Habitat: Sterling Lawrence

Sterling Lawrence photographed in his Chicago studio on December 29th. ©KATHERINE MCMAHON

Sterling Lawrence photographed in his Chicago studio on December 29, 2015.


Habitat is a weekly series that visits with artists in their workspaces.

This week’s studio: Sterling Lawrence; Pilsen, Chicago. “I try to use material I don’t know how to use very well,” the artist Sterling Lawrence said in his Chicago studio last December. “I find when I use materials I know really well, my objects get static really quickly. I’m always trying to use things where I’m not quite sure how they function.”

Lawrence originally moved to Chicago to attend the Art Institute, where he studied printmaking but considered himself a “bastard child of the photography department.” Lawrence is currently preparing works for a solo show at Document in March, as well as for a group exhibition at Columbia College, and the Material Art Fair in Mexico City. “Everything’s sort of in flux,” he said. “I usually make a bunch of objects at one time. It’s easier to work on multiple objects than one, then there’s a correlation when they are shown together at an exhibition. Most exhibitions have some sort of schematic theme to them.”

Lawrence is currently working with materials as varied as ink-jet fabric sheets, prosthetic plastic, aluminum piping, and Kydex, which is commonly used for aircraft pull-down trays. “I’ve been bending it over my sculptures a little bit. It’s kind of scary to think about, because there’s not that much heat and this stuff is melting all over the place.” When preparing for a show, Lawrence pays careful attention to color so his works can adapt in different spaces. “I usually work with lighter colors or things that have less of an influence, so whenever I go into an exhibition I can deal with whatever the lighting system is in the gallery.”


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