*Featured photo: Laura Mega, artist portrait, installation at MACRO contemporary art museum in Rome, 2019
Laura Mega works between Rome and New York. She studied at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome and at the Università dell’Immagine in Milan (a school centred on the five senses founded by photographer Fabrizio Ferri).
Her practice combines drawing, text, embroidery and printing. In addition, she sometimes uses other materials (such as pink epilating wax) on underwear, clothing and textile elements – especially those belonging to old trousseaus.
Through a contemporary and straightforward language, Laura Mega transforms symbols of a constricted and predefined femininity into works capable of conveying and investigating emotional, social and political issues, where the irony leaves the observer responsible for the different depths of reading and interpretation.
Laura Mega has exhibited at Ivy Brown Gallery (NYC), M55 Art Gallery (NYC), Resobox Gallery (NYC), Endless Biennial (NYC), Sejong Museum of Art (Seoul), MACRO (Rome), MADXI (Latina), Every Woman Biennial (London), Clio Art Fair (NYC). She has had collaborations with Moleskine S.p.A., SOME SERIOUS BUSINESS (LA), PULSE Art Fair Miami, Culture Monks (India), SENSE LAB (Milan), The Blue Bus Project (NYC), MuvolaProject (Rome). With the publishing house Pulcinoelefante (Milan), she has produced two artist’s books in a 33-copy limited edition. Mega is the creator and curator of the DREAMers art project and co-founder of the LAZZARO_ART DOESN’T SLEEP project.
Laura, your artistic journey began in Italy and led you to work and live in New York for a long time. And then back. How has this experience influenced your experimentation and your practice?
I believe that moving away from your homeland and roots always brings change no matter where you go. A multicultural, active, and stimulating city like New York has exponentially influenced and marked my life. It is a generous yet greedy city; it quickly provides but takes away just as easily. A bit like an ex, you keep loving and hating at the same time. During the years I lived in New York, I was more sensitive to an issue that touched me closely: immigration. The political situation was also very prominent, particularly that of ‘Trump’, which inspired a series dedicated to him. When I returned to Italy, with difficulty, I slowly got back to my roots.
When and how did you start working with textile techniques and mediums?
It was a specific event that pointed me toward textiles. I recall being in the Chelsea area and seeing rectangles of white fabric suspended on a line like hanging laundry, with slogans supporting Barack Obama written in blue marker.
The year was 2008, during the US presidential campaign. For me, art is a tool for protest and an invitation to reflect. That installation resonated with me like a wake-up call, so I started using bedsheets as a support for my very personal “propaganda”, drawing and printing words on fabric with textile ink to better capture my thoughts.
Writing is an integral part of many of your works. How do you combine words with and into your artistic practice?
I print messages inside my pockets and in hidden parts of my clothes. The word is a powerful and essential tool in my life and the art I produce. The text in my works sets their rhythm, complements them and underlines their irony.
What is irony for you, exactly, another of your works ingredient?
I like to see people respond to my art with a smile, and, at the same time, I like that this smile also leaves a bitter aftertaste. My work usually has a two-fold interpretation. A bit like when you meet someone new, you can decide whether to stop at their appearance or go further and discover their anxieties and fears. Irony slowly gets inside you and then leaves a mark because the mind has plenty of time to process the content.
Feminine and feminism: how do you define these two concepts in your work?
To answer this question, I think it is interesting to draw attention to Wikipedia’s definition of the term feminine: ‘The feminine is a grammatical gender… For example, woman and tablecloth are feminine nouns’. The choice of words is important even when it seems harmless, as in this case. It is a ‘feminine’ determined by the male world, which confirms the clichés resulting from centuries of patriarchy; therefore, today, the feminine cannot be separated from feminism, which must set the direction. In this sense, mine is definitely a feminine work. I emphasise this by using the pink colour, present in almost all my works, imprinted on the fabric with epilating wax or embroidery thread in pink or red. It is a work whose delicacy often contrasts with the text accompanying it.
You have recently been experimenting with the carpet’s dimension as a form of expression. How did this series come about and develop?
I have always been intrigued by the carpet as an object and its use in different cultures. For example, the carpet is linked to the practice of meditation and worship, it is a symbol of hospitality on the doorstep, and it is even magical in some fairy tales…
Personally, I find it easy to associate the carpet with the human being: it is an object that is trampled on, abused, and often bears the indelible marks of those who walk across it. Lately, I have made a cloud-shaped carpet, which reveals the writing “DREAM” in the dark, for all the times our dreams are trampled on. One has the shape of an anatomical heart with the sentence “WALK ALL OVER ME” written on it. It is dedicated to those of us caught in toxic love as to allow our partner to crush our feelings.
In your latest project, you intervene with embroidery on vintage clothes. You are not new to the use of textile elements belonging to old trousseaus and the past’s daily use. What does this choice mean to you?
I remember as a child a large trunk that seemed to hold a treasure… no gold doubloons but linen sheets embroidered by my mother, lace bought in Burano and a strong smell of mothballs. The CORRÈDO has great sentimental value for me: knowing that I would never use it, I turned it into something else. Although I am fascinated by this tradition handed down from mother to daughter and the stories that accompany it, the idea of the CORRÈDO makes me think of the vision of a woman born to be a wife and mother and nothing more. For years, I found myself at the family dinner table, during the holidays, with the nightmare of the fateful questions about boyfriends and marriage. So, working on CORRÈDO is for me to soften but, at the same time, emphasise the distorted view of women’s role, which, unfortunately, has not completely evolved over time.
Where does the inspiration for your works come from? And what is their genesis?
The inspiration comes from everyday life, my emotional state, social issues and everything that happens around me. Artistic production goes hand in hand with my need to communicate. I always find it difficult to interact with people, and art helps me do this by acting as an intermediary.
“Amazoniano il nuovo HERO” is one of your works that I cannot decide whether to ascribe to non-fiction, interactive performance art, or journalistic provocation or call it an artist’s intervention involving different disciplines and different ‘actors’. So, can you tell me about this project?
“AMAZONIAN the new HERO” I think is my greatest artistic performance. Due to problems with the renewal of my American Visa, I was stuck in Italy, and during the pandemic, the only job offer came from Amazon. The salary was good, and I only had to work the night shift on the weekends for three months; it seemed like a lottery win. Not everyone knows that every Amazon employee is called a HERO. From the first day of work, Amazon provides you with a backpack and a water bottle with the word HERO on it, reminding you of the mission you are destined for, to serve the customer. And so, whether you have one or more degrees or no degree at all, Amazonians are all heroes on the same level and equal in status.
Through Elena, my alter ego and the story’s main character, I narrate my adventure in the Amazon warehouse in Passo Corese, Rieti province, ironically yet without prejudice.
I call it an artistic performance because I decided to self-produce it through Amazon; each purchase of the book starts the assembly line of the warehouse, an action repeated in a loop: Amazon produces, prints and sells the book on the Amazon, the Amazonian picks up the book and packages it inside the Amazon warehouse, concluding the whole operation with the shipment to the customer who buys on Amazon.
After this first experiment, I took a liking to it and produced my second artist’s book, “ThePinkSide of WTF”, in a double version, one strictly in pink and one to be coloured.