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Lauren E. Peters


Lauren Peters 2023 Headshot
Lauren E. Peters Photo by Jen Polillo Photography

Visual Arts: Painting

By: Gail Obenreder

“Donning wigs and garments is an assembling of a self, . . .  [and] the foundation of my practice is a deep engagement with the construct(ion) and performance of identity and gender.”

Lauren E. Peters believes that “all clothing is a costume. We are costuming ourselves daily in the roles we play for those around us.” This belief is the basic tenet of her artistic practice. Fighting the urge to hide, Peters attires herself in a variety of clothing to “add and subtract layers of meaning.” She then creates source photos on which to base her paintings, works that question, probe, and interpret the roles of women in society.

Peters grew up in Wilmington, one of three children, and she spent a lot of time “playing dress-up. [She] would put on plays in a neighbor’s basement theater.” She has also worked as a theatrical costumer, something that was “a good step (in hindsight) to what I’m doing now.” Her favorite painting as a child was Jamie Wyeth’s Portrait of a Pig, and she was drawn to the Impressionists as a teen. But “finding [the contemporary works of] Cindy Sherman and Jenny Saville was huge.”  Peters also has always liked the art of Andy Warhol, with its “vulnerability juxtaposed against such glamorous, larger-than-life artworks.”

"self-portrait (yours/not yours)," 2021, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches
“self-portrait (yours/not yours),” 2021, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches

"self-portrait (gorgon edit)," 2022, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches
“self-portrait (gorgon edit),” 2022, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 inches

"self-portrait (Lilith)," 2022, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches
“self-portrait (Lilith),” 2022, oil on canvas, 48 x 36 inches

Peters didn’t have any exposure to oil painting until she went to college in Massachusetts, but she “fell almost immediately in love” with the medium. Her program of studies was grounded in figurative work, and “the reason I started painting self-portraits was because of the work of Chantal Joffe,” a painter whom Peters references “whenever I’m stuck or getting too fussy or controlling.”

Dressing up and going from photos to paint is “expensive and time-consuming,” and it’s challenging to create visuals rather than work from imagination. But Peters thrives on “switching gears.” Each iteration of her process feeds the one that follows, forcing her to “think in different ways about the paintings/final product.” This complex artistic practice has been a “life-changing activity,” and Peters finds that “every day that I get to be in my studio and working on a painting/artwork . . . is a rewarding day.” She’s especially gratified when people respond to the complexity of her work and “tell me how much this resonates with their own experiences.”

In 2008 Peters moved back to her hometown from Center City Philadelphia. She and her husband (and a dog and two cats) now live just outside of Arden, Delaware, where they’re able to share their love of concerts. In 2018, Peters was awarded the Division’s Emerging Artist Fellowship, and that “was huge for me. I wasn’t even calling myself an artist before that.”

This latest Established Artist award will help Peters realize a 2023 goal she set for herself: to create large-scale paintings for a July/August exhibition at the Delaware Contemporary. In 2020, she painted one 6-foot-tall work and felt that was “an important steppingstone to what happens next.” But working at this scale was something that “I honestly wasn’t sure how I was going to accomplish that until I found out about this Fellowship.” Peters is not entirely sure what to expect from this award “on the intangible side of things but having the means to see this project through is a giant boost forward.”

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