Sunday, April 21, 2013

Interview with Lauri Marder

The following interview was conducted by Jacqueline Gens with Lauri Marder, artist and one of the founding members of Tsegyalgar East. Her work appears on walls, outdoors and in a variety of other media.

JG….Lauri, can you talk a little about what it was like to grow up in family where both your parents were  practicing artists?

My mother made many paintings of sort of frightening images, sometimes as self-portraits, based on imagery from Indian art and also from Tibetan thangkas- of which there were several in the house, as well as statues and ritual objects. She was quite interested in the principles of energy, and talked about this quite a lot.

My father, Ted Denyer, on the other hand, had quite a different interest in spiritual matters. For him, that was part of art itself- the seeking of truths. So he sought to find the calm and spacious state in his paintings, creating a dimension on the canvas of color and form, a reality which reflected his felt sense of inner reality, which he also firmly believed had a valuable existence outside.

JG…. In your experience do you find that the artistic process has a spiritual dimension and how would you describe those qualities.

LM...I was fascinated by the saints- and painted images on the walls of my room at home of St Sebastian, full of arrows, and looking a bit like Mick Jagger, people tell me, and John the Baptist, based on a guy I knew, as well as lesser known saints- and one of Jesus of which only the head remains. What I was left with, from my parents’s interests, was a realization that somehow humans could embody something divine, despite the apparent complete craziness of the human condition, namely mine. I still believe this.

They sent me off to art school and the first thing I did was to try to meditate, sitting as instructed, on a folded blanket, referring to a yoga book that my father had been using to get the family to practice yoga with, some years before with little success. I found I was not very interested in art for art’s sake, very quickly. Actually I already knew that- I did not want to be in art school, I wanted to be a waitress so I could begin real life. But that never happened. Real life happened but I was not a waitress. It was all real life.
In the early seventies, we found the Gurdjieff work-  Many of the artists and musicians in our Group were discouraged about pursuing their art form, and gave it up for many years. And they and others also used this creative energy to fuel their practice of awareness. That is what Mr Anderson told me, “Don’t make art- use this for your Work- it’s the same energy!” This could be useful but you have to know how to transform the energy and have very strong intention.

JG….When I first encountered the Game of Liberation, I was deeply touched by your illustrations of all the dimensions. Can you talk about how that project came to be and the various stages it took to complete it.

LD….The Game of Liberation was something I participated in through the kindness of Rinpoche, who allowed me to try. “You can try,” he said when I asked if I could work on it. Before me, a whole group of artists, some very very skilled ones like Glen Eddy and several Russians, had been working on the game board for some time, but all their work  burned in a fire in Russia. So suddenly there was nothing left. And someone had to start again. I worked for about five years collecting information about various aspects of it and making sketches and little paintings ( I lost all my work too, at one point).

JG…. It seems that many people when they connect to the Teachings experience a desire to make art of some kind. Why do you think that is so?

LM….I think art is a capacity of humans, and that everyone has it in them; they just have to find out how to  do it.  That was one of the gifts I saw artists have, when I interacted with my friends, growing up. They were always interested in a family of artists, and wanted to do it themselves - to work with color, to make things, to have a chance to invent a new dimension of reality and be in it that way. So some of them did take inspiration from being able to do that with my family and me.  All my family’s friends at that time were artists also, so it seemed entirely normal to have a studio in the house and to do a lot of painting and individual work along those lines. Giving people a feeling that this is normal and quite easy was good.

JG…Has Ursa Major Gallery nourished your own artistic process?  What was the reason behind your opening a gallery?

LM.....And I guess that is what I want to do with the gallery. I began showing my father’s work, then some of friends and family in the community and around, and some Tibetan works. Now I am hibernating, the gallery is closed for the season,  and I wish to do some of my own work but it’s hard to get to because there is so much else to do, so time is passing. The gallery really gave me a new lease on life- it’s a way to interact with others, to give something to both the artists and the local community. I see having it as a creative act in itself. It’s a work in progress.

For a review by Louise Landes Levi of Ursa Major's most recent show, Indestructable Mirror: Modern Tibetan Painting, visit here.

Photo credits: Lauri Marder, Charlotte Knox

For upcoming exhibitions, visit Ursa Major Gallery


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