Exclusive: Laurie Hogin and the Allegorical Possibilities of Brightly-Colored Monkeys


If you live in New York, you’ve only got a few days left to check out Laurie Hogin’s mutant-filled Monkey Brains exhibition at Schroeder Romero Gallery. In case you require more than a few hairy primates to lure you all the way to Chelsea, check out our interview with the saucy artist (who while happily married, told us her favorite fantasy creature would have to be “a variety of imaginary boyfriends — good for a girl to keep on the cranial hard drive, just in case”) after the jump. She’s hilarious — not that we would expect anything less.

Flavorwire: Do you think we’re an overmedicated society? If so, does it affect our creativity?

Laurie Hogin: It seems to me that there has been some good science and statistical information that suggests that we are — like the fact that there’ve been something like 230 million prescriptions for SSRI antidepressants in a country with 350 million people. Also I heard about research suggesting that vigorous exercise a few times a week was more effective than antidepressants at controlling mood and sleep, as well as a Harpers Index statistic claiming that most people on those drugs are not suffering from clinical depression, but are just sad. There was also a recent item on NPR about a British study that suggested that SSRI’s were no more effective than placebo! And it was a bit shocking that my child’s pediatrician suggested Ritalin right of the bat for his (my kid’s) weird attentional style. Turns out he’s nowhere near ADHD — he’s just more interested in his own thoughts than in the 2nd grade.

I know people whose lives have been improved, if not saved, by drugs like that, so when you need ’em, you need ’em, but I do suspect the quick fix has a great deal more appeal than the facts would suggest. Consumer culture is practically ruled by principles of instant gratification.

Also, we humans just love to get a buzz on, we love to be able to sleep without trouble, and we like highest return for least effort. Of course. Those things offer brain-pleasure. The fact is that our variety of capitalism and our government has allowed economic forces to generate a society in which working people are pressed for time, and many are struggling for resources — so exercise, natural sleep, good food and stuff that might help in the long term are just not possible — or are very difficult. Our public policies ENCOURAGE problems that lead to overmedication, and the culture encourages quick fixes…

I have NO idea if there’s any effect on creativity.

FW: Did you make dioramas back in elementary school? Were they as strange as some as your current works?

LH: Yes I did! Incessantly. They were rather earnest efforts at scientific illustration and the depiction of species in the natural world — I was enthralled by the dioramas at the American Museum of Natural History — but I would include contemporary aspects of the landscape likr superhighways, factories, and garbage dumps, sort of as a form of infantile protest. I also made illustrated field guides of species I actually saw — birds, fungus, ferns, trees — the stuff of a suburban New York childhood. [Editor’s note: So, yes. 🙂]

FW: If you had to describe yourself as an animal, what species would you be?

LH: A hybrid genetically self-engineered thing with bunny, eagle, hen, monkey, bear, mouse, guinea pig, lioness, crocodilian and dog DNA. I’d have fabulous fur and spectacular feathers, mostly pink, yellow, and green with some duller golds and browns, plus stripes or spots, big ears, strong haunches, and a beak. Or maybe teeth and big jaws. And I’d be about 30” tall and 36” long, not including tail, and weigh about 70 lbs.

FW: A blog commenter recently called your work to John Audubon meets Lisa Frank. Who are your creative inspirations?

LH: I’ve certainly always been fascinated by Audubon, as well as anything produced in service of natural history. I’m also really interested in other manifestations of human desire and wish-fulfillment and pleasure as it shows up in the culture — retail display, cartoons, fashion, toys (there’s Lisa Frank!), cars, sports, pornography, as well as politics and images of violence, which seem to fulfill some need. I tend to favor art that deals with these things. I’m less interested in cryptic work that requires an MFA or a two-page didactic to explain — the intellectual payoff is often not worth the level of erudition. I’m interested in how we represent ourselves and what we want, and how it drives our treatment of one another and our behavior.

I also love amazing pictures and objects — among my favorite artists right now are Pierre Huyghe, Moira Hahn, Pipilotti Rist, Walton Ford, oh, my, too many to list. Mark Ryden’s great and I’ve always loved political art like Hans Haake, and believe it or not, really sensory resonant minimalism, like Dan Flavin. I love Cindy Sherman and Jeff Koons. I also love Robert Smithson. I love punk rock. I love country music — Merle Haggard, Cash, Willie Nelson, and some really crappy new stuff. Among my favorite writers are W.J.T. Mitchell and (to a certain extent) Elizabeth Grosz.

I love being outside; that’s a huge influence. I also should add that 17th-19th century European and American painting is a big influence — what with it’s troublesome ideologies and incredible gorgeousness — especially Dutch still life, French Revolutionary painting, English landscape and Hudson River School stuff, as well as Rubens, Goya, Velazquez. Also, huge fan of Renaissance painting. Caravaggio, Giotto, all those Italian painters. Gorgeous, evocative and often extremely weird pictures.