Karen Lofgren, Pulling Through series

Karen Lofgren, Pulling Through series, 2018-2019

Courtesy of Royale Projects


Video Transcript

When I'm thinking about the geometries or utilizing these pieces that are partially geometric and partly organic within a space. I really want them to do a couple of different things. I want them to draw awareness to themselves as kind of these characters or figures, but I also want them to sort of tack down different parts of the space and to pull the eye up and to pull the eye around and to be spaced in such a way that the brain starts to try to find other patterns within the spaces that exist between the objects. So what you may find your brain might do is look at an object and look at another object and not be able to discern whether or not you have something of a retina burn or if you're actually starting to create lines between the objects. Because we are pattern finding animals. 

We are quite adept at creating new structures within objects that appear to belong together. So when you make a number of objects that are created with a similar aesthetic value in a geometric context, the brain tends to start to repeat those symbols or objects and to create new ones and I'm very interested in that kind of, in attracting that kind of plasticity from the brain or digging into the consciousness. I guess of the viewer. I have made a lot of sculptures out of aluminum and the way that I build those is first I make them in a very hard casting plaster or in cement with wood and with cloth and then I build those up and I carved them down and I build them up and I carved them down. Then I work with a foundry to cast them in aluminum and then I get back very, very raw castings. 

Then we machine the raw casting once with 80 grit sandpaper of, sorry, 60 grit sandpaper and then 80 and up we do by hand. A lot of the industrial processes that I use are very old processes, like a foundry. Sand casting process is quite an old process. Or lost wax is also a process that I use. I mean, we're talking about thousands of years old or tens of thousands of years old. In sand casting in particular is very, very old processes process of sort of digging out like a sandstone and casting something into it has existed from really the bronze age. So, um, although they are industrial processes, they're very ancient processes that I feel are very much connected to the history of humanity.


Audio Transcript

The sculptures in the Pulling Through series, which dominate Lofgren’s installation, are inspired by early European folk medicine practices which lived on into the early 20th century. The folklore scholar Wayland Hand described the concept of pulling though as “a primitive custom of pulling ill patients through or passing them through holes in trees, stones, or the earth, or moving them through a variety of man-made apertures for the curing of disease.” This practice suggests a certain reverence for the magic and power of the natural world. In these sculptures, Lofgren traces the limbs of a phantom body as it might move through space while pulling through -- a healing transference of bodily energy.

The performance artist Ron Athey is a longtime friend and collaborator of Karen Lofgren. In describing her work, he says, “ ‘The myths and symbols of the past were attempts to articulate intimation of what is possible. The themes of mythology are not just archaic knowledge — they are living actualities of human beings.’ This is how I experience and understand Karen’s work. I see Karen’s sculptures as the current architecture and accoutrements of these mythical, ancient archetypes. They mediate between seeing and feeling your body squeezed into shape. And, nothing vital is ever left out, with the fluids leaking from history yet frozen in that moment.”