CARTWHEEL Interview: Sticky Shaw and Lauren Buckingham Over on “Birds” at Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow Gallery
In the first show of the new year at Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow Gallery in Laguna Beach, artist Sticky Shaw curates a four-artist exhibition titled “Birds” with artwork by Shaw, Karlee Mackie, Lauren Buckingham Over, and Katherine Clarke Langlands. The Birds theme proves an interesting exploration in masculinity vs. femininity with this output of one male and three female artists. There are Shaw’s punk rock birds of whimsy, with not-so-serious titles like Hooters and Quail Dodo Bird, alongside pensive female likenesses painted by both Mackie and Langlands. Over’s Birds are homages to the kinds of birds that fly on gasoline – Falcon, Thunderbird, Firebird, and Skylark – and are the portrayal of important males’ influence in the artist’s life as filtered through her elegant lettering and illustration, as she explains in our interview. A venture into the contrast of the sexes is a fabulous by-product of a show concept that simply began with Shaw’s most admired member of the animal kingdom, as he explains below.
Both Shaw and Over are Southern California-based artists who each say they are inspired by street art. They developed a mutual appreciation for one another’s work over – where else? – Facebook. This relationship sparked my interest in doing a duo phone/e-mail interview with the pair, who will meet in person for the first time at the opening of “Birds” on Saturday, Feb. 9, 2013.
Where did the idea of “Birds” come from? Was there any other direction given?
I just love birds. They’re descended from dinosaurs and they need to be free and fly. The colors are amazing, and the way they migrate. They’re beautiful, and they’re just fun to watch… I gave the direction of “birds” and that’s it. I feel like if there’s too much direction it’s kind of like a school project that needs to look like this and this. I know that everybody has different visions and I wanted this to be what these girls’ visions were. Mine are just straight birds with my trademark background with layers. I wanted to see what the girls put into it.
Lauren Buckingham Over:
He let me interpret it however I wanted — it was really fun to have a specific starting point but be able to be open about where it went!
Lauren, what’s your connection to cars?
My connection to cars is something that keeps unconsciously surfacing and kind of surprising me by doing so, but I guess it should be pretty obvious to me why! My dad, uncle, grandfather and great uncle are the biggest car lovers I’ve ever met! Ever since I was a kid old cars were an integral part of life. My dad restores antique cars, and I have very fond memories of hanging out with him and watching, listening to him and my uncles and grandfather have endless, encyclopedic-like knowledge filled conversations about cars, and flipping through their libraries of books, taking in all the photos. I think I absorbed that respect and love for their design, mechanics and characters. It was something that people revered and bonded over in my family and that they infused their souls into. It was like the cars were people in the family, too. I see them as animated, anthropomorphic. Also, I grew up in a semi-rural area where old cars would sometimes be left to decay on the side of a road, in a driveway, or in a field. It fascinated me to see them in their various stages of decomposing, being reclaimed by the earth and the weeds and wildflowers- the opposite of the way my dad would bring them back to life.
Lauren, what inspires you aside from cars?
I love collecting little bits of nature that catch my eye–rocks, shells, seedpods, feathers, flowers I can dry. I’m in love with the desert. I’m fascinated with illustration–the way words and images combined become such a powerhouse, each kind of communicating with a different half of our beings. I’m interested in astrology and the tarot, psychology and symbolism. All of these things find their way into my work. I think making the collage-like art that I do is a way for me to try to figure out why I’m drawn to these elements, what they mean and how they fit together. When I make art it’s a way to meditate on and process all these fragments. Even if I never 100 percent grasp how they all relate, or know everything they could mean, at least maybe I can make a harmonious, thought-provoking, enjoyable picture out of them! And that’s satisfying enough for now.
You met on Facebook and now you’re showing art together. Is that normal for either of you?
Lauren complimented me on some of my stuff, and I complemented her on some of her stuff, and I was like wow, she’s a really good artist. We started talking back and forth about how we should do a show together. I don’t really get turned on to a lot of artists because there’s so many of us, but when Torrey [Cook, owner of Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow] asked me about doing this show, I was like, ‘I need to talk to this girl. I know we’re going to be friends, and I need to be more than just a Like on Facebook or a little stuff here and there.’
When we finally talked on the phone I found him to be just as laid back, kind and humorous as I imagined he’d be. It was easy and fun to talk to him–I suspect that liking and relating to the art someone makes is a great way to tell how well you’ll get along. It was really cool to fill each other in a little on the kind of work we do and learn that we both do illustration as well. It was fascinating hearing about how his relationship with AR4T developed into curating; and especially how he’s been able to combine his love for the worlds of music and snowboarding so successfully with his art-making!
What do you admire about one another’s work?
Lauren puts a lot into it; a lot of details. Her color scheme is good, and I like how she puts little things into her artwork that are very interesting.
I think what I admire most about Sticky’s work is how seamlessly he’s blended the darker, messy, DIY, and frenetic aesthetic of punk/rock/Dada/abstract expressionism with the smoother, simpler, more colorful, calmer figures of the birds. It makes me think of the way nature can be such a soothing thing to switch focus to versus the hectic, polluted man-made worlds we spend so much time in. It can take us back to a more pure time and place in our lives, like when we were kids and all we had to do was play in the grass and notice the bugs and plants, and of course the birds. What I love is that all of the elements have energy and humor about them. The birds are executed with affection and are just overflowing with personality.
You each use the written word but in completely different ways. Explain.
The backgrounds of my paintings are organized chaos: the layers of being in a dirty New York club, flyers, tag marks. It’s kind of hard to explain it all, but if you catch me in person I’d love to tell you… A lot of my bird paintings have a lot of little cool meanings in the background. One has letters from my grandma to my dad that were written during World War II. They wrote a lot to each other and my dad kept every letter. It’s really hard to read that old cursive, but it looks really good.
Lauren, is lettering something you have done for a while?
I think my love for typography is that it’s uniquely powerful being visual and linguistic at once- it reaches us on two different levels. I love the way it can make a word visually evoke a specific time and place. I think I also love it because it’s so tied to they way many of us first experience art- in children’s books. For years we receive stories as both pictures and words, and reading is something we do constantly throughout our days- whether it’s the cereal box, signs on the highways, or the dictionary. It has always felt a little incomplete to me to make a picture without any text in it at all, and I started incorporating my drawing with writing most of the time, ever since high school. My mother always did calligraphy, and some of my first memories are watching her craft those letters out of ink in a similar way to the way she would draw. I think that contributes to my attachment to lettering, too.
Feb. 7-24, 2013
Artists Republic 4 Tomorrow Gallery
210 North Coast Highway Laguna Beach, CA
Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 12-6pm
Opening Reception with music by The Red Kapps Feb. 9, 6-9pm