Meet

Lauren Matsumoto

Is there a place you call home?
My family and I move around a lot due to work, but we always return to our home base in Brooklyn.
One of the first things you mention in your bio is your Scandinavian heritage. Has that history and identity influenced your work?
Yes, I’m very influenced by Scandinavian art and design. In particular, the work of Finnish designers such as Maija Isola (who designed for Marimekko), glass artist Oiva Toikka, and Alvar Aalto. In their work you see clean lines, a generous use of margin space, and a playfulness and sense of humor, which are all qualities I appreciate in art.
Slant
I collect these materials everywhere I go: every time I travel abroad or around New England, I hunt through antique stores buying old postcards, magazines and photos. — Lauren Matsumoto
So much of your time as an artist has been spent living in cities, yet your work seems to be immersing its subjects in nature. Do these two works (worlds?) reflect your own interaction with industrialized environments and the natural world?
Part of the reason I’m fascinated by nature is because as a city-dweller, I’m able to truly appreciate it. People who have lived in suburbs most of their lives sometimes take nature for granted or even view it as a nuisance: they ignore the sounds of cicadas chirping outside their windows at night, complain when the raccoons overturn their garbage, etc. For me, it would be a very exciting event if a raccoon showed up at night! When not out in the countryside, I play recordings of nature because I miss its sound.
Where do you find the left behind, discarded, cultural remnants that you re-use in your work?
In my work I use paper forms cut out of discarded junk mail or vintage materials. I collect these materials everywhere I go: every time I travel abroad or around New England, I hunt through antique stores buying old postcards, magazines and photos. I’ve even found some materials on Ebay and at estate sales and auctions.
Why, in place of other portrayals of the female body, have you chosen to use vintage erotica?
I felt that especially Victorian Era through Jazz Age erotica had an innocence to it that no longer seemed pornographic to the modern eye. After mid-century, the shape of the erotic woman changed and became more like the unrealistic, big-breasted, narrow-waisted fantasy worshiped today. Women from the Victorian Era especially who chose to pose for such photos were intriguing - what were their life circumstances that led them to pose nude when nudity was anathema to society? Did they enjoy it, or were they compelled to pose? I felt I could give these discarded images of women a new, recycled life in my artwork.
What is something people would be surprised to discover about you?
My grandfather was a bird breeder by profession. Birds are marvelous creatures one can spend a lifetime observing. He and my grandmother told frequent stories of the birds, their different personalities and all their funny behavior, so I never tire of watching them. Incidentally, they are also one of the most challenging subjects to capture on canvas.

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