Lauren Alyssa Howard: Deconstructing the “Poor-White-Trash” Stereotype
How do race, class or other sociocultural considerations figure into your work?
My work consists of many layers that delve into my own upbringing in the “poor-white-trash” South. I use this generalization of who I am as a basis for commenting on this particular lifestyle, as well as poking fun at the stereotype. It’s the old saying, “I’m ____, so I’m allowed.” I use gender-, race-, and class-specific objects to bring about questions of who these people were/are and whether or not they should be feared or laughed at. My work deconstructs my own memories of the rural lower class and uses them as a vehicle for stimulation through texture, color and investigation. Cicadas, crickets, and squirrel heads literally reference Southern, poor Alabama, while sheep hearts in jars, deer antlers, and roaches symbolize male and female roles in a Southern Baptist household. It is through these objects and constructed environments that I am able to bring this lifestyle to the attention of an audience. Through the contrast of the grotesque and the beautiful, I am able to light-heartedly confront my own skeletons about ‘home’ as well as show the audience a new perspective of an old stereotype.
What role did/does formal education play in your artistic development?
Attending graduate school really helped me to form my ideas in a much more dynamic way. My story is a long one, but suffice it to say, there was a giant leap from what I was once doing. I remember the point that it happened. Though, I will not say that it would not have happened had I not attended grad school. The fact is, it did.
What is your approach to mixed media, if you work in different areas of art?
This is a great follow-up to the previous question. I was primarily a drawer/ painter for most of my artistic career. But there was always something nagging me about the flatness of two dimensions. So I began to build stretchers for my paintings that projected off the wall about 3-6 inches… desperately trying to find a way for a flat piece to really get in the face of the viewer. I wanted the viewer to be able to interact with the piece, to get in and investigate: texture, color, space; I wanted the viewer immersed. The stretchers did not do the trick. So soon enough I began building frames for my work that went along with the theme of each piece. But soon, even that was not enough. Then I began melding three-dimensional objects with the frames, which soon became bigger than the paintings themselves and before I knew it, I was building actual spatial environments that had paintings tucked away inside them. This is when I knew I had something. What better way for a viewer to literally interact with a piece than to invite them to step inside… invite them to be surrounded by texture and color and objects projecting forward, interrupting their own space?
What role does mischief, humor or subversiveness play in your work?
I like contrast. It is really fun to place something of beauty and delicacy directly in or next to something repulsive. I think this particular contrast sums up my entire childhood.
Lauren Alyssa Howard was born and raised in a small town in Southeastern Alabama. After moving to the Metro-Atlanta area in 1996, she attended the University of Georgia where she received her Bachelors of Fine Arts with an emphasis in Drawing. Drawing from her rural upbringing, Howard uses references from a particular lower-middle working class history to address identity, gender, place, and hierarchical familiar roles. Her work has been exhibited nationally and has most recently been shown in the Tampa Museum of Art, Morean Art Center, Wichita Center for the Art’s, “Pastel National Exhibition,” and The Contemporary Art Museum of Tampa. She now resides in Brooklyn, NY after having received her Masters of Fine Arts from the University of South Florida.
For more information, visit laurenalyssahoward.com