fall; the point is that a bodily expectation exists, one created through repetition and that repetition creates our muscle memory. It is embedded in the volume, weight and height of an object. It is embedded and measured by our bodies.
The source objects I choose to use, like a chest of drawers or envelopes, possess their own metaphorical significance and hidden narrative through trace. Much of my work is slip cast, made from plaster molds or involves dipping objects in slip and burning them out. Both casting and dipping objects serve a duplicitous role. Plaster is capable of capturing the smallest of details that can bring the artifice of reality, while dipping objects in slip entombs them. After the firing, the original object is lost, but the integrity of it is preserved as a porcelain shell or casting. All that is left is a hollow, a fragile representation of the real thing. Though the process of firing entails the blatant destruction of the original that was dipped in slip, it is an act of reverence and preservation of the object. The reality captured in both processes makes the object recognizable and situates it within our everyday experience. We have a pre-existing relationship with them, but this relationship is obfuscated because the fabricated object is now separate from the real and is merely a transformed representation of the real. The object is one step removed from its original self. It is a self-referential memory.
I use clay for its elemental and transformative properties. It has the ability to be both permanent, yet breakable and impermanent in its fragility. The raw whiteness of the porcelain is an anonymous color, blank and unassuming. It holds, what I see as a quiet, delicate beauty. Blanched, the clothes and furniture are only lonely vestiges. Their texture only hints at the color and life they once possessed. I want the work to seem both dead and alive as well as something that comes from our daily reality, but also is derivative of fiction. Seemingly drained of color, the texture and fluidity of the clothes and the scratches found on the pieces of furniture, provide a trace of life, a visual imprint of memory that is simultaneously dead and full of life, past and present.
In my most current body of work, I’m drawing on these daily associations and expectations of furniture, but approaching them in a way that points to a real state of loss. In September 2013 the Front Range of Colorado, a place I have called home for seven years, experienced a flood of colossal proportions. In the aftermath following the unfathomable volume of water, the places I frequented were virtually unrecognizable and every aspect of normal life in these areas shifted. The canyons were scraped clean and the rivers now flow in new patterns. Domestic belongings were in the higher elevations of treetops. Splinters of furniture and shreds of clothing were embedded in and along the riverside, creating collections of kitchens and living rooms in the form of damns. These images of the debris and destruction, of domesticity scattered in and around at the whim of water are hauntingly strange representations of daily life.
In visiting these now uncanny new landscapes of the riverbeds, I collected pieces of shattered furniture from banks and damns. I found splinters of the archetype porch chair — the only connecting element being its forest green paint; a nightstand scrapped of its finish, missing a leg and drawer with the remaining parts hanging together with bent screws. Instead of marks of the quotidian, these objects carry the scars of the aberrant. In this body of work I want to give these pieces of furniture a new life by restoring the broken and lost parts, dressing their wounds, returning function in a ghostly way through the use of raw unfired paper clay, wax and other materials. The unfired paper clay would easily dissolve in a rain; the wax would warp and move with the heat of a summer day. Though the materials echo that of impermanence, the work is mean to be a respectful act of care and renewal, of being found.
— Lauren Mayer