Ava Ahmann, Metal Magazine, 30 Aug 2023

Fawn Rogers, the contemporary artist working in Los Angeles, is an interviewer’s delight. As even a set of largely tepid questions, sent via email, become tools enough for Rogers to leap off the page, furious and funny. Focusing her work on ruminations regarding power’s foothold as the dominant obsession within human nature, and thus the unending conflict between humans and the natural world, Rogers asks big questions, pulling in a wide range of mediums to help tickle, and at times maim the viewer. Combining and working across practices in painting, videography, and conceptual installation, Rogers has found recognition as an artist across five continents. Accolades, however, do not appear to be the driving force behind Rogers’ will to create, a focus that seems to be drawn instead from a desire to dialogue as much as provoke. 


As her website’s bio notes, “Our current geological era is one giant crime scene and we’re all personally involved.” Rogers’ understanding of culpability and focus on self-implication is evident in her work, especially in her own cameos within her video work, their varied settings and shots operating as a mouthpiece for her dreams, fears, and thoughts. Rogers is a steady excavator of society’s ills, especially the function of patriarchy in its ability to prove devastating to both the natural world and female-identifying and non-binary people.


Her artistic practice, and its engagement with violence and the Western-focused domination of all things wild, presents Rogers a way to escape this dark vision of society. Rogers’ work is instead a liberating process, where she is free to focus on building a world where empathy between humans and nature is paramount. Her most recent works emphasise the erotic and familiar motif of the mother of pearl as a sex organ. Highlighting the issue of human consumption and the unnatural cultivation of nature and violent harvesting of nature’s ornate productions, Rogers’ oysters are nature looking back at us, as our first mirror and biblical foil, to force us to think more deeply about ourselves. ”


Much of your work revolves around human interaction with the natural world, honing in on the less-than-innocent. That said, is there a natural space that you return to for guidance and or bliss? 


Through the night and blood to light. I can’t help to dismantle intrinsic value in my work. But then I think about harmonious things that are concentrated and sensual. I think of something like the sea, the soil, the grass. I want to be like the grass, caressing the earth. The grass is resilient and both feminine and masculine. Together they make the grass the grass. Maybe that’s the best kind of guidance and bliss.


Your work, which frequently refers back to this motif of the oyster and mother of pearl, has been described as both grotesque and sexy. Do you bridle at this sort of description of this depiction of nature, or does it feel accurate? 


I don't see these two descriptors as being antithetical. Living is like that, too. This work is a sort of open dispute with the forces of repression and shame. The oyster paintings are an investigation through forms of sensuality and death associated with human intervention. Maybe they tease out associations with divinity and consumption, or an interplay between nature and industry, beauty, violence, idolatry and invasion. Emblemising the conflicts and collusions between evolution and extinction. Most pearls are cultivated by us in a process of violence. The fact that we deliberately force plastic beads inside of the oysters to irritate them, forcing them to produce these beautiful gems, after which we discard 85% in order to maintain a market scarcity. As a side note, they’re fun to rub on your teeth.


In a 2017 interview you recalled falling in love with art when you visited the Pompidou in Paris. What was so transformative about that moment? What did your first forays into art making look like? 


I grew up without exposure to much art. I did read about artists, though, and they became my family. Joseph Beuys, Francis Bacon, Mike Kelley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Chris Burden, Robert Motherwell, Louise Bourgeois, Kerry James Marshall, Bruce Nauman—I still love their work. Being self-educated in the ‘80s, most of what I saw was old white guys, but damn, I still love their work. The Pompidou, though, was my first time in a museum, and to see the work in front of me at that scale, I legitimately fainted. That might have been from heat exhaustion or malnourishment having landed in Europe mid-summer with $200 to my name. Either way, it was a great experience. Nothing like the first time!


What can the world expect from Fawn Rogers in 2023? 


Chaos, fuckery, and microdosing. And then maybe smoke on the water and fire in the sky. Upcoming solo exhibitions: GODOG, solo exhibition, curated by Michael Slenske, at Lauren Powell Projects in Los Angeles, CA, September 15 – October 14, 2023. Come Ruin or Rapture, solo exhibition at Galerie Marguo in Paris, France, opening in October.

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