Lauren Diccocio used to paint before switching to wrapping newspapers in muslin and embroidering on them primarily. Underneath the cloth, the papers are stale, and already obsolete while the threaded tracings of politicians, sports celebrities and Lady Gaga are the only part brimming in color and leaping off the page; the sports illustrations, especially, look animated. DiCioccio’s leap to needle and thread took place in seclusion while in a small outback town called Oodnadatta in Australia. Mail was only delivered twice a week so when the papers arrived, it brought the townies together— they huddled over the news even if it was outdated. DiCioccio’s works deal with other mediums such as magazines, the insides of books where she sews over every letter, dollar bills, even 35 mm slides, and through these everyday objects she deals with material that’s gradually becoming archaic.
In a related trend, the tradition of high school newspapers is depleting with only 1 out of 8 New York public high schools still printing and publishing. DiCioccio worries, “What will happen when we no longer touch information? When newsprint does not rub off onto our fingertips? When we no longer write longhand?” While there is relief in the existence of media in its digital realm, teens seem to avoid reading in-depth articles altogether and rely more on Facebook for news.
More recently, DiCioccio has been working on abstract cloth sculptures with intricate patterns and some with patches of pixels. Her ideal work situation is sewing seated on a comfy chair by a sunny window, listening to a game of baseball.
What's the most interesting baseball game you've watched recently? Favorite team/players?
The most interesting games of course are the ones I get to go to the stadium for- I recently got to see my two favorite teams face off in San Francisco at a beautiful AT&T park: the SF Giants and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies won though the Giants are probably the better team this season. The Phillies are my hometown team as I grew up in Philadelphia, but the Giants have grown on me as I've spent more time in the Bay Area (I'm bi-coastal between Brooklyn and SF at the moment and lived in the Bay Area full time from 2004 till 2010). My dad says he's got Phillies-Giants tickets in Philadelphia at the end of July so I'm looking forward to seeing these teams in action again on the other coast in a month or so.
Did you always know how to embroider even when you were painting, or is it something you learned later on?
I learned to embroider from my mom- my sister and I were always doing craft projects growing and every summer we went to art camp or took jewelry and ceramics courses and went to the museums a lot. I never thought about embroidery or craft while I was studying painting and I never even took a sculpture class in college- but I've loved re-teaching myself how to sew and make objects, I think it's been a great way for me to find my own hand in the material.
Have you moved on to newer materials now that you've sewn a ton of newspapers and magazines? What about upcoming shows in New York?
I have definitely sewn a lot of newspapers in the past several years! And I feel this body of work coming towards a close, at least for now. I started making abstract sculptures in hand-sewn and embroidered cloth last summer- I'm not quite sure what direction they'll head in but I'm looking forward to experimenting more in the coming year. I've found that after working with cloth and sewing for so long, I haven't lost interest in the medium but I'm less interested in representation at the moment and more interested in finding form in the material in a more organic way. I had a solo show this past winter at Tomlinson Kong Contemporary on the Lower East Side in NYC and they have a bunch of that work around the gallery but no shows in NYC on the horizon.
What were you in Oodnadatta for at the time?
I was backpacking after college in 2003. This trip was about ten years go but it was a really formative experience in my life- after I graduated I wanted to travel and just see some stuff and so I saved up some money and took off for about nine months- I think I realized how important my studio practice was to me during that time and I learned a lot about myself that has influenced me both personally and professionally. In Oodnadatta I worked as a short order cook at a spot called the Pink Roadhouse— it is this bright pink building in the middle of the desert that serves as a rest stop and tourist attraction along an unpaved dirt road that runs along an old railroad route called the Oodnadatta Track. Though I haven't utilized my short order cooking skills beyond my own kitchen, this was definitely the hardest job I’ve ever had and taught me a lot about work ethic, multi-tasking and of course deep-frying.