the transformative power of art ~ lauren e. simonutti

If you ever wondered what it is like to struggle with a mental illness, just take a look at Lauren E. Simonutti's work. She has been featured on LensCulture, Shots Magazine, and will be having her first solo exhibition titled "8 Rooms, 7 Mirrors, 6 Clocks, 2 Minds & 199 Panes of Glass" at the Catherine Edelman Gallery, opening January 8th. The work is stunning, incredibly raw and courageous. Giving full expression to the tormented psyche is a gift to us all as we peer into our collective humanity.

The Devil's Alphabet: V (2007)

Edelman states:

"Mental illness is not something easily understood. Most of us only hear about it through television or the cinema, which tends to sensationalize the condition. Rarely do we meet a person truly afflicted with mental illness who can explain it. In 2006, Lauren E. Simonutti started hearing three distinct voices in her right ear, the ear she lost hearing in years prior. After numerous hospitalizations and mis-diagnoses, Lauren was finally given a name to her illness, rapid cycling, mixed state bipolar with schizoaffective disorder, and given proper medicines which allows her to function with great clarity on a daily basis.

Tomorrow is My Birthday and All My Friends are Here (2006)

Taking pictures since she was twelve, Lauren turned the camera on herself, photographing within the confines of her home, which she has rarely left since 2006. The result of this self-imposed isolation is a haunting, honest body of work about mental illness and a testament to her resilience and need to confront and understand her condition."

As she says in her artist statement:

"Madness strips things down to their core. It takes everything and in exchange offers only more madness, and the occasional ability to see things that are not there....The problem with madness is that you can feel it coming but when you tell people you think you are going crazy they do not believe you. It is too distant a concept. Too melodramatic. You don’t believe it yourself until you have fallen so quickly and so far that your fingernails are the only thing holding you up, balanced with your feet dangling on either side of a narrow fence with your heart and mind directly over center, so that when you do fall it will split you in two. And split equally. So there’s not even a stronger side left to win.....Over three and one half years I have spent alone amidst these 8 rooms, 7 mirrors, 6 clocks, 2 minds and 199 panes of glass. And this is what I saw here. This is what I learned."
— lauren e. simonutti

"As for my working technique: All work is 100% digital free. Any manipulation has been done either in camera (occasionally), or in darkroom (usually).

Let me clarify that I have nothing against digital. I do not desire to disparage, denigrate or disrespect it. I simply prefer to get my hands wet.

Nearly all my images are large format (4x5 or 5x7 inch negatives) contact prints, exposed under a 100 watt bulb, then selectively bleached and toned. I apply the chemistry with brushes.

While I have my preferred techniques, (sepia, selenium and silver bleach are my main palette), there is always the element of chance. Chemistry does not always react the same, water does not always run in the same direction. I have been known to spill things. Each print is different.

For some reason I only listen to music in the darkroom. I find watching clocks tiresome so I time film processing by music — I have a range of songs of the proper length. Film goes in, music goes on (Tom Waits, Bowie, Bauhaus), song ends, film comes out.

I don’t time prints, I print by inspection. My favourite papers have both been discontinued to date, (Azo & Bergger contact printing papers), so at some point I will have to adapt my working technique, as I have virtually no supply. I am curious to see what will happen."