studio moment

Carolyn Lavender Untitled (2003)- studio installation

Untitled is a piece that consists of 33 rag board panels that are mirror self-portraits, each with an animal on my head.  Usually my older works are stored away and only pulled out if there is a reason to show them.  But Untitled has been hanging out in my studio for a couple years.  I find this a little embarrassing when I show people my studio.  I feel I always need to explain why this piece is there.  After all, it is 33 portraits of me, and it is hard not to imagine that I sit in my studio regularly and look at all these images of myself.

Each panel was coated with multiple coats of Golden GAC 500, and though dry to the touch, was capable of sticking to stuff.  I found this out when I layered each panel with archival glassine and stacked the pieces for storage.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that what used to be individual panels was now a fused block.  I carted that block around a few times as I moved studios, never knowing if it was really a piece of art anymore.  A couple of years ago, I finally consulted a conservation expert and she made the simple, simple suggestion of using distilled water to break down the glassine and separate the panels.  It took some labor to work the water into the space between each piece, but it worked.  So now this piece has been curing on my walls, and I will later store it with regular acid free paper and it will be fine.

So the other day I was in the studio drawing, and I paused to mull over what I might use to paint on for the large piece I am going to do for the Mesa show.  And while I was thinking I was looking at my wall of self-portraits.  I have been trying to decide this question for a while.  I don’t want stretched canvas, raw paper, wooden panels, or any of the other things I had thought of for various reasons.  Then I realized, because I was looking at Untitled, that I could line the wall with rag board panels, butted together, to create a large surface that I could paint on.  The other part of this is that the technique I used on Untitled was to paint on top of a layer of GAC500, which was later sealed under another coat.  This surface was completely enjoyable to work on.  I worked with sumi ink and gouache and was capable of wiping away anything I did with a wet rag.  It is really fun to do fearless marks like that.  I always thought I would love to work that way again and never have.  But you can be sure that when the new piece is de-installed, and ready to be stored, there will be no glassine to be seen.

Carolyn Lavender Untitled (2003)- detail of studio installation