Lauren Booth, originally from California, lives and works in rural Connecticut. She is a sculptor and an informed connoisseur of modern and contemporary art. To coincide with the launch of Plant Power – a new collection with carbon neutral, plant-based materials – the artist is presenting an installation of works she created for an exhibition last year at our flagship store in New York City on Fifth Avenue and 45th Street. In this interview, she discusses her installation and thoughts about the role of art in times of crisis with UGG Art Advisor, Lucien Terras.
Lauren, tell us about the origin of the works that compose your installation, Synergy (Into the Garden) – on view in the windows of the UGG® flagship store in New York City.
The Sun and the original Tulips on view in the installation, Synergy, were originally made for an event at my kids’ school. Children always inspire me. The theme for the event was Into the Garden, and I thought, “what could be better than giant tulips and sunshine to put you in a good mood?” They were not made as “fine art” per se, but what is fine art anyway? How do we delineate? I am a fan of Alexander Calder’s work. As you know, he made Circus (1926-1931). That is a playful masterpiece making use of simple, available materials – such as wire, cloth, cork, etc. – with the idea of a children’s audience.
The original Tulips were in two shows before being installed outside for a long time on a nature trail, having been clothed in outdoor fabric. I remade the Tulips last year for a museum summer show in Vermont. That show began by imagining people going out on a summer day, enjoying themselves immersed in art and nature. I had to rethink them more in terms of sculpture, while keeping their original lightness. The show title was Happy – then COVID-19 hit, and the curator and museum director were wondering “Can we have a show titled Happy?” We almost changed it, and then the curator said, “No, I think we need to have these moments of happiness now more than ever.”
With your reservations about the title Happy, do you think art can convey positivity in a time of crisis or comment on an ongoing crisis like climate change?
When you think of art in times of crisis, the artwork that immediately comes to mind is Pablo Picasso’s Guernica (1937), the most powerful anti-war painting. It is the antithesis of Happy.
I’m not trying to make a political statement. We’re talking about flowers and sunshine here, about appreciation for nature and taking a moment to enjoy a flower. But also, a flower can be a symbol, like a lotus flower – or I’m sure you know the story of the Buddha and the Flower Sermon. The Buddha simply holds up a flower and Mahākāśyapa attains enlightenment. Or Thích Nhất Hanh powerfully describes a flower in No Death, No Fear:
“The flower is made of non-flower elements. We can describe the flower as being full of everything. There is nothing that is not present in the flower. We see sunshine, we see the rain, we see clouds, we see the earth, and we also see time and space in the flower. A flower, like everything else, is made entirely of non-flower elements. The whole cosmos has come together in order to help the flower manifest herself, the flower is full of everything except one thing: a separate self, a separate identity.”
Perhaps art can convey positivity in a time of crisis.
In the window installation, your tulips stand tall as characters in a play. Plants in art are often treated as decorative elements and rarely hold center stage. Notable exceptions would be Van Gogh’s Irises and Warhol’s Flowers, among others. What are your thoughts as the display coincides with the launch of Plant Power?
Those are inspiring examples. I also find the plants in Henri Rousseau’s paintings so beautiful. In contemporary sculpture, I really like Isa Genzken’s Rose sculpture, as well as Jeff Koons’ Puppy. But if I am thinking about Plant Power and my personal relationship to that theme, I keep coming back to the fact that I live on a farm. Ten years ago, our family moved from London to rural Connecticut. We wanted a life built around nature. We started a family farm, and we grow a lot of food. It’s incredible to see the cycles of life; it’s humbling. I am also a beekeeper. I am curious about pollinators, and I am constantly learning from our talented community of local farmers.
Can you elaborate on the materials and process making the works?
I work with many more-durable sculptor’s materials, and I am contemplating in the future casting three plaster tulips I’ve made in bronze. These pieces were originally very flat, like large cutouts, and I thought of covering them with paper flowers – hundreds and hundreds. We got together with other parents at the school and my studio assistants to make all those paper flowers. Flower making parties! A collective project. Paper is impermanent, but it is also durable through history – Japanese shoji screens in temples, papyrus scrolls that have traversed centuries. Paper is part of the renewal process.
Working in a collective manner also happened for another outdoor installation in connection with the show, Happy.
There was a courtyard planted with thirty-two trees outside the museum, and I decided to create a “knit bombing” project to dress the thirty-two trees, three lights, and one flagpole. I worked with a local fiber mill to have yarn spun and dyed in red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple, and sent patterns and yarn to knitters throughout the country – from Vermont to California. These thirty-five knitters returned their striped knitted sleeves, which we installed on the tree trunks for four months. Using some of those knitted pieces, I made a quilt to carry the memory of the temporary installation.
What is your personal UGG experience?
I love UGG. They keep my feet warm and cozy every day in Connecticut’s winters. Our whole family wears them, from the snow boots to the Classics or slippers to the Fluff Yeah and platforms – which look ridiculously cute on my little one.