Interview: Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth
This interview originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of inGen Magazine.
The best word to describe both the personal and creative lives of Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth is evolutionary. The couple met several years ago at Burning Man in 2002 when they were both working on the construction of the Temple of Joy. Since then their lives have evolved both as a couple and as a collaborative artistic tandem.
Their first project together was spent in Mumbai as the two worked on the design and construction of India’s first wine tasting bar. As Roth described the experience, “The extra strain of living and working together in a foreign country knocked off a lot of the rough edges of us collaborating.” Since then, Hope and Roth have developed a unique relationship both in their personal lives, as “curators” of an artist’s compound in The Mission, and in their partnership as multi-media artists. Their body of work examines humanity’s role in wresting control over the evolutionary process from nature and the future ramifications of this fetish for genetic and chemical manipulation within our society.
Hope had previously gained recognition for a series of portraits called “Morning After Portraits,” that examined the hang-overs and side-effects of the pharmaceutical and recreational drugs glamorized by popular culture. Hope took photographs of subjects standing in front of medicine cabinets and fully-stocked pharmacy shelves. The photos were then meticulously cut into a large grid. Then, each tiny piece of the original photo was inserted into a clear medicinal gelcap and then these pieces were placed together to reconstructed the original photograph. The result is both potent in its statement as well as its aesthetic impact: from afar it looks like just a photograph, but upon closer inspection, the gelcaps begin to pixelize the photo, abstracting the subject matter. Hope elaborates by stating, “As we continue to find new ways to modify our appearance and our psychological and social presence through legal and illegal drugs, we begin to dissipate the whole that we were born as.”
Although this initial series was conceived by Hope, Roth was a steadfast companion working on these labor-intensive pieces. As the process progressed, Roth began inject her own artistic ideas, drawing inspiration from her past studies as a park ranger. Together, the pair have expanded upon the initial concept and created a multi-media panorama of society’s evolutionary indulgences. Their first full artistic collaboration was “Chandeliers,” a series of chandelier structures that, “drips with sparkling hypodermic needles . . . garlands of Swarovski crystals, and colorful gelatin capsules.” The results were decadent ornaments fit for an aristocrat’s dining room, but a closer examination reveals the darker elements subverting the structure’s superficial beauty. Hope describes this as “the tension of our cultures schizophrenic relationship with drugs.”
As constant companions, Hope and Roth have been able to maintain a balance that allows them to work efficiently towards a common design while still being able to integrate his or her individual vision into the overall concept. Hope and Roth’s most recent collaboration “Future Darwinist,” is “an installation piece dedicated to humanity’s desire to break free from the tethers of Darwin’s Laws.” One of Roth’s contributions is titled “Man’s Best Friend,” a collection of beautifully carved skulls of canine breeds that through years of over-breeding are incapable of surviving without human intervention. Another one of Roth’s creations, “Biodiversity Reclamation Suits for Pigeons,” are crocheted disguises to be worn by pigeons to make them look like extinct bird species.
The poignant quality of Hope and Roth’s work is their ability to point out the inevitable consequences of our society’s behavior with a dark sense of humor that amplifies the overall impact upon the observer. For example, there is a baby motif in their “Pharmacopeia” collaboration. Roth made “Alchemy Baby,” a crocheted blanket made with panty liners, while Hope built “Field Crib with Ritalin mobile.” The mobile was a model of the atomic structure of Ritalin that plays “It’s A Wonderful World.” Hope and Roth share the same razor-sharp wit that provides the cohesive element necessary to hold together such complex works.
Hope and Laurel’s harmonious passion for creativity extends out from their relationship and into the community. They have Compound 21 in The Mission that includes five artist spaces. In addition, they recently purchased another compound outside the city in Sebastopol, dubbed Compound Double Down. Roth says that “sharing space with other creative people adds a sense of legitimacy and inspiration to daily work that working alone might lack.” Hope has found that a “cooperative studio environment creates a space where an artist can focus on their work and find momentary peace from all the extraneous worries of being an artist.”
As Hope and Roth’s relationship evolve, it appears that both their work and their environment reflect this personal growth. With each new collaboration, Hope and Roth constantly challenge society’s ambivalence through their thought-provoking creations. Equally important,though, by building collective artist spaces, Hope and Roth are designing a genome for community-building from which future generations of artists can evolve.
Laurel Roth will be showing with Mary Anne Kluth at the Frey Norris Gallery located at 450 Geary Street this September, with the opening reception on September 3rd from 6 – 9 pm. You can see more of Andy Diaz Hope’s and Roth’s work at their respective websites: www.andydiazhope.com and www.loloro.com.