Now and then

Lauren DiCioccio remakes the stuff of everyday in revelatory ways


VISUAL ART "My ideal world [while making art] is to be on a comfortable chair by a sunny window listening to a baseball game," says Lauren DiCioccio. For DiCioccio, such a setting is possible, because sewing is an integral part of her work, whether she's hand embroidering The New York Times, creating cotton facsimiles of 35mm film slides and currency, or making organza replicas of plastic bags and bottles.

The new exhibition "Remember the Times" moves DiCioccio's unique collection of handmade-readymade hybrids from the "wundercabinet" (to use DiCioccio's term) of Jack Fischer Gallery to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. On the second floor, she's arranged a variety of objects on three shelves, adapting the acute vision and evocative perception of still-life painting, vanitas, and memento mori to today's flurries of consumption and erasure. "Remember the Times" is the only current show at YBCA that can be photographed by visitors, and to be sure, adopting a photographer's point is an ideal way of appreciating the individuality and interaction of DiCioccio's pieces, and — especially — her attention to detail. I recently met with her at the museum.

SFBG What drew you to newspaper as a material? The ways in which you use it are unconventional — what are the challenges of working with it?

Lauren DiCioccio All of the work I'm making right now began with the newspaper. For about two years before I was showing my work or thought I could be an artist, I was making paintings. I began painting on newspaper as a material I felt comfortable about using, and that transformed into making sculptures with newspaper. At a certain point with the paintings, I realized I was more interested in the materials.

It hit me after college, when I traveled in Australia, and for six months lived in a town in the outback. It was 12 hours down a dirt road, with a 360-degree view of nothing, and 250 people, mostly aboriginal, lived there. It was a secluded world. We would get our mail twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday, so we were one step up from the horse and buggy. The days the mail came, they would bring the newspapers, and even though they were two days old, people would just gather around and pore over them.

I became interested in the material as this trusted resource and definition of time and physical embodiment of a day. When I came home and unpacked all my paintings, I realized I was more interested in the way the newspaper itself located me in time and place.

When I moved to the Bay Area in 2004, I began working as the resident manager for the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside. I lived on site there, on a cattle ranch, pretty much isolated, and getting the newspaper delivered every day. Again, it was a situation where the newspaper was connected to how people would socialize and gather in the morning. People would really welcome it: "A newspaper! Let's read that!"

I decided that painting wasn't doing it for me — I wanted to do something more tactile and physical and also approachable. I set out this challenge to make a sculpture out of one newspaper every day for as long as I could. Then I made a quilt out of the newspaper, and that triggered my interest in the craft medium, which has always been a part of my life. It made me realize that craft and the newspaper have the same language, and I started to explore that more through sewing.

SFBG How did you come to select The New York Times as one subject? Also, the tactile emphasis you're mentioning extends to the "Thank You" bags you've made.

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