Students from CSUDH’s art and design department welcomed celebrated artist Lauren Halsey to campus this week for a wide-ranging discussion about her approach to art, her creative process, and the importance of community in an event co-hosted by the University Art Gallery and the PRAXIS Community Engagement Program.
Halsey’s work has been the subject of a solo exhibition at the gallery since March. Sitting among the signage, collages, and sculpture that make up the exhibition, the artist characterized her work as “love letters” or “moments of meaning” gathered over many years.
As a student at El Camino College, she traveled through the city by bus every day. “I was remapping my neighborhood and restyling what I imagined the exterior of the neighborhood could look like or should look like,” Halsey says.
Halsey’s sculpted pieces and collages include references to places both obscure and profoundly meaningful to those familiar with her creative geography. “These are spaces I’ve been in or have had access to, like HP Ice Cream on 105th and San Pedro. My grandma lived on 106th. I grew up going to this spot, and I wanted to archive it because it’s beautiful as a vessel or a space for joy.”
In a slideshow presentation that served both as a retrospective and an indicator of future projects for the artist, Halsey documented her love of names and indexing. She included a photograph of drawings she had made to record the names of area churches.
“I grew up in the Missionary Baptist Church off Broadway and 107th. Just noticing the promise and poetry of the names of these churches in an area that might be antithetical to that promise was always so beautiful to me,” Halsey says.
Gallery Director Aandrea Stang says the talk by Halsey was part of a broader effort “to provide a range of artistic practices by Los Angeles-area artists who have a relationship with our student population and South Los Angeles.”
It gives CSUDH art and design students “a valuable art experience by an artist with whom they can relate,” Stang says.
Jupiter Palayo, 22, is a studio art major from Long Beach with an interest in photography and ceramics. She says the intentionality of Halsey’s work and the ability to capture meaningful moments within a community that are easily overlooked or erased are what resonated most with her.
“That’s what I want to do with my photography—capturing moments in space, especially in communities that are disappearing,” Palayo says.
Halsey received the Seattle Art Museum’s 2021 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence prize and has had solo exhibitions in New York, Boston, Los Angeles, and Paris. Her works are also featured in collections at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio.
Halsey, whose exhibition at the University Art Gallery closes on December 10, is also in the process of creating a major public monument that she calls her “dream project.” It’s a culmination of her earliest inclinations as an artist in high school.
The specifics of the design have not been finalized, Halsey says, but the installation will first be displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York before relocating to South Central Los Angeles.
“This will be the first project in my life where the work will return back to the context it emanates from,” Halsey says. “It will go to the Met from April to October next year, but it will be in my neighborhood in South Central for three years as its own space.”