A Conversation with Lauren Ditchley and Katherine Fries
Throughout the month of March, the Harrison Center is proud to present the work of two of our newest artists, Lauran Ditchley and Katherine Fries, in the Gallery Annex. Ditchley, a photographer and textile artist was born and raised in Indianapolis. Her work focuses primarily on everyday environments and interactions between herself, others, and place. Fries’ work finds its home in painting and printmaking, and is heavily influenced by the relationship between people and objects. Recently, I had the opportunity to pick the creative minds of Ditchley and Fries. Here’s what they had to say:
"6", cell phone photography, Lauren Ditchley
HCA: How was it that you decided to pursue a career in the visual arts?
LD: Ever since I can remember I have loved creating things—from drawing crayon murals under the dining room table, to learning to sew with my grandmother, to getting my first camera in high school from dad. I was born and raised here in Indy, where the inspiration for much of my work comes from. It was in 7th grade when I realized I wanted art to be a part of what I did everyday—I had an amazing middle school art teacher who helped me realize my path.
I completed my BFA at the University of Indianapolis in the spring of 2007, and have been involved in the Indy art scene since then. Much of my career as an artist has been in the Fountain Square area, but a recent move to south Meridian-Kessler has made me look at my city in a new light. Having pursued a degree in studio art, I never knew that teaching art would become part of my life, but I have found working with children has kept me active as an artist myself. I am currently in my ninth year at Sycamore School and have had the fortune to learn the art of teaching from one of our founders, Eileen Prince. She is an amazing artist and teacher, and I feel lucky to have worked next to her all these years. In addition to a wonderful work environment—the school community encourages teachers to pursue their passions, so I feel I am able to have the best of both worlds.
KF: There are three big components that I feel shaped, or facilitated my early evolution to becoming an artist. First, for as long as I can remember I have always made things. Whether out of need or purely for the sake of enjoyment, everyone in my family were and are makers. Creative problem-solvers surround me. The second was being immersed in stories from and about past family friends. These stories were illustrated with mementos/heirlooms, photos, and imagination. I have from an early age sincerely cared about the past and how it stays present through the objects left behind. Lastly, the spark that propelled the first two components from mere interests to a great passionate need to create came from the first time I saw Edward Hopper’s Room in New York. As a child my elementary school class visited the Sheldon Museum of Art in Lincoln, NE. There we walked into a room I was drawn like a magnet to Hopper’s piece. As I stared up at it, I pondered how it was made. From then on I “borrowed” scraps of anything I could paint on.
It was never a question of deciding to become an artist, or choosing a career in the visual arts. I can’t remember a time I didn’t make, draw, or paint. So as a high school student, I knew that studio art was going to be my major in college. I have been very lucky to be involved in university programs that have pushed and prepared me. I earned my BFA and MA at the University of Indianapolis and an MFA from Miami University in Ohio. It was through the experiences at these institutions that I later found the great joy of passing this knowledge on to students, and teaching became another way I experience art and art-making.
HCA: Relative to this particular show, what has your process been in preparation? How long have you been creating this body of work?
LD: In preparation for the work I’ll be showing in the Gallery Annex, I used my immediate creative context for inspiration, and took photos in and around the Harrison Center building. This photo series will be called “You are Here” and will consist of images I have taken with and edited on my cell phone. I actually got this idea when I was at the studio working this past week!
"2", cell phone photography, Lauren Ditchley
KF: The body of work I will be showing is part of a continuing series examining our relationship to objects and our past. One thread of this series is a collection of mixed media assemblages, and the other a series of oil painting on canvas. Each medium offers differing, yet related viewpoints of a central theme: the relationship between people and objects. This series emerging in 2013 and has been evolving ever since. For this particular series, I look to my community of family, friends, artists, and coworkers as representatives of larger and universal community members. My artist statement comes from T.S. Eliot and states “It is only in the world of objects that we have time and space and selves."
Since I was small, I have always been aware of my relationship with the objects that have surrounded me. I contemplated their meaning, stories, and origins. As a storyteller, I grasped at any known narrative of who, what, what, where, and how. As a preservationist, I longed to know its context, strive to understand its relevance today, and asserted its importance for posterity. With these things in mind, these works share carefully selected collections of objects, images, people, and events, reflective of narrative threads based on personal experience. The collections are an accumulation of memories in that they seem random, yet are intertwined, becoming clues of values, interests, relationships, and experiences.
HCA: How, in your opinion, should your viewers approach this work?
LD: I like viewers to add their own stories to the images I present, so approaching the work with an open and contemplative mind would be key.
KF: While the objects, collected, portrayed, and arranged are highly specific to the individual piece and person involved, we all have pasts and most of us have objects kept for reasons beyond utilitarian need. We interact with objects each and every day, and these objects say something about us. It is the physical object that will travel through time being in the past, present, and possible future. In fact, we look to objects to teach us about our past and humanity.
HCA: How has this work impacted you as an artist?
LD: This new work is refreshing to me as artist. It is giving me time to play and experiment, which is one of my favorite things to do.
KF: While I look to the past quite often in the creation of this work, I have reconsidered my interaction with objects and considered what I might leave behind, and what it might say about me.
The most unexpected and completely wonderful outcome of this series has been when people I have known a long time and even people I just met have shared their personal stories because of prompts or artifacts seen in my work. This exchange of personal histories has been profound and exciting.
The work of friends and studiomates Katherine Ditchley, and Katherine Fries will hang throughout the month of March in the Gallery Annex. Be sure to check it out!