Eric Firestone Gallery is pleased to announce No Man’s Land, its first solo exhibition with artist Lauren dela Roche. For the show, dela Roche has made her largest paintings to date, up to 14 feet wide. Found, mended, and repurposed cotton feed sacks are her surfaces—giving the paintings a complex tactility that corresponds to their rich patterning and figuration.

Lauren dela Roche is a self-described queer punk feminist whose autodidactic approach integrates a broad range of references, including zines, European modernisms, and autobiography. While largely self-taught, her consumption of visual culture and art history allows her to draw upon long traditions of art history, remixing Egon Schiele’s line drawing with the influence of transgressive cinema and Karen Finley’s performance art, Persian miniatures, Greek mythology, and folklore into her own iconic, fresh style. Growing up in the Bay Area of California and living for periods in both Seattle, WA, and Asheville, NC, dela Roche has resided in the Midwest since young adulthood and currently lives and works near St. Louis, MO. 

The paintings depict multiplying and echoing views of a nude woman, who becomes a recurring central character. She appears in dream-like environments of ancient Greek archways, Matissean-patterned wall tapestries, and amongst larger-than-life butterflies, snakes, and swans. The female figure in dela Roche’s paintings is elongated, with rouged cheeks, stockings, and long raven hair. More than representing any specific person, the female form is a multiplicitous symbol for dela Roche, signifying, for example, Mother Nature. 

Symmetry and mirroring is utilized to great effect, and the paintings act as Rorschach tests for the viewer. The woman can be read simultaneously or alternately as sexually in control, vulnerable, powerful, and safe. Likewise, are the snakes symbols of danger and sin, or do they simply weave the scene together as they wind through it? Swans may be symbols of wisdom and love, but throughout art history, they are depictions of the violent Greek mythological story of Leda and the Swan. Lilies also multiply throughout her paintings; in the Bible, they symbolize purity and innocence. There are suggestions of healing: in the repeated motif of the red bow of the stockings, linear elements resembling stitches on the body, and the mending of the feed sacks overlaid on the figures’ flesh. 

Dela Roche’s work has deep ties to the land and agriculture. Her parents come from families who originally immigrated in search of farming opportunities in the United States, growing potatoes in the Midwest. For nearly a decade, dela Roche lived off the land in Northern Minnesota, building a cabin solely out of found materials and becoming fully self-reliant through farming. Collecting and mending cotton feedsack textiles by hand before applying paint, dela Roche reflects on her time working—and making art—during harvest time. Each surface is imbued with her enduring curiosity about their unique agricultural histories.