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Fragile, Exhibition of John Lawson's new work opens at Simon's Rock

GREAT BARRINGTON, MA –-  An exhibit of  the recent work of John Lawson will open on October 22 in the Liebowitz Gallery at Bard College at Simon’s Rock.  The show will remain open until Dec. 21, and the opening reception will be held on October 27 from 6 to 8 p.m.  The gallery is open daily, from 12 to 5 p.m.

The show is titled Fragile, and while the work itself makes the meaning clear, the story that goes with it does so as well. 

John Lawson learned about Hurricane Katrina and the destruction of his city while vacationing on an island off the coast of  Maine.  That’s when he and his wife learned that their New Orleans home of 15 years and much of his life’s work were under water.

In six weeks, he and his wife were allowed to return to sort through their belongings, and they found that everything was damaged.  From his studio drawers, Lawson pulled 25 years worth of soaked sketches and drawings, and pulling apart the paper carefully, he was able to salvage some part of the work, laying it to dry on a friend’s porch. According to the exhibition essay by curator Margaret Grant, with this process “Lawson began his journey of understanding the disaster that had changed his life forever.  In this exhibition, we are witness to Lawson’s mourning, healing, and ultimate discovery of acceptance and hope.”

Before Hurricane Katrina, Lawson’s trademark and his primary media were the Mardi Gras beads that he would gather the morning after the parades and parties. He became well known for his unique, exacting use of the beads in creating fantastic designs.  But his work wasn’t simply pretty and colorful;  it communicated his view of materialistic culture and consumerism, and – from the same essay – “his fascination with the under-culture of the city.”  

Now, a Great Barrington resident, Lawson is working with the New Orleans materials – including damaged photographs, sketches and paintings – to create his pieces.  In one piece, Floodline, he uses only salvaged beads and photographs of everyday life to create a memorial to the city of New Orleans.

Fragile, Lawson’s first exhibit in the Berkshires, consists primarily of three bodies of work:  beading and tattoo drawing, explorations with digital photography, and flood-salvaged, re-worked drawings with encaustic wax.

From England, John Lawson came to the U.S. as an exchange student in engineering at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. According to Grant,  “There his artistic abilities were encouraged, and he returned to England two years later to concentrate on landscape painting.  Eventually Lawson was drawn back to the deep South, and soon became part of an underground art culture in New Orleans that included working in tattoo, t-shirt and mural designs long before these mediums became mainstream. Lawson also became known for his unique drawing style and creations using discarded Mardi Gras beads.  He covered mannequins, pianos, and drums with intricate bead work, including a 53-foot long bar top at the notorious artists’ haven, the Audubon Hotel.”

The Simon’s Rock Exhibitions Program oversees a series of changing exhibitions of professional artists, faculty in the arts, and Simon’s Rock student and alumni artists, in the Library Atrium Gallery, the Daniel Arts Center, and The Gallery at Liebowitz.  The program seeks to have an academic and curricular component where students and artists are engaged through artists talks, workshops, and installation participation. All the galleries are open to the public, handicapped accessible and free of charge.  For more information call 413-528-7389.

Simon's Rock Media Contact:
Briee Della Rocca: 413 644-4706
E-mail: bdellarocca@simons-rock.edu