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The Dead Factory…
CVLT Nation Interviews Laurie Lipton

From mere charcoal and pencil, Laurie Lipton give life to universes. It’s as if each time she touches her instruments to paper, the Big Bang happens, and thousands and millions of tiny, atom-like strokes come together to form faces, wires, bones, air and light. She celebrates death and she tears the face off of life, she brings beauty to dance with hideous. Laurie Lipton is currently showing at La Luz de Jesus‘ 25th anniversary show, for which she created a her breathtaking piece, La Luz. Today, we are super stoked to be bringing you our interview with this fascinating artist. After the jump, read CVLT Nation’s interview with the esteemed Laurie Lipton…

Bone China

Was artwork and creativity a big part of your childhood?

Yes. I hated playing with other children and used to lie on my bedroom floor for hours drawing on my own. My mother was very worried.

What kind of art and/or artists fascinated you as a child?

My father used to take my brother & me to the Cloisters museum in upstate New York on a Sunday to give my mother some time to herself. I used to love the weird, detailed religious paintings of the early Renaissance, though I had absolutely no idea what they were about. Both my parents were atheists. Why were those men wearing nightgowns with wings on them? Baby Jesus looked like a circus midget with a glowing plate behind his head. I used to make up my own stories about those surreal domestic scenes. I stood there burning the images into my eyeballs while my brother and father walked the whole museum without me.

Your art deftly combines an ideal beauty with the imagery of death and destruction. How do you feel that these two seemingly opposite points of view work together in human society?

The dichotomies of life always fascinate me. If I could use words to describe how I feel about them, I’d be a writer. I can’t, so I draw.



There are clearly negative commentaries on the functions and hierarchies of Western society in some of your work, like The Illusion-of-Control Tower, Manufacture and Delusion Dwellers. In general, do you see the world as a place of darkness and corruption, or do you see it as full of beauty and community? Why?

I see “Reality” as deceptive. I feel that we hold both heaven and hell within ourselves. It’s not just one thing or another, but a strange interweaving of dark & light.

I really like your portrayals of smiling vintage women in pieces like On, Off and The Self-Destruct button. What does the interplay between these women and the overwhelming technology they are interacting with mean to you?

Technology is beyond our comprehension. We push buttons and flick switches and things happen… but how and why? We don’t know. We have become mindless slaves to our inventions and totally reliant upon machines. I’m not saying that invention and technology are a bad thing, I’m just noticing how overbearing, overwhelming and incomprehensible it is. Who is, ultimately, in control? Not us.




Your drawings are breathtaking in their detail…I feel like I could look at one for years and discover new elements in it every day, they are little universes unto themselves. What effect do you want this level of detail to have on the viewer?

I don’t “want” anything from the viewer. I enjoy the detail. It’s like in a Fairytale when the evil witch tells the Princess to pick up every grain of sand to find her Beloved: I have to set myself impossible tasks. I have to “see” if I can make a million people in a shopping mall, or every brick in every building in an entire city. I just have to. I’m compelled.

I have recently become interested in Victorian post-mortem photography and death rituals, and I can see that your work intertwines these themes with Latin American Day of the Dead imagery. How do they fit together in your work?

They don’t. I became interested in the Mexican DAY OF THE DEAD festival after my mother died. I couldn’t help noticing the difference between my society’s relationship to mortality and the Mexicans’. We think that aging & death are for losers and are willing to do everything in our power to pretend it won’t happen to us. Our culture uses drugs, drink, lotions, pills and surgery to keep age & death at bay. In Mexico, however, they celebrate death & see it as “natural”. I decided to rebel against my society and draw about it… but in a Mexican kind of way.


Earlier this year, you did an exhibition and lecture at the University of London entitled “Carnival of Death: Perceptions of Death in Europe & the Americas”…for those of us who couldn’t attend, what was your thesis behind such a fascinating title?

Actually you CAN attend and see it here:

La Luz de Jesus is a highly respected gallery here in Los Angeles, and I know you did a piece for their 25th year anniversary show Tell us about your experience with LLdJ and what inspired you to create for this iconic show?

I was asked to show at La Luz de Jesus a few years back, and then invited to participate in their anniversary show. I did a piece entitled, “La Luz”, in honor of the show. The inspiration was the invitation. You can see it, along with other pieces, on my website:


Please note all drawings are charcoal & pencil on paper….That’s Amazing!

Thank you so much for your time Laurie! Much respect from CVLT Nation!



  1. joce

    October 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm

    madame, I love your illustrations, deep and beautiful…you are very talented

  2. Ivan

    October 18, 2011 at 2:01 am

    The amount of detail in his works is amazing. Impressive, really.

  3. Kenny

    October 17, 2011 at 8:31 pm


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