As an undisputed novice in the realm of visual arts, my tendency has always been to gravitate towards artwork—paintings and photographs usually—that immediately reward the viewer with a beautiful array of colors; a scenic, purposeful image; or just some explosion of excitement that makes one think, “That would look great in my living room hanging behind the television set. Yeah, it’d really brighten up the drab in that old rumpus room, it would.”
When I first became aware of Bushwick artist Lauren Pascarella’s body of work, I noticed that while compelling, it possessed few of the aforementioned qualities. With some notable exceptions, Pascarella’s art consists largely of stacks of common items, calmly disassembled human beings, and structures featuring faintly warped angles and distorted shapes.While most of her pieces are polychromatic, the tones that she selects are by no means startling to the viewer and are frequently softened and muted through a variety of techniques that are an integral part of Pascarella’s process. The individual components of her clusters appear to be solid three-dimensional objects, but are in fact, flat photographic images. Consequently, recognizable items often seem disproportionate, skewed, and sometimes even impossible—like very good renditions of what we know to exist in the real world, but also somehow existing in a state that does not quite meet our expectations of the physical norm.
Viewing her work, I would find myself looking at masses of overturned furniture or piles of torsos and limbs, and searching for a shape with which I could identify—like there was a gimmick that I was missing. I’d begin to feel a sense of uneasiness and frustration as I would mentally adjust a bent line or pull pieces off of the pile to furnish a fictitious room. I would attempt to approximate a midpoint, determine which parts were oversized and which were undersized, and depending upon my conclusion, try to scale them towards that baseline. And as I realized that there were just too many adjustments to make, and I had lost track of which ones I had already straightened, resized, and repositioned, I would give up wanting to change that which was in front of me and accept it as it was being presented.
The ingredients of Pascarella’s pieces aren’t meant to be restored, and any attempt to do so will inevitably fail. Lauren Pascarella’s art is a dismantled clock—gears resized, screws pounded flat, and arms twisted. You can try to snap it all back together, but what you’ll accomplish is something that, at best, closely approximates the appearance of a clock without any of its former functionality.
It might seem then that the story that Lauren Pascarella’s art is trying to tell is one of destruction and hopelessness, but I reject that premise. There is finality in destruction. The elements in her images and installations aren’t chopped, burnt, or otherwise decimated; they are allowed to maintain some semblance of what they once were, but at the same time prevented from making a full recovery. Articles that were once intended for a different function must find a way to be useful in their new form in an unfamiliar environment.
All things become damaged. Rust, erosion, accidental trauma, and acts of violence irrevocably change their raison d’être, but the surviving parts must find purpose in their altered states. In this sense, Pascarella’s message is cautiously optimistic: you may have been damaged, bent, or even broken, but there is still a place for you if you are willing to accept that you may never be what you once were.
Lauren Pascarella has shown her work in various group and solo art shows in Miami and New York City. She works in cross-disciplinary genres, including New Media and digital photographic installations. She currently resides in Brooklyn, NY.
Visit her website: www.laurenpascarella.com