Laurie Lipton makes drawings of such ambitious scale, intense detail, surreal wit and unflinching social critique as to defy easy categorization despite their familiar simple medium: graphite on paper. With influences from Old Master and Renaissance technique and love for contemporary voices of political underground illustration subculture, Lipton invents cinematic scenes, characters, and settings in which hyper-real and stylized narratives lampoon the many and varied dysfunctions of our society. Her imagination and boundlessly dark sense of humor have had plenty of material these past few years, to say the least, and she’s been at work nonstop, just like she has been for decades. Her cheeky Twitter bio says, “the 21st century’s greatest draughtswoman… but humble with it” — and it’s funny because it’s true.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
LAURIE LIPTON: I always knew that I was an artist. My Dad took me to the Museum of Modern Art in NYC when I was six, and I had a spiritual awakening while looking at Tchelitchew’s “Hide & Seek.” I knew I wanted to create something, anything, as powerful one day. The first time I declared it publicly to the world was on a Boarding Card returning to the USA from Europe. It asked, Occupation, and I answered, Artist. I was 21 years old and just had a successful exhibition in Germany.
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I say, “What do YOU think it’s about?” They then proceed to tell me their life stories.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
I wouldn’t be anything. I’d be dead.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes. I got a full scholarship into Carnegie-Mellon University. They taught me nothing I wanted to learn, but they gave me time and space to teach myself how to draw. I used to sit for hours in the library copying Dürer, van Eyck, Memling, and Goya while listening to folk rock.
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I have lived and worked in London, Bruges, Hamburg, Aix-en-Provence, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. I went wherever my art led me. I was led to L.A. I had fans and galleries showing my work here. I was invited to be a Resident Artist at Cal State. I loved it. I moved here in 2011 after living in Europe for 36 years. I finally feel at home.
When was your first show?
I was 14 and it was in my mom’s friend’s gallery in upstate New York. It sold out.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
My last show was with Modernism Inc in San Francisco last year. I currently have no gallery in L.A. but am looking around. I have a show called POST TRUTH ready to roll, and would prefer to do a pop-up once the Pandemic passes.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
My master, Albrecht Dürer. I learned more from copying his works than from any art teacher in my life. If he’s booked up, I wouldn’t mind my fellow southpaw, Michelangelo. I love his charcoal drawings.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so what?
Blues, Gospel, Opera, Rock & Roll… it all depends on my mood. I also listen to Radio Plays. They are very effective for shutting up my mind.
Website and social media handles, please!