Lauren Bahr is a Brooklyn-based artist whose work spans a wide array of media - fabric, twine, dyes, paint, sculpture and found objects. This series of hand-dyed twine on frames is Lauren's latest creative endeavor.
Where are you from originally and where do you live now?
I was born and raised in Texas, and I’ve lived in New York City for seven years now.
Can you share your process for these pieces?
It’s a long one! First I choose the frame and plan the colors of the piece. Then I take the twine and start uncoiling it so that it will absorb the dye properly. It soaks in soda ash while I mix the dyes from a powder or from beet juice or coffee. Each little vat is a bit of a mystery until the colors have set and dried completely. The rope can sit in the vat for fifteen minutes or a few days before it’s ready to be stretched out to dry . . . then it takes another day to dry completely. Then I re-coil it, and Then I start wrapping the piece. Sometimes I’ll have to take them apart and put them back together until the colors and proportions are perfect. But I like working this meticulously. It’s soothing alchemy.
How did you make the jump from working on paper to this series?
My brain craves variety. I knew that I wanted to do something sculptural and tactile; I also moved into a new apartment recently, and during that process decided that I needed to use various things I had lying around in my studio or get rid of them by the end of the year…including all this dye and rope and leftover frames. So I just started playing. I feel like this direction refers to earlier work but also sophisticates it, texturizes it. The three-dimensionality is exciting to me, since I usually do work in 2d. But they still go up on the wall like a regular painting. Oh and the other cool thing is that they look good in any orientation! There is no top or bottom.
Paintings from 2011.
I've heard you say that you are a collector. Can you elaborate?
I love the totemic power of objects. The history of their initial functionality;and how that functionality changed over time is fascinating to think about. And of course previous owners… I’ve got an alligator head from Savannah, antlers and scorpion paperweights from my home state, rose water from a bodega in Philly, a little three-legged stone wolf that I got from an Upper West Side street fair and named Wallace. When I was in college in Texas, I accumulated a three-bedroom house full of pulp paperbacks, strange ornate mirrors, hundreds of postcards, black and white pictures of strangers and old sewing patterns, defunct typewriters . . . it was excessive. Since I’ve been in New York, I’ve been slowly but surely whittling down to only the very most special things. Curating has replaced collecting.
Do you think you'll continue working on this series for a while or do you have other projects in mind?
There’s definitely more to explore with these. They’re going to get more complex, thicker, messier, more three-dimensional. My friend Frank (who has an amazing store that just opened called The Perfect Nothing Catalogue) wants to collaborate—the idea is that he’ll find the pieces to wrap and I’ll bring the rope, and we’ll build them together in the garden in front of his store. I have more supplies that need to be used or gotten rid of in the studio—beautiful, explosively colorful fabric, more frames—and I have a sewing machine that begs to be used more—so I’ll be curious to see what else evolves out of my need to purge! And I’m missing good old acrylic paint lately, too. Lots on the horizon.
You have an awesome tumblr, seven days of shade. Do you find that what you post influences the art that you make? For example, the colors you are drawn to.
Thank you! I mean yeah, everything bleeds into everything else for me… I started that blog to assuage my need to collect and curate without a lot of money and time. Tumblr is an amazing resource for artists– I see exponentially more inspiring images than I did before. What I see and then post definitely influences the art that I make– it’s a catalogue of cool things that I refer to constantly. An ever-expanding digital mood board. Both the content and the color combinations are really important, and I never post anything unless the colors are compatible with everything that I’ve posted recently. The part of me that wants to collect everything has been much happier since I started it, and I feel like my art has been stronger since I’ve had so much to compare it to and so much to think about visually. One thing I do need to do more often though, is get out and see more art in the city. Tumblr will only take me so far.