Ghost of a Dream
GHOST OF A DREAM
Our Time In Wassaic
We were some of the first people affiliated with the Wassaic Project to buy a house here. When we first moved up here, any time a young person came into The Lantern, we would corner them and be like, "You’re young, you look cool, what are you doing here?" But now lots of people are coming back and investing in the community by buying houses in the area. You can walk everywhere and see lots of familiar faces. It’s really nice to have "you can invite yourself over any time" friendships. We can be upstate and still be part of an art community that’s connected to the world. When we go to the city, it feels like everywhere we go we bump into people who have come through Wassaic and who we’ve made connections with here.
By Lucy Commoner, May 2018
Ghost of a Dream is a collaboration between sculptor Lauren Was and painter Adam Eckstrom. Together, you have a long-standing history of involvement with the Wassaic Project and this community. How has that engagement impacted your practice?
Adam started as a painter and Lauren a sculptor, but now our roles are blended and we both move freely between media working on video, collage, drawing, and sculpture sometimes all in a single day.
The Wassaic Project has been so supportive of us over the years. We came up to the Hamlet the winter before the residency began in 2009 and lived in the Lodge with Jeff, Bowie (two of the co-directors of the Wassaic Project), and two farmers that used to run the farm on the Luther Barn property. It has allowed us to have a permanent home base without the stresses of the city but with the rich cultural capital that the project creates. Living here has afforded us the ability to travel to other residencies and countries to create a number of large exhibitions.
We run a group critique program with the resident artists that we began about five years ago, we have shown large installations at the mill, had the opportunity to curate a show at the mill, and developed an amazing lifelong community of friends. Most important to us is the community that has been built around the residency program and the people in town. We have been lucky to stay friends with people that came through Wassaic ten years ago. The Wassaic Project creates strong bonds!
Your large body of widely exhibited work ranges from two- and three-dimensional collage and the manipulation of text to video and installation pieces. The raw materials that you use to create your artworks are often the discarded ephemera of life, such as used lottery tickets, playing cards, trophies, and old film clips. Your work is not only based in the creative recycling of these elements, but also in the reimagining of the emotional history held within cast-off components. What attracts you to work with the materials you select?
There is a real unassuming beauty in the objects we are attracted to. The material we collect is now useless and bound for the landfill, but there’s an energy left in it. They have existed to create hope, and to make people dream, and we are attracted to the soul still present in these objects and ideas. That instilled energy, and the inherent beauty this creates, is what really draws us to our materials, even once they have become useless detritus.
How does your process differ when creating a full-room installation such as this one, as opposed to the individual works that are part of your practice?
We like to think they don’t differ, and that each work created holds equal importance. They are both attempting to tackle the particular issue or hope any given work is addressing. But the reality is, that isn’t completely true. Having the opportunity to work on full installations really lets us encompass a collection and the ideas behind how the collection came to be. Physically it is much more difficult, both in weight and mass, just lugging these things to the space and shaping them into a cohesive work is extremely difficult. There is a lot more mental energy that goes into the installation as well. But the installation work feeds us, as well as our smaller pieces; it lets us realize the possibilities of space and material to create something unexpected and all-encompassing.
In the current installation you have been able to create an immersive environment that is both visually compelling and instilled with meaning. There is a wonderful and disorienting contrast between the pseudo-naturalism of the textured carpets and the elegant abstract geometry of your seamless collages. Can you talk about what you hope the viewer will experience and take away from this rich installation?
Disorienting is a good word; all of these materials are sourced from casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas where disorientation is a huge part of the casinos game. When you walk into a casino all of the senses are hit at once, the sounds of all the machines, the lights from the games and huge chandeliers, the feel of the soft carpet underfoot, the visual excitement of the patterned carpets and wild wallpaper, and pure oxygen pumped into the room to keep everyone awake. We seek to use some of these same tricks with our installation. We use pattern on top of pattern to visually stimulate and excite our viewers. The carpets bisect the room and go up onto the walls, bending the space. The colleges borrow techniques from Op Art; the edges of playing cards are used to create intense patterns that buzz or blur. The end result is a space that is both wildly new and yet somewhat familiar, that speaks to the history of the materials and the hopes and dreams of the people who handled them.
Photos by Verónica González Mayoral and Walker Esner