Lauren Seiden, 40, is a Native New Yorker and unique artist that we love. Her body of work exhibits an interest in drawing which manifests as an in-depth exploration of the creative possibilities of the humble pencil and its core ingredient: graphite. Using this singular tool and medium, Seiden creates unexpected drawings, sculptures, and installations; in doing so she upends the hierarchy of art materials and diversifies the male-dominated canon of sculpture and its associated discussions on form, materials, and process.
Seiden has developed a unique but labor intensive process - she gilds all her surfaces by hand, methodically drawing on paper, stone and cloth - a task so labor-intensive it seems an obsessive, almost devotional act. Seiden is making a statement on the concept of labor, about what kind of labor is valued and seen and what is invisible. The social justice commentary, busier form, and more embellished surface of her sculptures set Seiden apart from historic Minimalists for whom sculpture was a formal exercise unburdened by symbolism, and connects her to post-Minimalist practitioners- who also engaged in investigations of materials but imbued their creations with potent messages.
Choosing the lowly pencil as your primary tool and thus graphite as your primary medium is a subversive act; it upends the hierarchy of art materials by challenging the primacy of oil paint, stone, and other ‘high’ materials. Seiden pushes this concept even further in her marble and graphite sculptures. Taking pencil to stone, Seiden traces over naturally occurring marble veins, building layer upon layer of marks until the marble has been adorned with a second skin, thus cloaking one of art’s most elevated materials with arguably the most basic. Seiden’s unorthodox use of graphite continues in her large-scale installations where she sprinkles graphite over water, creating a mercurial skin on the surface - a skin that forms abstract shapes that shift and break like tectonic plates as the water moves and evaporates.