Visual Vernacular: Artist Lauren Salazar
Lauren Salazar, “Sister/Brother” (detail), 2023.
In this second segment of this two-part Visual Vernacular set, we speak to artist Lauren Salazar about her exhibition in conjunction with the exhibition of Lorena Morales at Hooks-Epstein Galleries. Salazar reimagines traditional four-sided art into a spectacle of woven wonder and intrigue, using a geometric shape only as a meeting point for the hand woven elements. These strands of cotton meet together in a dialogue of shape and color, creating an intricate visual world that makes you lean in closer to examine. In her exhibition, Togetherness Undone, Salazar spins out the thoughts of communication and relationships into visual vignettes that redefine their materials through their storytelling.
FPH: How was art introduced to you as a child?
Lauren Salazar: My upbringing was fairly typical and pretty wonderful in its normalness. I grew up the middle child with an older sister, younger brother and loving parents. I spent many days playing in the woods and creek in our backyard. I was very into building forts inside and outdoors. Working, creating and playing with my hands was always an innate passion of mine. I also drew a lot. I took art classes all through high school and once I went to college Intro to Drawing courses taken for fun, it quickly became a more serious passion.
Lauren Salazar, “Heaven Couldn’t Wait IV You,” 2016.
FPH: How did you take the next step in your artistic career? How did your style evolve as your education expanded?
Salazar: I consider the real start to my artistic training to be when I became an art major at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. I took many courses with some wonderful professors. I was a painting major and in my final semester, faced with the open project of making a painting of your choosing — no required still life work, just whatever we wanted to paint — I chose to incorporate thread onto a painting canvas. Looking back that choice was probably another intrinsic attempt to work with materials in a more hands-on way.
I continued to use thread on and with paintings as I applied to graduate school and once accepted to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I continued to pursue the idea of using thread to make paintings. While I was there, I was challenged by professors in my program to understand the history of the materials I was using including the history of thread and artisans and craftsmen who use the material like weavers. I took independent weaving courses and immediately fell in love. All of the sudden, I saw a skill in weaving that would allow me to create the artwork I had been trying to make. I bought a loom and since then I feel more confident and complete as an artist because all of the sudden I had the tools needed in my arsenal that allowed my hands and imagination to merge and grow together.
FPH: What is your definition of home and family in your work?
Salazar: This body of work, formally really exists as abstract paintings built through handwoven and installed canvases. But metaphorically and conceptually ideas of home were always in my mind. Home doesn’t necessarily refer to a particular place for me but more of a state of mind, a feeling of togetherness when I’m with loved ones and family. I see weaving as that togetherness because it take individuals and intertwines them to create a strong cloth.
FPH: What materials do you use in your work and how do they intersect to tell the narrative of community?
Salazar: I used several different threads to create the pieces in this exhibit: cottolin, which is a Swedish yarn made of a mixture of cotton and linen; cotton; and hardware twine. I also use maple frames and paints. The complexities of relationships are represented in this body of work to me by my disassembling of the weavings I’ve made. As much as weaving is a representation of togetherness or community to me, this body of work disassembles the weavings that I’ve made once on the frame. Individual threads that come together and form a strong bond in weaving are then separated again and reassembled in a different, more chaotic way once on the frame. My personal experiences with the loss and change of relationships in my own life was the impetus behind this decision to undo and reassemble weavings that I’ve made.
Lauren Salazar, “Hold On,” 2015.
FPH: How does each part of the piece — such as the frame, canvas and hue — play an equal role in the work for this exhibition?
Salazar: Frame, canvas, and hue play equal roles in these works in that they are equally reliant on one another. The size and shape of the weaving is dependent upon the size frame that is being used. The weaving and thread exist within and are stretched around the frame as a sculptural object. Unlike traditional paintings where a canvas is stretched around a frame and the frame is ultimately hidden and acts solely as a support structure, the frames and the hues used are visible. In addition they act as a support structure and become visual components of the final pieces, just like the ‘canvas’ made within it.
FPH: Seeing that there is such a discussion about identity, community, and the greater whole going on in the world today, has this affected your work or this series?
Salazar: I have recently experienced a great personal loss and change to my family, literally a life changing loss. This new reality has made me look at not only myself differently but how I view others, the community and the greater whole. I view the world and others now with less judgment, greater compassion and a better ability to live in the moment, take things for what they are and appreciate moments of goodness where they exist.
“Togetherness Undone” runs through July 2, 2023 at Hooks-Epstein Galleries (2631 Colquitt). This Saturday, there will be a Q & A Session with Lorena Morales and Lauren Salazar conducted by Dr. Anna Tahinci, Department Head of Art History at the Glassell School of Art, and Kathryn Hall, Curator at the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Mingle and champagne beginning at 2:00 pm. Q & A Sessions will follow at 2:30 pm. RSVP at 713.522.0718 by Friday, June 3 for a number of seats will be available on a first come, first serve basis.