In an effort to understand the hysterical minds of this year’s group of 4%ERS, I got the chance to ask them each a few questions on themselves, their work, and the art world from their perspective. With such a diverse group of artists, I wanted to draw some connections, create some continuity, and just see what these artists have to say. No one ever shattered a glass ceiling without asking any questions first. - 4%ers Curator, Rachel Ralph
For Rachels first interview she picked the brain of Athen B. Studio artist Lauren YS who is currently exploring the city that never sleeps, New York. For the past 6 months Lauren has been traveling across the world painting murals, exploring with friends, leading workshops and growing as a young artist.
Alexandra Levasseur | Andrea Wan | Angela Fox
Anne Harris | Beryl Fine | Erin Riley | Hanna Yata
Ileana Tejada | Kate Klingbeil | Kit King | Lauren YS
Marina Capdevila | Meryl Pataky | Nicomi Nix Turner
Noel Morica | Rebecca Morgan | Sheryo
Stacey Rozich | Winnie Truong
They discuss a variety of things from process and inspiration, to what its like being a female artist in what is a predominantly male art world. Stay tuned for the opening reception of the second annual 4%ers group exhibition curated by Rachel Ralph coming to Athen B. Gallery this August 13th, 2016. "Mostly Ghostly" a solo exhibition by Lauren YS is also coming to Athen B. Gallery this November. Stay tuned and learn more about Lauren below.
Lolo / Oakland and/or my head / 25
Have you ever been called hysterical?
I have been called a lot of things... but I can't recall ever being called "Hysterical." I think I would welcome that with whatever inflection was intended.
How do you feel being a woman has affected your art making?
I used to want believe it had no bearing on me. I wanted to see myself as an artist, just an artist- notice, men are never referred to as "male artists" - but in the past few years it's become increasingly clear how important it is to acknowledge and question my "female-ness" and the femininity of my art. This is a question that extends beyond the industry -- the climate for gender politics is escalating quickly, and I'm inspired by how many of my peers and heroes are embracing a non-binary view of the world. I'm excited by the possibility of contributing to that narrative somehow via my work. I know that I am grateful to be a woman, and I know that my experience will inform that of others coming into the field.
How do you feel being a woman has affected your art career?
Hard to say. I don't know what it's like to be a man. I think it has perhaps made some people take notice of me, because historically people are often surprised when small people step up to do something big, and being a woman is another element of that - it's also surprising. You don't get a lot of girls rolling up to a cherry picker saying, "I want to do that, let me drive." People take notice of that. For that, I am thankful.
Do you think your creative process has anything to do with you being female?
I'm not sure... I think assigning gender stereotypes to the creative process is a dangerous but very interesting experiment, and most of the artist I know definitely tread the line between the two every day. For example, I can be very gentle, sensitive, and intuitive with my work; but I can also be vicious, unforgiving, aggressive and almost violent in my process. I'm also quite messy and chaotic, unfortunately. In that sense I would actually say that I'm more stereotypically "male" in the way I paint, especially with spray paint. This is is a really fascinating question, actually. I'm going to think on this more.
I don’t know if it’s the corporeal qualities of the dripping forms and moving bodies in your work, but for me, they resonate with an incredible amount of emotion. Do you consider yourself emotional? Do you use your work as a way of working through and expressing your emotions?
I can be very emotional, but I can also be very clinical and robotic. Art making will do that to you -- make you really unstable -- but it also really lights you up. Thank you, by the way! That's really kind! And yes, I do often use my work as a form of catharsis; oftentimes it's the best way to suss out an emotion or an experience. But like any language, you have to hone it every day, wrestle it down or it gets rusty -- sometimes I feel so in touch with it that I can't even speak normally to other people; sometimes I feel really estranged from it, and that's when you know you need to level up.
You almost exclusively depict women. What is it about the female form that you are drawn to?
Ah, yeah, that -- well, women are beautiful, man. I love women. Who doesn't? Everyone likes to draw women; they are made of all these lines that for eons artist have relentlessly tried untangling, and they're never gonna get it undone. And I hear all this ire about how artist only draw "pretty girls" but there's a reason --what do you want to look at and think about at the end of the day? Women are strong and wild and infinitely interesting in every iteration. Sometimes I draw them super hot like Marvel characters, sometimes they are chubby and lumpy lizard witches, and I love them all. I must have brought a thousand women into the world by now--a huge crowd of weird chicks, I hope they are all hanging out somewhere, I hope they get along, can go moshing together. By exploring the myriad ways to portray women, I'm exploring all the shit inside myself too.
You’re obviously very involved in the street art world which has always been dominated by men. But recently, there are so many more women on the scene. Have you noticed a shift in the acceptance of women in street art? Do you feel your gender has prohibited you or benefited you to any opportunities in this area?
I haven't been on the scene long enough to say for sure, but I do think there's an altered climate of acceptance for women. It's not like I've ever been excluded from something for being a girl. But it is always a topic of conversation; and now you see festivals actively trying to up their female count, which is saying something in itself -- if you have to consciously try to equal out your gender ratio, then there's a problem. And I'm glad to see that changing. So I think it's really cool that some affirmative action is being taken, and I'm grateful if it has aided me in whatever way.
Your work can be very wild yet is always meticulously crafted. Do you like trying to balance the two?
It's a never-ending process, trying to find a harmony between the two modes. The way I work is very organic so I try not to over-intellectualize the process, but it is important to know when to channel the wild, dynamic sketchy side and when to focus things in on details and finish. The beginning of the piece is really when I get to let loose - especially on a wall - and that's when all the flow of the forms come in. It's important to be unedited and forgiving during the initial sketch times. Then everything after that is a combination of craft and freestyle, and the very last passes on a piece are the most meticulous and pained; however often the most rewarding. Yes, I like trying to balance - it will always be trying.
We’ve all hear the cliché term “The eyes are the windows to the soul.” You often have your figures’ eyes exploding from their skulls, dripping with tears, and often triplicated. There always seems to be an emphasis on the eyes. What about them are you drawn to?
I like that eyeballs are kind of like the only inside part of the body that overflow to the outside... do you know what I mean? Like, they kind of belong inside, underneath, with all the other shiny important stuff that needs to be protected by skin and nails, etc. but they push out. I like that.
I also believe in the third eye; not necessarily in its Hindu derivation but more in reference to the concept of a "mind's eye." Moving through life, I'm much more interested in what's not there than what is; or what might be hidden, unnatural, supernatural. What could be rather than what is. I see tiny monsters all the time, fantasize about them when I walk around the city. And that's what a third eye is for - I think everyone has one, but they close up really, really fast if we don't fight to keep them open, so that's what I'm sort of perpetually trying to do. And so with all these eyeballs bouncing around in my work, I think I'm wrestling with this third eye, trying to figure out what sees, what it wants from me, how it feels today, should I cut it off, should I let it take over? That kind of thing.