Profile: Lauren Shapiro

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In 2010, Lauren Shapiro started folding origami cranes as a meditative act. She wrote letters to people she couldn’t say things to, and then folded the pages into paper cranes. She made cranes from sheets of music and pages from an old math textbook. She turned road maps into origami cranes. She folded cranes from magazine ads, paper napkins, tin foil, newspaper. She made “pornagami” from old Playboy magazines. She didn’t set out to make over 1,000, but she did. She was familiar with the Japanese legend of 1,000 cranes, which promises the granting of a wish or recovery from illness to a person who makes 1,000 origami cranes. A few weeks later, at a benefit for a local substance abuse rehabilitation center, patients and benefactors walked into the Arts Garage in Delray Beach and were surrounded by three walls of origami cranes. Lit from beneath, a thousand cranes appeared to be taking off from the darkness and flying into the light, their shadows casting upward. “It was breathtaking,” said Amy Pasquantonio, the benefit’s organizer. “I’d never seen anything like it.” Lauren Shapiro didn’t just fall into making moving works of art. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from FAU, and spends her time teaching through the Boca Raton Museum of Art and Boca Art School. “I like it because it is a job where I feel like I am doing something good, I am giving back in some way…And I get to make art all day. What’s better than that?”

When she’s not teaching, she is in her studio: one in a row of small storage units tucked at the back of the parking lot behind a Boca strip mall. She shares the space with a full-time artist. It is here where Lauren creates pieces of art that combine the natural and the supernatural. She sculpts eerie, human heads atop writhing octopus tentacles. She makes collages where birds have orchids for faces. She paints a bikini- clad woman with the head of a wolf enjoying an ethereal midnight swim. She calls her work a “personal mythology,” because it serves as a momentary snapshot of her inner psyche, and it combines elements of fantasy and mysticism. But just because she teaches art, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a lot to learn. She is caught in that quagmire familiar to many young people: she isn’t entirely sure what she wants to do with her life, or how to make her dreams happen. Her future is a blank canvas—a fact that can be both terrifying and exhilarating.

“I recently enrolled in a ‘business for artists’ class,” she says. “I had my first class last night. They said we have to decide if we are selling a product or providing a service, and that we had to come up with a mission statement…and I just. I don’t know what I want to do. “ As she contemplates her future, she nonchalantly turns pages of a sketchbook filled with collages of human/plant creatures and sketches of body parts floating through space. A single earring dangles from her ear. “I’ve always thought about creating an artist coalition called Slingshot artists…” Lauren muses. “It would be a place where artists could come together—musicians and writers and artists and free thinkers, and we would all nurture each other. Like maybe I could have a group studio space and artists could pay a certain amount a month to be a member and we could all create art together all day. We could have art movie nights. Open studio nights. Shows. Music. We could have events there. I mean…I don’t know how we could fund something like that. I haven’t figured that out yet. I just want to bring artists together. Maybe that’s my business. Maybe I’ll have an arts space. And we could do community outreach. We could go out and teach art to kids, host painting parties…I don’t know.”

She knows that she needs some sort of plan, though. “I have trouble pricing my art,” she confesses. “I have always wanted to make ‘art for the common man.’ I want to make art that people can afford—art for musicians and painters, not just some rich guy in a mansion somewhere.” But that isn’t exactly the soundest of business plans. In many ways, Lauren is the purest kind of artist, and her naïve idealism is exactly what allows her to create works of such whimsy. For her, this art is a form of catharsis. Because Lauren doesn’t see the world like the rest of us. She has visions of creatures that are part bird, part tooth. She creates sculptures of mermaids with dragon heads, and paintings with human-legged horses with wearing Converse sneakers. While perhaps too humble about her work and unsure of where she’s headed, the quality of Lauren’s art stands on it’s own: her pieces mesmerize. The intrigue they create overcomes any inherent aversion to the oddity they respect. Lauren’s goals, while unrealized, are simple: “I don’t need to make a million dollars. I just want to make art, and I want to make a difference.” To learn more about Lauren’s artwork, visit her website at www.charmedorganisms.com.