When it comes to the wide-ranging activities and interlocking mediums practiced by artist Lauren Kasmer, multidisciplinary doesn’t begin to cover it. Across photography, textiles, wearable art, film and video, sculpture, installation, performance, storytelling, artist books, public gatherings, and thematic, narrative shared food, Kasmer investigates permutations of history, memory, intuition, identity, place-making, and somatic knowledge. By engaging and layering all the senses in complex structures of communion with the natural world and with each other, Kasmer’s relationship to the elements is both documented and embodied. Contextualized within her luxurious universe of texture and color, human stories shared through food—both recipes told and dishes served—expands the ways in which her message of beauty, life, and resilience can be experienced.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
LAUREN KASMER: Intuitively I have always known from the youngest consciousness, but didn’t always know how to name the way I looked at the world, and wanted to create within and beyond it.
What is your work about?
Multidisciplinary/multi-media installations, often with collaborators and public participation, usually centered around a film, with thematic food, scent, sound, and wearables, as well as live events. The series of works sequentially build upon each other in response to time and placement. For instance, the UV installation was initially presented with an event called Bees are Fuzzy where the public was invited to hear Apiologists presenting, casual beekeepers sharing and other artists’ poetic interpretations reflecting on the Honeybee crisis—all this while being served honey-based and indigenous plant-life snacks by fellow artists, donning photographic art wearables in fabrics of my abstracted images of native plant life, in silhouettes that referenced protective bee suits.
How does food play a part in your public practice?
Appealing to multiple senses has always been a part of a personal as well as the collaborative and participatory manifestations of my art practice. The preparation, serving and sharing of food and recipes, even in story form, is intrinsic to who we are and embracing this allows for an interaction and connection with greater community while referencing histories. My earliest food collaboration was hiring a homeless artist in the early 80’s (who worked sporadically at a Ralph’s bakery) to apocalyptically decorate a cake for a performance and an exhibition I co-curated called Fallout Fashion, a fundraiser for the L.A. Alliance for Survival.
A photograph I have included here is from an installation called Tel that comprised not only the filmed UV and the draped 58 x 130-inch photograph of a bees watering hole, but some of the photographic prints on metal of my home and studio’s fire-ravaged walls from the series called Flourish From Fire. It was a natural inclination to have a fellow artist who loves to cook develop burnt serving platters and offer food that was charred to guests interacting with the alternative exhibition space.
In conjunction with the Blue exhibition at The Loft at Liz’s gallery, I presented Not So Blue, an evening of small bites, rhythm and blues, hip hop, projected video and wearable art. The event was free and donations benefitted the nonprofit organizations: Good Shepherd Center for Homeless Women and Children & A Window Between Worlds.
Most recently, with co-creator Joyce Dallal, I have brought back the active part of our decades-long Homesĭtē project—a historic installation with community contributions, the Homesĭtē Exchanges, which are ongoing presentations and shares by the public of one’s relationship to their food or food memories. The Homesĭtē Recipe Exchange – Culinary Performances were most recently presented in Torrance at El Camino College Art Gallery and at the show I curated called Notions of Place for the San Pedro’s Angels Gate Cultural Center. My individual projects allow for live intersections where I can provide activities that almost always allow me to host an edible experience.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Why do you live and work in Los Angeles?
Birthed in Hollywood of Eastern European heritage, I have an affinity for this place that goes beyond simply being born here and deciding to stay and work. Coming from a lineage of displacement I hold fast to investigating what a notion of place really means—and in fact, it is the name of the show I curated that just closed in June at Angels Gate Cultural Center, my most recent project.
In the exhibition’s curatorial statement, I wrote: “Notions of Place examines what it means to inhabit a complexity of different spaces that may be physical realities or imagined environments…The artists are responsive to the diverse community that makes up San Pedro, while also keeping in mind the importance that it is home to the largest port of international traffic in the US. Filtered through social, cultural, and geo-political frames, the artists explore relationships and systems of the urban, suburban, exurban, and rural landscape.”
My notion of this place, Los Angeles, is a desire to honor its past, to retain what is indigenous and still has resonance today, and to also acknowledge my personal lineage and the exodus that eventually brought me securely here. During my personal activations, timed live events where I and others occupied my own installation within the gallery, I served Dobosh torte and poppy seed as a nod to the delectable that my mother coveted. My mother actually did not cook but she was a true appreciator so I assumed it reminded her of early times before her Austro-Hungarian Czechoslovakian mother was a victim and she was a survivor of the Holocaust.
The artists I selected to occupy the exhibition all had a very diverse response to my initial ask. As I wrote in the statement, “Their response ultimately transcended the singular city to reflect what one might call the Covid pandemic migration as well. As a whole society shifts its notion of home, so its idea of place transforms too. In ways that are both spiritual and physical, Notions of Place explores the contours of the artist’s experience of the world.”
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