In our Griffin Gallery in Winchester is the whimsical, thoughtful work of Lauren Ceike. Her series Sequin Fix looks at how we hold onto objects, crafting narratives, telling ourselves and others new stories.
Tonight at 7pm Eastern, we talk with Lauren in more detail about her path as an artist and learn more about her exhibition. We hope you will join us. In the meantime, we asked Lauren a few questions about her work.
How do your collections of objects manifest themselves? Like shiny objects you find and collect? Do you look for specific things? Are they all connected to family and a larger community of friends? Or is it subconscious, as if you didn’t know you had collected for example, 25 pink beads?
I have always been overly attached to objects and possessions. I just love things. My parents have told me I challenged them when I was a kid because I didn’t want to let go of certain items that they considered trash. I remember a broken umbrella that they had to secretly take out to the curb; somehow I found out and I can still feel the sensation of crying when the garbage truck stopped at our house. The pattern of the umbrella is also clear in my mind. I have a hard time separating myself from some objects, they often elicit feelings of inspiration, excitement, happiness, and make me feel like I can’t live without them. Many of the items featured in this project are things I have kept since childhood; after so many years they still conjure up those feelings I had as a kid and I just can’t bear to part with them. I maintain a childlike sensibility and I still love things that are cute and glittery. This is why I say I may be subconsciously holding onto an innocence that was fleeting.
In a more practical sense, I like to keep a library of items for crafting and creating. My artistic vision is never predictable so I like to have a wide variety of materials to work with. Sometimes an idea is sparked simply based on the object.
When was the moment you collected your first dime bag? What went in it? Was it the bag from the pool for “nuts and bolts”?
I started collecting the bags around 2015. Up until that time, the bags I saw had no special significance to me, they were purely functional. Once I realized what they were I continued to just notice them before ever picking them up. The concept for this project wasn’t in my mind when I first started collecting the bags, but I knew the idea would come to me. One of my first brainstorms involved robin’s eggs, which I also collect. I love noticing the subtle differences in the beautiful blue shades. I thought there could be some connection to drug abuse and the fragility of the eggshells, but it was an over-intellectualized idea. When I simplified my mind and came back to a childlike sense of curiosity, the concept came to me.
We have 4 boxes with bagged objects in the museum. How did you decide which objects fit with others? Was it a visual connection? Is it a timeline of collection?
I have a “magic box” of items that I have saved from childhood. It’s a beat up old roller skates box that has moved to every apartment over the years. I’m even attached to the actual box, it’s a funny scene of three girls skating with classic 1980’s graphic design. Every so often I would open the box and hope to find some jewelry that was now back on trend, but would end up a little disappointed and close the box for another time. After amassing a collection of bags, I was excited to finally have a good use for all the special things I had saved for so long. I was thankful for their service throughout the years and glad that I could now sacrifice them for a greater cause.
Some bags and their coordinating objects have visual connections, but it’s very subtle and the viewers may not notice. For example, bag number 174 contains squirrel teeth which mimic the shape of the devil horns depicted on the bag. The pink beads in bag number 4 is another deliberate pairing: the dainty, girly items juxtapose the burned bag in a way that summarizes the whole project.
Many people collect things trying to hold onto their past, or craft new narratives of what their lives could have, should have been. You say you collect to create nostalgia. Yet you also say your childhood was robbed from you. Is this a way to create a new bank of childhood memories? Or is it a visual interpretation of what your childhood should have been?
I want it to be well known that I cherish my family and my childhood memories. While some things were difficult and lifelong challenges, I deeply love all members of my family and work hard to maintain good relationships and connections. I believe my need to collect is a coping mechanism, a way to surround myself with things that bring me comfort and joy. It created a sense of control over an environment which was often out of my control.
We have 2 sets of school photos of a family member. The real bagged contents of the photos and the documented copy. What importance does this particular object / image hold for you?
The actions of an addict have longterm effects on the whole family, not just themselves. My life will be forever dictated by the experiences I had growing up with an addict. Even in recovery there are specific accommodations to be aware of, and current circumstances often seem tenuous. It’s crushing to see the school photos of that sweet boy who no longer exists. They carry so much more weight than any of the other bags of objects, therefore they deserve to be displayed on their own. The boy is contained by the bag, and his life is continuously limited by it.
What do you want us as viewers to walk away with after seeing your work?
While this project is acutely personal to me, consisting of mementos special to only me and my experiences, it has a universality that people can identify with. I believe this work of art to be more about innocence and memory than it is about drug abuse. As I’ve gotten older, I have come to the conclusion that every family is damaged in their own unique way and the best anyone can do is try to be happy and manage their feelings in a healthy and constructive way.
Another notable aspect of this project is it came out exactly as I envisioned and expressed exactly what I needed to say. As an artist, I can claim that this isn’t always how things turn out. I often have a lot of self criticism for the things I create, but I’m happy to have this body of work exist just as it is.
Is the project still ongoing? Are you still a collector?
I continue to collect bags when I see them, but I don’t hunt for them as I did for a period of time. Fortunately, I no longer see as many bags as I used to; sometimes I would find up to 15 bags in one walk. I hope this is an indication that drug abuse has diminished, but I doubt that’s the case. I have close to 100 empty bags so I envision adding more frames to the collection. At some point, I would be glad to stop collecting the bags, it doesn’t really feel good to creep around gutters and bring trash home, but for now I will keep collecting the ones I find. I have developed a keen eye for spotting treasures on the ground; I am in no way a religious person, but finding a miniature figurine of Mary nearly brought me to tears and she has become a trinket I carry around everywhere.
In an era of mindfulness and trendy tidying, I feel judged for placing importance on material possessions, yet I simultaneously feel burdened by these items. If the tidying experts suggest to keep only things that “spark joy”, I feel conflicted when I am compelled to keep things that spark sadness. While I am better at not bringing new things into my collection, I struggle with letting go of items from the past. I aspire to someday free myself from these bygone objects that restrict my future.