Laura Lark The Liveable Forest
on view through April 3
Much of Laura Lark’s work is devoted to exploring the way that popular culture, media, and public opinion colonize our sense of ourselves and provide us with the only vocabulary we seem to have for making ourselves understood. These explorations are governed, formally and materially, by paradox: motifs are drawn from familiar, even shopworn, sources but become a highly personal vocabulary; a kind of feminist vision is carried through by means of recovering a cult of beauty rejected by feminism; a certain monumentality is sometimes sought with materials – tyvek, nail polish remover, faux leaf, paint markers, sharpie – that are anything but resounding, intimidating, historical.
Though there is a certain kinship that draws Lark close to Pop and more recent movements that explore the tension between personal vocabulary and banal “original,” she thinks of her work as differing from some of these others since the aim in exalting this detritus from the culture industry lies in uncovering a certain psychological and emotional dimension – in herself and in the viewer – that is otherwise hard to articulate or identify.
One way she does this is to operate by selecting visual images in series. Some of the work has consisted in “replicating” a series of magazine pages; some have involved painting successive “stills” captured from the video screen; and many have drawn from the sort of list of instructions that all women (and more and more men these days) are familiar with: recipes, sewing patterns, how-to guides to better dress, hair, cosmetics.
The Liveable Forest employs many of these techniques and themes, but there are also some new ones. For instance, Lark has begun thinking about the formal and material paradoxes that exist in trying to see ourselves both as natural creatures and as social ones. This is especially evident in the installation elements of the show: the stuff that represents nature here – “leaves,” “hills,” “snow” – makes it clear that this is nature as experienced by someone who really doesn’t want to go outside.