I was doing the garden stuff on paper and I kept coming across garden grottos, which were decorated with shells. I said I was going to make a cave and finally started to do it. It was a material shift from modular paper components to more permanent. From the cave came The Order of Things. The cave is a hermetic space, but the garden is a very social space. The shell grottos was the result of a huge network of exchange. You needed multiple people to do work by women. The quilling techniques is predominantly done by women. Some specified gender labor happening in what I'm looking at.
The Order of Things is part cave, part cabinet. I'm looking at picturesque gardens and interested in ideas of specimen collecting and man trying to organize, label, and control nature into a human system. But, at the same time, these stalactites is taking over, which evolves over thousands and thousands of years, but these are fake because I made them. So overlapping ideas of scientific, natural, and artificial. [See book name Michel Foucault's seminal 1966 book “Les Mots et les Choses”…different notions of truth in natural science.] The other part of this piece is the cabinet that references eighteenth-century collecting and by turning it into black it becomes a modernist sculpture, where references of Louise Nevelson's rhythmic black squares recur.
Describe your palette.
I grew up in the '80s I was also into Robert Smith. I was always into gothic. Black is also a color associated with spirituality and a kind of otherness. It has this visual capacity so that some of the installations look like a whole or Malevich black square, so the black has the ability to shift between nothing and something, subject and shadow that is unique to the color. It's also mystical and inspiring and satisfying.
How did your own trip to Sanibel inform your piece at MOCA Jacksonville?
I was able to walk in Robert Smithson's footsteps and experience what his pieces might be like on site. We typically understand them as photographic documentation. I was able to bring back actual specimens from Sanibel, so the first floor component (tilted square of four slats like his with four mirrors), which is closest to Smithson's non-site, has parts inspired by him. Some elements are from that place of inspiration.
Lauren Festernstock: Sanibel Island from Joe Karably on Vimeo.