An exciting upcoming talent, Brooklyn-based Lauren Carly Shaw (born 1986) is known for creating bizarre alternate universes that allude to mythology, fairy tales, nursery rhymes and children’s stories in an effort to connect with the adult viewers’ unconscious manifestations of those classic narratives. She employs a range of materials, synthetic and natural—fur, hair, yarn, cardboard, resin, silicone, digital animation—to play with the forms of humans, animals and inanimate things. Using cast replications of facial features and constructed likenessnes of limbs, she frequently anthropomorphises items such as balloons, eggs, ram’s horns and shells.
For her surreal mixed-media installation I, Me, Mine, (2019)—which was exhibited at Postmasters Gallery in New York City this year—Lauren investigated the prevalent social obsession of “vanity”, and the related flaw of “ignorance”, which is stuck to it as another side of the same coin. This project acts as a platform for a performance, as well as the catalyst for an augmented reality experience.
The work references the myth of Narcissus by focussing on a life-sized marbled figure within a pale green area decked with a piece of chessboard print, random splashes of colour and strange objects. She appears to have an excessive or erotic interest in herself, addicted to validation and adulation—and is a fitting representation of the millions of Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok users who will not spare one angle in the photos and videos they post of themselves day in and day out.
The figure is surrounded by a number of humanoid objects and busts gazing eternally at themselves or their doppleganger. In the performative element, the artist assumes the likeness of the sculpture by way of a mask and body paint to then replace it in the space. The filmed performance is presented through an augmented reality application on a smartphone. It automatically plays when the viewfinder of the camera recognises the installation. This presents the viewer with two simultaneous contradicting realities.
One reality exists ‘in real life’ and the other exists on the screen as simulacra. Furthermore, the installation is pointedly built as a stage as though the subject of the space went to elaborate means to present herself in a particular way. Like Narcissus, who longingly stared and then drown in a pool reflecting his own image, the image of the vain figure in the installation is reflected many times through literal mirrors, the artist’s performance, and through the activation on the screens of our phones and tablets.
“I, Me, Mine” is supposedly a “social” setting where different characters seem to have congregrated for some purpose. And yet, upon closer inspection, the viewer finds that everybody is locked inside themselves. The main character with an inflated head has her eyes closed. The humanoid objects around have limited sensory capacities—only sound or only smell, face but no real touch, fingers but nothing else—implying how reduced we often become when busy promoting our own selves, how our faculties that may allow us to perceive others get dulled in the process of self-aggrandisement. We are envious of our neighbours, and engage in constant competition with them—and yet we are somehow becoming oblivious of their humanity, because our own is fading away. Using humour, fantasy and absurdity, Lauren gives us a compelling portrayal of our digital age.
The artist obtained a BFA from the School of Visual Arts, New York City in 2009 and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2016. From 2009-2010, she participated in an international immersive contemporary studio program, Metafora, in Barcelona, Spain. At her first solo show in the fall of 2013, she highlighted the juxtaposition of traditional sculpture and drawing with the use of augmented reality technology at The Active Space, in Brooklyn, NY. She was also a 2014 Sunroom Project Space Artist at Wave Hill in the Bronx, NY with a solo show during the summer of 2014.