By Brian Goslow
Boston, MA – More artscope writers asked to make sure we covered Laura Evans’ current “Not One Thing” exhibition at the Boston Sculptors Gallery than any other show in our existence. Their enthusiasm is based on having followed a two-decade career that has resulted in an ever-changing series of work that always leaves you with a series of responses while pondering the meaning behind its creation – and a smile when you finally catch on. Artscope managing editor Brian Goslow caught up with her in an email exchange just as she was installing her new show.
THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU, YOU WERE TIDYING UP AROUND YOUR “BAG LUNCH” SCULPTURE AT CHRISTIAN SCIENCE PLAZA, WHERE IT’S PART OF THE “CONVERGENCE” EXHIBITION. WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTION TO THE PIECE AND HOW DO YOU THINK THE PUBLIC HAS REACTED TO THE SHOW AS A WHOLE?
I’ve had such positive responses to this work. I was unsure, at first, whether to even submit a proposal for an outdoor piece, but I am so glad that I did. The Christian Science Plaza is a beautiful and historic urban space, with many different features, but the architectural elements are so strong that I was worried about the scale shift for my work, which is more intimate. I am very happy with the placement of Bag Lunch and the public’s reaction to the entire exhibition has been overwhelmingly appreciative. I think that “Convergence” has really initiated a much-needed wider conversation about public art in Boston.
DO YOU SPEND TIME AT THE SITE OBSERVING REACTION TO THE WORK – AND HOW DIFFERENT IS THAT PROCESS IN A LARGE PUBLIC SPACE AS OPPOSED TO A GALLERY?
I have gone every other week during the course of these six months to wipe off bird poop and clip the grass around Bag Lunch! This is what I was doing when you saw me at the site. Similarly, it affords me the opportunity of a chance encounter with passersby and it’s often really fun. There is a wider range of viewers in a public space than in a gallery setting. Many people are unsure about how to approach sculpture in particular and “art” in general, so I find that humor is a good way to start the conversation. Also, lunch bags are about as accessible as you can get for a subject.
DID YOU CONSIDER WHERE A WORK WOULD BE PLACED WHEN YOU CREATE IT?
Yes, absolutely, this is critical. Each artist included their choice of a site or sites in the proposal, within the parameters given by the church committee. The final decisions were made by a church committee that included architect, Robert Herliger, and two members of Boston Sculptor Gallery, among others.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST BEGIN CONTEMPLATING THE COLLECTION OF WORK FEATURED IN “NOT JUST ONE THING?”
Right after my last exhibition at Boston Sculptors Gallery, which was in the spring of 2011. It was very slow at first, I didn’t have a clear idea of what I wanted, but just kept working and trusted that my process would reveal my ideas. I went from one material to another, searching for different ways to approach a similar concept. It really started to come together in early spring of this year once I understood that I wanted to have a group of “short stories”, so to speak, rather than one definitive novel.
IT LOOKS AS IF YOU HAVE UTILIZED A WIDE VARIETY OF MATERIALS IN PUTTING TOGETHER THE SHOW, WHICH, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, LOOKING AT THE POSTER YOU SENT OUT TO PUBLICIZE IT, IS VERY MEDITATIVE AND VISITORS TO THE GALLERY SHOULD ALLOW THEMSELVES A FAIR AMOUNT OF TIME TO MELT INTO THE WORKS. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO “SAY” OR CONVEY WITH THEM?
Yes, I definitely want viewers to “melt into the work”, as you so nicely described earlier. I don’t aim to dictate what people “should” see, but want to create a visual/spatial experience in which each person can find room to explore their own associations and imagination within the work. I want to make art that is hard to describe and doesn’t fit into our existing container for “already seen that”.
THE EXHIBITION IS DESCRIBED AS “A SERIES OF SEPARATE BUT INTERRELATED BODIES OF WORK” AND “EACH GROUP HAS ITS OWN UNIQUE MATERIALS AND VISUAL LANGUAGE. HOW OFTEN DO YOU SELECT THE MATERIALS THAT END UP IN YOUR WORK AND HOW OFTEN DO THEY SELECT YOU?
I’d say it’s about 50/50. That sounds like a good balance to me.
WHAT MATERIALS HAVE YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO WORK WITH THAT YOU HAVEN’T YET HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO SO?
I’ve always wanted to try glass blowing! Lead and resins are also really seductive, but I’ve tried to stay away from toxic materials.
ONCE YOU KNEW YOU’D BE PAIRED WITH JESSICA STRAUS, DID THE TWO OF YOU DISCUSS WHAT WORKS YOU’D BE SHOWING OR CREATING FOR THE SHOW?
We are very familiar with and appreciate each other’s work. We have shown together in group shows over the past few years: “Parting the Waters: Between Two Bodies” at the Sculpture Center, Cleveland, OH in 2012 and “Trigger and Reconfigure” at Wellesley College Jewett Art Center in 2011. We have both been looking forward to our concurrent exhibitions at Boston Sculptors since 2010 when the schedule was posted. We each had a general idea of what materials the other would be using, but didn’t really map out any plan. We both trusted that the pairing would work well and I think it has.
WHEN ARTISTS SHARE SHOWS, HOW OFTEN DO THEY SHARE IDEAS IN FORMULATING THE FINAL “PRODUCT?” — AND HOW DOES THIS AFFECT THE CREATIVE PROCESS?
It entirely depends on the two artists involved. One of the benefits of being a member in the Boston Sculptors is that each artist has entire control over what and how their work is displayed. Our exhibitions are conceived as two one-person shows, and the exhibition schedule is designed to keep changing these pairings so the same two artists are not shown together twice. On the whole, most artists work to create their own best exhibition. Sometimes, that is what you get: two separate but equal exhibitions. Sometimes there are wonderful resonances that are discovered when the shows are installed.
HOW DOES JESSICA’S WORK COMPLEMENT YOURS?
We both are committed to creating work in which the artist’s hand is in evidence. Both of us work at a small, intimate scale, using an additive process. There is an attention to detail, an implied dedication of effort over time, repetition, accumulation. I also think that in our own idiosyncratic ways, we each create objects that are hard to describe or that straddle several categories.
NOW THAT THIS EXHIBITION IS UNDERWAY, WHAT PROJECTS ARE YOU WORKING ON NEXT?
I am going to try casting paper and maybe make some blueprints.
DOES ALL THIS ACTIVITY ALLOW TIME FOR TRADITIONAL KNITTING?
Yes! I have a new granddaughter, born in June, so I knit her a little hat. Baby things are small and quick, thankfully.
ALL IN ALL, HOW HAS 2013 BEEN FOR YOU AS AN ARTIST?
It’s been a great year! I’m really looking forward to 2014 when I will participate in a group show with other Boston Sculptors in Cuzco, Peru and with a different group of BSG artists in Berlin Germany.
(You can see Laura Evan’s “Bag Lunch” sculpture in the “Convergence: Boston Sculptors Gallery Exhibits at the Christian Science Plaza” outside show through October 31; her “Not Just One Thing” exhibition continues through November 10 at the Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave., Boston. For more information, visit http://www.lauraevansart.com)