Lauren E. Peters is a visual artist working with the concepts of identity and gender through self-portraiture. She began creating within this genre in for a small exhibit in 2016 after an extended hiatus from painting, coming directly from costuming at a local theater. Continuing down this path for two years, she was awarded the “Emerging Artist” fellowship by the Delaware Division of the Arts for her portraits with an associated group exhibition at The Biggs Museum of American Art. Peters has since exhibited across the country and continues to grow as an artist, expanding the world in which the portraits exist. In 2021, Peters curated a group exhibition with 16 other artists all creating a piece based on an early self-portrait and saw the public installation of her portrait of "Wilma," namesake of a new restaurant/bowling alley. Peters attended the Soaring Gardens Residency in August of 2022 and this project was supported, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of the Arts, a state agency, in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.
Self-portraiture came to me by way of a painting by Chantal Joffe in a magazine, a bold figure in a drippy red dress that stopped me in my tracks. I started costuming myself, Cindy Sherman in the rearview, staging photographs with a generalized approach to masculine vs. feminine, introvert vs. extrovert, and other dualities in personality with a penchant for female archetypes. Donning wigs and costumes reflects the assembling of the armor that gets us through the day, a projection of who we want to be, or the layers we use to hide. I create source photos using my form as the base material upon which I add and subtract layers of meaning, and then oil paintings to join the legacy of portraits trying to stake a claim in existence. I’m drawn to bright patterns and animal prints, finding the irony in their flashiness on humans and their life-saving camouflage in the natural world. These personas are made to appear real or true in their own environment, but would read as false or fake in another. In the Netflix series Bonding, a main character is complimented on her dress and her response is “it’s a costume… all clothing is a costume.” We refashion our bodies to create a story about the person inside, and the foundation of my practice is a deep engagement with the construct(ion) and performance of identity and gender. I am running full force, smashing my body into different narratives to see what can transform me.
When did your interest in art begin vs. when you began thinking of it as a career/life choice?
My interest began as far back as I can remember, while thinking I could be an artist as a career only began a few years ago. I always thought art would be something I would need to do on the side of a more “responsible” full-time job, and it took a long time to talk myself out of that mindset.
What draws you to your particular subject matter?
That it’s so versatile and open to interpretation, an endless cycle of turning inward and then outward and back again. Creating paintings from photographs of myself is an open door to outside influences as well as an internal dialogue, and can extend to larger themes of being human.
What interest of yours (outside of art) ends up influencing your practice the most?
We all might need to settle for a tie here: fashion, and a love of female archetypes or characters. I can’t imagine my practice without either. The strong influence of fabrics, color, and textures is obvious, and a lot of the inspiration for the personas within (and titles of) my paintings are found in mythology or stories of the female experience.
What is one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?
The same piece of advice I’ll probably need for the rest of my life: don’t be so hard on yourself. I get so focused on succeeding and pushing myself, which are helpful, but I miss out on enjoying the moment.
What would you say is your biggest goal for this year?
By the end of the summer, I plan to create and exhibit four large-scale paintings, or more if I can fit them in my studio! There are lots of smaller objectives that will help make this happen, from logistics to necessary focus/stamina to balancing other exhibitions, but that’s the big mental and physical goal for the year. I’m excited to see where that takes me next.