“Art Is Another Language Which I Can Express and Visually Transmit the Questions That We All Have.” – In Conversation with Loren Eiferman, a New York based Artist

Loren Eiferman’s sculptures have been admired by critics and art lovers for the past 25 years. Although the artist’s work has been mainly exhibited in the state of New York, her art is known to many people outside of the US. Working prominently with wood, Loren Eiferman’s sculptures are closely inspired by Mother Nature. Her work is more than just skill and creative capability – her sculptures seem to speak to those who have forgotten how to connect with nature. 

Loren’s work was featured in magazines such as The New York Times, New York Newsday and The Journal News. Her art was also exhibited in various prestigious New York galleries, including Dorsky Museum and The Cathedral of St John the Divine. In addition, she presented her sculptures in New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut. Her latest work, Nature Will Heal / Electronic, which is a part of Loren’s sculptural series Nature Will Heal, was shown at the Barrett Art Centre and its exhibition EARTH WORKS: Art in Ecological Context

Recently, we were privileged to speak to Loren Eiferman and discuss the creative process behind her work, her views on art and inspiration. 

Photo © Courtesy of Loren Eiferman

Before discussing the scope of your artwork, was art and being an artist a path that always called out to you?

I was always interested in making things – even as a young child. I remember playing for hours on end creating whole worlds with the simplest of found materials, but obviously at 5 years of age I never thought of it as art, just play. During my high school years, I discovered ‘art’ and I started taking classes at The Brooklyn Museum Art School (when they still had an art school). I ended up getting my university degree in studio art and art history. After I graduated, I continued to create and have never stopped. There was a time that I thought I wanted to be an archaeologist or even a physicist, but I always returned back to my art. 

You mainly work with wood. How do you create your art, and what is the main subject of your work? 

I start out each day with a walk in the woods surrounding my home, collecting sticks and branches that have fallen to the ground. I bring these sticks back into my studio and I have what I like to call a ‘growing sea of sticks’. This is the raw material that I work with. I always begin with a drawing. This drawing acts like a road map as to what I want my sculpture to look like. I then search for shapes within my stick pile that corresponds to the shape in my drawing. Next, I start shaping the wood by cutting very small shapes of wood and then joining these small shapes together using dowels and wood glue. My work is not steam bent, instead, it is built from many (frequently hundreds) small shaped pieces of wood that have been seamlessly joined together. I then fill all the open joints with a wood putty, wait for it to dry, and sand it. This puttying process usually needs to be repeated at least three times till the sanded work looks as if it was born in nature and the line is continuous. My inspirations are many; I think of my sculptures as drawings but in wood. 

Photo © Courtesy of Loren Eiferman

After drawing and designing a sculpture on paper, how long does it usually take to create an art project and bring it to ‘life’? 

It is a very time consuming and labour-intensive process and each sculpture usually takes a minimum of a month to build, frequently more.

Looking at your art as a whole, which is more important to you: the subject of your art or the way it is executed? 

That’s such an interesting question because each piece I build wouldn’t exist without this construction technique that I’ve developed over the years. They are both intertwined. The sculptural subject manner acts like my language, but the wood itself and my process are the verbs, adjectives and all the components that go into making up my language.

When you create your art projects, is there a deliberate message present from the very beginning? 

My work is always about something that I am wanting to shed light on. It’s there at the very inception of a work. Whether it’s about global warming right here on our planet or shedding light on the mysteries and wonders found within our universe. I am not an artist that creates art for just ‘art’s sake’ – there is usually a message, an emotion or a story behind each work that I am wanting to convey.

Looking at your past and present projects, when you complete your work, do you remain attached to it or is there a catharsis with detachment present at the end of the project? 

Can I say both??? There is always a moment when I think I’m finally finished with a work that I go to my ‘contemplation’ chair and look and make sure it’s what I had envisioned. Often, if I am frustrated by a section that isn’t sitting right, I will take a saw to it and cut it up and rebuild it till it works. I feel that when a work is truly finished there’s almost a hum, a song that happens, it’s almost like a dialogue, a visual conversation that speaks to me in another way. The work then can be out in the world and stand on its own feet. Of course, when a work leaves it’s bittersweet. It’s my baby, but I’m happy someone else gets to share it. 

Photo © Courtesy of Loren Eiferman 

To what extent do you think your surroundings shaped you, creatively speaking, and in what way? 

After I graduated college, I moved into a tiny three-room apartment in NYC. One of those small rooms became my art studio. I was painting at the time and one very hot and humid August day all of my painting walls were filled with oil paintings that wouldn’t dry. I was now stuck with no space to paint, so I picked up a piece of balsa wood and a straight edged razor blade and started whittling away. Literally 8 hours flew by (this was before the internet and all its distractions) when I finally emerged from the ‘creative zone’ I realised that I was a sculptor, not a painter! So, from balsa wood I started working with small sticks and then larger sticks. I began collecting large branches in Central Park and hauling them on the subway back into my studio. I was drawn (pun intended) to nature and using its raw materials. In the middle of the concrete jungle, I was seeking out nature. I then moved to the Hudson Valley where I am surrounded by nature and I am not bored by it yet. There are still many sculptures yet to be created.

Your latest sculptural series, Nature Will Heal, has been influenced by Mother Nature. In addition, one of your works, Nature Will Heal / Electronics, was recently shown at Barrett Art Centre (New York) and its exhibition EARTH WORKS: Art in Ecological Context. What was the creative process behind the series itself? And could you tell us more about your personal relationship with nature and why do you think, after everything that has happened to Mother Nature, nature still manages to regenerate?

I truly believe deep down that Mother Nature has the ability to heal this planet. Hopefully, we as a species will still be around to witness this healing. This is not science, it’s a gut reaction to seeing how our planet transforms from season to season. Walking in the woods, watching the dead trees on the ground create food for the new young seedlings popping out of the ground. All the interconnectedness of roots right under the surface of our feet amazes me. I’ve witnessed that there is a cycle and a rhythm to our planet, and it’s constantly growing, shifting, changing and transforming.

One day, while I was cleaning out my basement, I found all these large plastic bags filled with plastic toys from our daughters’ childhoods. I thought ‘this is insane’ – plastic within more plastic. I thought ‘what are we doing on this planet?’. This series, Nature Will Heal, began with those plastic bags from my basement. I started creating these plant-like forms where the ‘seeds and seed pods’ are actually made up of plastic detritus. These seeds could be a ‘Barbie’ convertible car or a ‘Polly Pocket’ hunk of plastic or even a seed pod that is made from all these discarded electronic parts. But, in all these works, the plant is growing around this garbage, consuming and transforming what was once junk and turning it into a new kind of plant in a new form.

Photo © Courtesy of Loren Eiferman 

What are some of Nature Will Heal series most important aspects?

With this series, I embraced the idea of creating unique plant and plant-like forms. I have for the past number of years been inspired by a mysterious manuscript from the 15th century called The Voynich Manuscript. This manuscript, which is currently housed at the Yale Beinecke Library, was written in an unknown language, by an unknown author, and for an unknown purpose. Over the centuries, this manuscript has eluded all attempts at deciphering its purpose and text. For example, Alan Turing, who cracked The Enigma Code, failed to glean any information as to what this text said. This enigmatic manuscript is divided into five sections and I am now in the process of transforming the illustrations found in the first ‘herbal’ section into three dimensional sculptures. These plant-like forms that are found within the manuscript do not actually exist in nature. Instead, these plants have strange giant rhizomes with out of proportion leaves, pistils or stamens. I realised that after all these years of immersing myself with The Voynich Manuscript, it freed me up to create and start my own form of unique and strange plants. This new freedom was the inception of Nature Will Heal. This series speaks deeply to me of my belief that all of life is precious and we need to guard it against pollution and waste. We need to protect our planet now and reduce, recycle and reuse what we can, when we can, and where we can. 

The definition of art is open, subjective, and debatable. There is no agreement among historians and artists, which is why we are left with so many definitions of art. The concept itself has changed over centuries; how would you define art yourself? What does art mean to you?

I remember when I was in my early twenties, a man on a train sat down next to me and asked me what I wanted to do in life. I was sitting on that train with my sketchpad open and drawing away and I told him that I would like to be an artist. At the time, I remember I was sort of annoyed that he interrupted my concentration. Yet he gave me a pearl of wisdom – he told me ‘ahhhhh, the subject of art is long and life is very short, you need to get to work’. I frequently think back on that chance encounter I had, realising that it was the first time I ever called myself an ‘artist’ and realising when you put something out there something new can come back to you.

To me, art is another language which I can express and visually transmit the questions (whether spoken or silent) that we all have. There is another current, another deep stream where art flows and connects to all of humanity. That is the current I am trying to tap into and work in.

Photo © Courtesy of Loren Eiferman 

What’s the latest project you have been working on? 

As I said previously, I have been working on The Voynich Manuscript series for the past five years, it still consumes me. I am still transposing the first section of the manuscript into wood sculptures. I have about 20 works in this series completed. And I am now working towards a show at a gallery in NYC next year sometime, if Covid-19 ever eases. 

The world has been consumed by Covid-19 and made it very hard for creative professionals out there to organise exhibitions, tours, meet the audience, etc. Everything has been moved online. Looking at the current situation, what’s your wider vision? What do you hope to achieve within the next year or so? 

Covid-19 has been a very strange time for me. I feel blessed that I can go into my studio daily and create. It has actually been a very productive time for me and hopefully that will continue into the new year. I find that this creative outlet has grounded me and has given my daily life a purpose and a rhythm. I’ve lately started incorporating more colour and new materials into my works. I’m also hoping to cast some of my works into metal so my work can live outdoors. Almost everything has moved online. I have had a number of virtual studio tours that have been posted. This past week I sold two works online. I just joined a new gallery in Manhattan where one can see many of my works online. This year, I have been in numerous online exhibitions and am currently in four physical exhibitions. I am supposed to be in three different exhibitions in The Hudson Valley come December and January. Hopefully, these exhibits will open and I will be able to visit these shows. I must say that not only do I miss my social and travel life these days, but I also really miss having the freedom to hop on public transportation and see art in galleries, museums or artists’ studios, not just on a screen or Instagram. But I have many sketchpads full of drawings and ideas that I want to turn into sculptures, so this coming year there is plenty of work left to do.

Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler

Featured photo © Maksim Akelin Photography

Photo © Courtesy of Loren Eiferman 

View of the Arts is a British online publication that chiefly deals with films, music, arts and fashion, with an emphasis on the Asian entertainment industry. We are hoping our audience will grow with us as we begin to explore new platforms such as K-pop, and continue to dive into the talented and ever-growing scene of film, arts and fashion, worldwide.

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