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Monoliths and Menageries

A studio visit with roxbury artist Lauren Booth



Lauren Booth leaves the world behind as she enters her custom designed art studio in Roxbury; a room of her own where she playfully creates serious contemporary art.

photo // adam lerner

The door glimmers as she pushes it open, suspended crystals and glass refracting light and color. Lauren Booth’s studio door is a curved portal cut into the heavy steel of a recycled shipping container. It is an artwork specified by the artist, fabricated by a team of master craftspeople and artisans, and is the first piece every visitor to her studio encounters - including the artist herself. 

In creating this portal she has ritualized the crossing of this threshold into her studio space. This shipping container in the woods is a room of her own, where the artist can leave in suspension the identities and responsibilities of wife and mother. Passing through it, we enter into Lauren Booth’s fantastical, light-filled imagination, into the creative play space of someone serious about making contemporary art. 

Views into this ferny woodland property in Roxbury are cut into one side, and the simple plywood lined interior is lit with fluorescent lights, and furnished with a single counter height work table and utility shelf. Filling the rest of the space is an array of work from past and upcoming shows. On the wall to the right, is a glowing message. In white-blue neon, in the sprawling handwriting of yoga guru BKS Iyengar, it reads: Life is a vision, that vision is light.  

Created for a 2015 solo show called Illumination at the Mattatuck Museum in Waterbury, this piece was part of an  installation of quotes from figures in politics, art, and entertainment; installed in a series of rooms progressing from those “fallen from grace” to those most enlightened. This quote appears to be a guiding principle for most of Booth’s work.

She has most recently been creating work for “Electric Menagerie,” an upcoming solo show at Waddeson Manor—a former Rothschild estate turned public sculpture park in Buckinghamshire, England. 

I’m introduced to a freestanding furry thing standing in the center of the studio, bedecked with model ships, fake fur, and windows into miniature flea-circus worlds. Leaning against the windows is a small, shimmery flock of neon flamingos mounted on sequined panels, 13,806 hand sewn sequins to be exact.

“I had my children help with this one,” she tells me. 

With six children to recruit, Lauren has a good sequin team. Perhaps they are the wellspring of a persistent playfulness that is the common thread uniting what is otherwise a materially eclectic body of work.

We ride a golf cart through the woods to the welding shed, inside of which is a small structure that resembles a garden folly. It’s another interactive artwork: a twirling phosphorescent hand-cranked teacup ride, also destined for Waddeson Manor. 

The flamingos, the fleas, the teacup, plus a collection of illuminated topiary creatures the size of small parade floats are all to be found installed on the grounds of the manor house through early January. Like a hallucination of former resident Walter Rosthchild’s Menagerie, a turn of the century zoo of imported animals once housed on the property, in this collection of work Booth has seized the opportunity to expand her oeuvre with mischievous delight, with the result being part pastiche, part homage to the life and times of eccentric English aristocrats.

Lauren Booth’s “Electric Menagerie” will be installed  November 11 to January 8 at Waddeson Manor, Buckinghamshire, England.

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