The mask is a universal symbol that has been adopted amongst almost all early antiquities as an object to disguise. American photographer, Lauren Poor, explores the cultural construct of masquerade, as she creates fantastical costumes and vibrant photographic surfaces to illustrate her own magical desires. Hot ‘N’ Gold magazine gets an exciting opportunity to delve a little deeper into her dressing up box…
Hello Lauren - Hot 'N' Gold magazine has fallen in love with your vibrant aesethetic! Firstly, whereabouts are you based and what's your background in the creative arts?
Thank you! I'm in Maryland right outside of Washington DC. I am very appreciative and thankful to say that my introduction into creativity was an allowing childhood. I played make believe games and dress ups with my friends a lot. I adventured around my neighborhood and joined an acting group. I've also been to school for art and been inspired by artists I've seen in museums, books and online. I really value my childhood, my town and the community I grew up and the potential they all gave for creativity so part of my life dream is to provide that for other people by making a magical neighborhood… town… city… !?
Your latest Untitled (2014) series is a bit of a colorful treat for our eyes! What's it all about?
It's about taking a defined, concrete way of seeing people and places and making it into a colorful mist that invites imagination and creativity. When I look at my own external reality I can sometimes feel oppressed and constricted, like my own existence is not allowed there, so it is good to be able to use that external world as a stage for my inner self to imagine and play with the possibilities of what exists around me. That way I can be present and creative, I can exist. Most of those images are made from places and people in my life that I have dressed up, costumed and photographed and then drawn and painted onto. So I've changed my reality, transformed it, disguised it, abstracted it. Maybe the images that exist after that will be a place for people to see possibilities in viewing their own external realities in ways that include their own inner imaginings. I tried to show changes that I image making in places I've lived by painting my own colors and shapes over advertisements, ideal human forms, constructed gender markings, architecture that discourages community... I've made visual changes in my life with these images, testing out and showing myself what the possibilities could be. I hope I am also providing a mental space for people who look at them to imagine their own possibilities onto the world, ones that aren't all neatly within the bounds of how society tells us to look and live.
Hot 'N' Gold magazine imagines you have quite a dreamy dressing up box! What's the best thing you've bought recently?
I'm making a horse costume right now using materials I've collected. I bought this book of photographs and words about "Dance, Myth, and Ritual from South Asia to the South Pacific" and was inspired by photographs of a ritual from Tamil Nadu, India called the dummy horse dance.
I think I like masks and costumes because they break down the strict power that images can have and then can create their own images. I don't like when an image exploits a person and nails their assumed identity in place within an unfair system. With masks and costumes people can protect and change their own image, freeing themselves up to be playful and creative and to experiment with possibilities of existing. Then maybe when the masks and costumes are off, people can still see each other that way, as changing, unknown beings.
Your practice often touches upon the masquerade! What attracts you to this this cultural concept?
I often like to make parts of the image beforehand- costumes, sets, props and then try to photograph something that resembles what I imagined when I thought of the image. Then with that image I sometimes like to add to it on the computer and/or on a print of it and then scan that back in and continue adding to it and finishing it or printing it out again and maybe re-photographing it or adding layers of paint or glitter. I like doing that because it feels like I'm opening the image up to being more and more weathered and changed which exaggerates and makes clearer that the photograph is not the thing it is of, but like a mask it is a surface symbol maybe and in that transformed state it can becomes something else and invite people's imaginations. It seems magical to me to do that… like putting photo paper in a camera, but then opening it up a crack and letting bugs fly in there to write their freaky little bug stories on the paper, acting out epic bug scenes with shadows and colors from moss and dirt, and then photographing the scene in front of the camera where the bugs all live so everything that just took place now exists on one paper.
You have a very experimental approach to image-making, which is visually quite refreshing! Can you talk us through your mixed-media processes?
All Images Copyright © 2014 Lauren Poor
All Images Copyright © 2014 Lauren Poor
Besides photography - what other kind of things are you passionate about?
Dolls and making things and my neighborhood and fairies. I like to learn about artists and visionary environments. I daydream all the time about houses and neighborhoods I imagine building and all of the beautiful things that would go on there. I like to learn about ways people create communities and work with the places they live. I love dress ups and performances and music and when a community exists lovingly and people can be there as themselves, its my dream to make that sort of thing happen more.
Can you recommend a contemporary artist that deserves some R.E.S.P.E.C.T?
Maybe John Darnielle from the music group The Mountain Goats. Some of the things he writes are so beautiful to me and express sentiments that I feel I lack hearing sometimes in my daily life. Like caring for the people in the world who aren't glamorous and popular and have gotten the short straw in life and need to be welcome somewhere. Giving the sad lonely people a place to heal. Those are some ideas I appreciate him for expressing, but he shares a wealth of ideas and images that I love having around.
Finally, what's a good song to make house-chores more enjoyable?
We're All Alone by Boz Scaggs. I like to lip sync to something dramatic while I clean.
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