Artist Laura Lynch begins her new coffee table art book, Pacific Series: Environmental Assemblages, with an unabashed political statement, explaining that the pretty red lifesavers that appear in several of her nautically appealing pieces became for her “a reminder of how the entire human species might very well need to be saved one day from drowning in a sea of ignorance and greed.”
One would expect no less from Lynch. After all, this is an artist who presented the names of nuclear weapons contractors-on pink rose petal wallpaper-and identified the consumer products they manufactured in her 1984 New Jersey storefront-window installation Consumer Connection: A Healthy Diet of the Status Quo.
Her Pacific Series is not so in-your-face. Begun when she was living near Miramar Beach in 1996, they have a keen smell of salt air and are infused with the simple joy of beachcombing, if your idea of beachcombing is to drag select 90-pound slabs of boat siding back to your studio like a terrier with a whale bone. Most of the materials she uses in these assemblages are beach salvage, except for the oil paintings and photographs she also sometimes includes.
If I were selling Lynch’s artwork as home decor-a concept odious to fine artists, but realistically, if they want to sell art, do they expect the buyers to keep the pieces in the garage?-I would recommend most of these works to art lovers with a nautical bent. After all, part of the history of this series is Lynch finding a way to organize, or as she says, “come to terms,” with the piles of barnacle-studded beach debris accumulating in her studio. Thus, one of the earliest pieces, “Buoy Bouquet,” features what were once rope buoys in various states of deterioration, mounted on sticks, their chipped and weathered colors made gleaming-and somehow whole and alive-by the application of clear lacquer.
The dark side of humanity’s relationship to the sea is there too, but usually co-existing in a natural, meditative fusion with the light side, and sometimes in comic mode. A roadway sign of a leaping stag, the sign shot with bullet holes, comments on an initiative to exterminate non-native deer on the Pt. Reyes National Seashore. For an installation on the topic of Channel Islands habitat species adaptation, Lynch created an endearing (but non-native) Parrot Fish sporting a jaunty sailcloth scarf and a necklace of bullet casings. This innocent-eyed character recurs with ironic incongruity against more than one background.
Other elements are less amusing, from images of oil rigs to a laser transparency of sailors shielding their eyes against light from an atomic bomb test at the Bikini Atoll, and a deformed baby doll emerging from a vagina (made from a pink painted boat cleat) in a watery casket. Yet even the harshest images are always presented with a kind of tenderness toward their subjects, as exhibited in a photograph of Albert Einstein standing on a Santa Barbara beach to which has been added the image of a mermaid (Lynch) collapsed at his feet.
Lynch chose blurb.com to publish Pacific Series, partly because they let her design her own page layouts, and on larger leaves than other print-on-demand publishers, as well as to include captions. The photographs, by Jon Widmer of Wayfinder Systems in Santa Barbara, are in color, and capture much of the texture of her works. The only frustration is that her interesting detailing-and of course the works’ three-dimensional quality-cannot be fully appreciated on the page. Also, the “easy peel” sales label on the back of the glossy dust jacket may need solvent to remove. But that is par for the course. We are lucky to have Lynch among us, and the chance to view the pieces in person, if we keep an eye open for her rare gallery showings.
Pacific Series: Environmental Assemblages is available at blurb.com/books/439458. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or check out artslant.com/global/artists/show/24207-laura-lynch.