By: Gail Obenreder
Exploring issues of appearance, identity and sexuality, Lauren E. Peters has studied the legendary statue of Venus de Milo, making that marble icon the subject of her college thesis exhibition. But a continuing search for female symbols to study, interpret and paint (including garden statues and an assortment of tchotchkes) led the Wilmington artist to her current practice – painting large-scale self-portraits.
Merged with her close study of that revered classical statue and her current use of a personal image stands a body of influential women who inspire Peters. Foremost is English painter Chantal Joffe, whose large-scale, often humorous portraits (mostly of women) gave the artist the confidence to “be my own Venus.” Continuing to “delve into the female gaze,” she is appreciative of the work of fabulist photographer Cindy Sherman (who also uses herself as a subject) and American painter Amy Sherald, who just completed an arresting formal portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama.
Born and raised in Wilmington, Peters began drawing at a young age and took art as electives in high school. “I was raised to think that being female came with a strict set of boundaries, and I didn’t always feel like I fit into those. Art was the thing that fully challenged me.” She pursued her studies at New England’s Gordon College and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). She now works mostly with oils, using the time the medium allows to “think and plan and layer.”
A guide at The Delaware Contemporary noted that a group of female students were particularly responsive to a painting of Peters with her hand over her mouth, and the weight of that connection to the painting’s subject matter was a particularly rewarding one.
Peters plans to use her Fellowship award to carry on the work she’s doing, helping to finance studio costs and explore new paints and pigments. Though she may not always feel comfortable in the spotlight, Peters will keep working and exploring her own image. “I’m the most malleable subject I’ve got.”