"I am generally not thinking about what it means because I don’t know that I am imbuing it with any particular sort of meaning. I’m more inclined to let the viewer take what they want from it. I’m not generally sending a message. Except, look at this amazing old stuff. That is the message. Look at this stuff that you walk by everyday and don’t care about."
Laura Caffrey has spent the last 20 years creating artwork out of junk. Well maybe not always what you might consider straight-up junk but often things that most people would not stop to pick up off the ground or buy from a thrift store. Laura on the other hand is always looking for what she considers treasures and materials to create really beautiful and thoughtful assemblages of those strange and wonderful finds. She has had a life long passion for seeking out and sharing curiosities and she knows the story and origin of every little bit that goes into each piece she creates. Minimalism is not a lifestyle that she would entertain or subscribe to in the least. It’s a cool idea but there are some pretty amazing old things whose material and physical nature excites her to no end.
Being a life long learner, higher education as a hobby, she has studied many different trades and subjects and has had numerous jobs in a diverse array of places. Architectural historian, picture framer, and now handywoman are a few of the most prominent professions she’s held. Her self-sufficient family upbringing taught her how to be independent and work hard. And her eclectic childhood home was the genesis of her fascination with things and the need to share her finds. And through all of her different jobs in different locations she has over the last few decades managed to continue creating artwork that is surprisingly consistent in it’s style and aesthetic.
It was so enjoyable spending time with Laura in her own home of curiosities and we had such nice conversation about her life and work. Her exhibit at the Dougherty Arts Center will be a sort of retrospective of the last two decades that she has been creating assemblages. Thankfully she is OK with selling her work despite the fact that she really loves and is attached to each piece. No doubt you will feel the same way after seeing them.
Some of the subjects we discuss:
Fine Art Services
Starting to create art
Masters in Architecture
Working in Louisiana
Working for TxDOT
List of materials
Color & curiosities
Dougherty Arts Center
Laura Caffrey - Reject/Respect
Dougherty Arts Center
Reception: Saturday, June 16, 2018, 1pm – 3pm
Exhibit Dates: Saturday, June 16 to Saturday, August 25, 2018
"Twenty years of carefully crafted and intimate assemblages by Austin-based artist Laura Caffrey are influenced by her careers in picture framing, architectural history and handywoman. Her passions for collecting, recycling and meticulous organizing are evident in her work. Each careful composition is framed by the artist, providing a new context in which the viewer is invited to reconsider previously unappreciated materials."
DAC - Contact Info
1110 Barton Springs Rd. Austin, TX 78704
Monday - Thursday 10 AM - 10 PM
Friday 10 AM - 6 PM
Saturday 10 AM - 4 PM
Laura's Artist Statement
When I was five, my family moved into the house where my grandmother had been born. The house had minimal electrical service, plumbing was limited to a single cold-water tap in the kitchen and heat was delivered by three coal stoves. Built around the turn of the last century, the house was an example of what is now politely called “vernacular” architecture, cobbled together from available materials. It was dark, filled with heavy, dusty old furniture and even dustier carpets. The unfinished basement was stocked with ancient canned fruits, mysterious medicinal preparations and rusty tools. The newspaper insulating the living room wall had an article reminiscing about the not-long-ago President Grant, family portraits hung under domed glass in tiger-striped oval frames, and buttons and bottle caps of several generations of my thrifty and resourceful ancestors filled rusted tins. This seemingly endless supply of bizarre old things was precious to me.
We lived at the end of a dirt road and if I managed to convince other kids’ parents to drive them to our house, I would spend most of our time together showing them all of my treasures. Many decades later, I find myself in a similar position. I find beauty in the intentionally discarded and the inadvertently abandoned, the crumpled and cracked, and the back sides of things. The detail and attention once lavished on the smallest item is not something many people now get to appreciate. I still play with the new stuff, too, but I get great joy from showing people all of the wonderful bits and pieces they may not have had the opportunity, or taken the time, to notice.
Some of Laura's Materials
Banner Image - "6011" (2008) was one of 15 pieces Laura did that year, the first year of having a dedicated studio in her house. It contains: gypsum board, watercolor, glass pipettes, used welding rods, catgut, metal screen, snail shells and a wasp nest.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Intro music generously provided by Stan KillianSupport Austin Art Talk Podcast