Fence lumber and crocheted yarn may not be the first two materials that come to mind when one thinks of constructing an art piece, but Albion’s latest artist-in-residence, Brandon Lacow, appreciates them for their ability to convey a message about identity.
A self-described queer artist, Lacow likes balancing traditionally masculine materials, like fence lumber, with traditionally feminine materials, like crocheted yarn to show their dichotomy.
Lacow grew up in Fallon, Nevada, with a population of about 8,000 people.
“As a closeted homosexual in a small town, I put up all these invisible boundaries to protect myself from the perceived homophobic world,” said Lacow. “Now that I’m out, I love the idea of using a physical boundary that’s intended to be protection, using it for something other than protection. So, I am building domestic objects out of the fence lumber.”
Before being chosen by the art and art history faculty at Albion College for residency, Lacow attended University of Nevada, Reno for his undergraduate degree and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas for graduate school.
In his last year at graduate school, Lacow decided he wanted to develop his art further and applied for residency at Albion after hearing about the program at a Society for Photographic Education (SPE) conference and meeting Albion College Photography professor Ashley Feagin.
“I had known Brandon for a few years from the conference and knew he was finishing up his MFA and encouraged him to apply, specifically because of his use of materials and interdisciplinary approach to making art! I know the students of Albion would benefit from seeing an artist who works in such a manner!” Faegin said via email. Now, Brandon has time and space dedicated to doing what he loves most: creating art.
As the artist-in-residence, Lacow has access to a studio space in Bobbitt and a house on campus to live in that he currently shares with his cat, Norma-Jean. In this house space, he can stockpile materials, develop plans and execute his art free from distractions.
Being the artist-in-residence comes with opportunities but also expectations. Part of the expectation for an Artist in Residence is that they give a lecture about their art. Lacow gave his lecture last Thursday, discussing his work and his transition from student to artist.
Much of Lacow’s early work used a completely different medium to communicate his intentions, featuring nude models painted by hand which blended in seamlessly with a colorful background.
“The nude figure can either be formally beautiful or it can be erotic,” said Lacow. “I was terrified of the eroticism of the nude figure because eroticism implied sexuality, and I wasn’t ready for people to know I had one of those. So, I was literally hiding nudity or sexuality by painting the models.”
Lacow’s more recent work represents a divergence from his previous artistic productions. With the use of fence lumber, crocheted yarn, and photography his pieces embrace their materials’ traditional connotations while bringing in new layers of meaning.
Inspirations for Lacow’s work also come from artists and photographers like the late Robert Mapplethorpe, a fellow queer artist, and Sandy Skoglund, whose method involves creating an artistic space and then being photographed inside it.
“I look at other artists’ work as kind of like a jumping-off point. So I look at it in a sense that they’ve started a conversation that I’m interested in having and continuing from my own perspective,” Lacow said. “My work tends to start out with the specificity of me, but at a certain point my intention becomes your interpretation.”
With the opportunity residency allows him, Brandon plans on making four main pieces with for his new collection, representing his newfound desire to create a dialogue about queer identity and domesticity. He wants to explore the question, “What can a queer home look like without the restrictions placed on it by tradition?”
Lacow’s art collection entitled, “Beyond the Fence,” will be on display in the Bobbitt Visual Arts Center in the Munro Gallery on Saturday, Feb. 23 until Saturday, March 23, 2019. You can also find some of his earlier work on brandonlacow.com.