Monday, August 09, 2010

Art Space Talk: Lauren Utter

Born Drunk, Die Drunk by Lauren Utter

I decided to mark my return to writing for myartspace by interviewing one of our Featured artists-- Lauren Utter. As stated on Utter‘s myartspace profile, “New Jersey native Lauren Utter found her escape from the banality of suburban life through the subculture of punk rock. Though she briefly attended the School of Visual Arts, Lauren's work is more influenced by her adventures panhandling in New York's Lower East Side, hopping freight trains, and generally experiencing life in the gutter. Finding herself moved by the people and experiences encountered on the fringes of society, she seeks to share these stories through her work.”

Brian Sherwin: Lauren, your art was recently featured on Your artwork-- at least on face value-- conveys a punk rock vibe. I've read where viewers have described it as "hardcore visuals". Can you discuss your work and the meaning behind it?

Lauren Utter: Thanks! I can't believe the immediate response with posting my art on this site! It was like literally 2 days and I made it on the front page! It's completely mind blowing! I can't really wrap my head around it. This is my life. My life that is, has been at times, crazy and unpredictable. And I think my artwork is just another extension of that.

I use my art as a way to document this life by capturing transient moments on paper. I often uses paper which is, like the subjects of my works, too often seen as expendable and subsequently discarded. In both medium and subject matter, I seeks to reveal that the frequently overlooked or dismissed are actually beautiful and extraordinary.

Public Lice by Lauren Utter

BS: Is there a specific message that you strive to convey to viewers? If so, can you discuss that message?

LU: I noticed some people are shocked or repulsed or even scared by my art. Sometimes they think they're dead. And really... If they are scared then they are scared of the truth. I don't try to draw what I don't see. I don't try to kiss peoples asses. That's not what I'm trying to do, I want raw truth. I'm going to draw them in all their unadulterated dirty glory. In my art you’ll find people drinking to excess, sharing hugs or body bugs, but that’s just the framework. The devil is in the details.

My portraits’ frenetic line-work and deliberate washes unflinchingly reveal tired eyes, unshaven legs, break-outs and general malaise. I don't draw what's conventionally beautiful-- that's total bullshit, instead I find beauty in their imperfections. Why lie about things? As an artist I try to be honest. Yeah Life sucks...and I think my work illustrates that. Yeah it may suck but you don't have to be so down and out about it, but sometimes in those moments of utter despair you’re able to rise above, find solidarity with friends, share a beer and laugh at the shitty hand you've been dealt.
  Jaded Youth by Lauren Utter

BS: Are these works influenced by any specific events or experiences that you have endured? If so, would you like to discuss that?

LU: Well, I think with my art I was influenced by my misadventures panhandling in New York's Lower East Side, and hopping freight trains cross country, and generally experiencing life in the gutter or from someone's lumpy couch. I was moved by the people and experiences encountered on the fringes of society, and felt I needed to share these stories through my work...because it only seems like the most sensible thing to do.

This is my story and it definitely needs to be told...whether or not people are willing to listen, it needs to be said for my own sanity and catharsis. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, why not celebrate the fact you survived?

BS: What about other influences? For example, are you influenced by any specific artists or art movements?

LU: When I think of the most compelling art pieces and what I can really sink my teeth into-- I think of flyers or album art. To me punk and art went hand and hand... so it's only natural . I really hate a lot of contemporary art because I feel so out of touch with it and I don't really feel like I can relate to it very much at all and I simply just don't get it. Maybe I'm stupid. Whatever.

I really get a lot of inspiration from my friends and my experiences. My art just tries to document their stories and my impression of them. However, I do dig stuff like Otto Dix, Egon Schiele, Caravaggio, Raymond Pettibon, Gary Panter, Stephen Gammell, Mad Marc Rude, Zach Hazard Vaupen, Pushead, Michael Deforge, Matthias Grünewald, Sam McFadden, John John Jesse, Hendrick ter Bruggen, Hieronymus Bosch, Junji Ito & Suehiro Maruo and a bunch more.
 My United States of Whatever by Lauren Utter

BS: Can you discuss your artistic background? For example, do you have formal training or do you consider yourself self-taught?

LU: A combination of both. I briefly attended SVA , I studied cartooning and illustration, but I felt like I wasn't getting anything out of it and it was something I could not afford... I felt I didn't need an art school to tell me I was an artist. It was something I was my whole life... and I felt I'd grow more as an artist by making art by my rules. I don't perform well under something so structured. So it wasn't worth paying all that money for me to just rebel. I wasn't born with a silver spoon in my mouth so everything felt do or die. I felt like an outsider there to I knew the choice I had to make.

BS: As you may know, I'm an advocate for artists gaining exposure online-- how has displaying your work online helped you to grow as an artist?

LU: Oh it definitely has! Because of the invention of the internet your art now possesses the power to reach people from a different audience. Some of these people may not have the opportunity to be exposed to the art world or the art world seems really overwhelming to them-- the internet just makes it a whole lot less threatening.
It Aint Beer It's Piss by Lauren Utter

BS: What are your goals as an emerging artist?

LU: I want to continue with what I'm doing but who doesn't want more exposure?! I'd like to get back into comic books and delve into animation. I really see movement in my artwork and I'd love to see it brought to life.

BS: In closing, is there anything else you would like to say about your art?

LU: I don't want to seem at all ungrateful, but I don't really create my art with an audience in mind. Validation isn't the purpose of me making art whatsoever. Maybe I’m selfish in that respect, like I've mentioned earlier, I draw mostly for cathartic reasons, it's only happenstance that some people happen to like it... so that's a pretty rad addition. Don't get me wrong, I really appreciate it! So thanks guys for your support!

You can view more of Lauren Utter's artwork by visiting, . You can read more interviews by visiting,

Take care, Stay true,

Brian Sherwin
Senior Editor

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