By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
Growing up in Philadelphia, Lauren Carrera said she was always interested in art, but thought of it as a hobby. She took classes in painting, and planned to be a physician. But an inordinate fear of blood made her switch to behavioral medicine. In 1988, she and her husband moved to La Jolla while she worked on a graduate degree.
Just short of a Ph.D. in psychology, Carrera said she realized that painting had captured her heart more than psych. She became a visual artist specializing in landscapes, with studios in San Diego and Portland, Oregon. But she had bigger ideas.
Two years ago, after a visit to the quirky Museum of Jurassic Technology in Los Angeles with its rooms full of odd dioramas, she decided to create her own fantasy museum.
“I loved the great explorers and naturalists of the 19th century who went out and saw the new world and brought back everything they could,” she said. “I wanted to go on an expedition and see the new world of today. I wanted to bring back the wonder and mystery of life and nature.”
This leads to her current installation at Liberty Station: “Museo du Profundo Mundo presents Specimens & Renderings from the Carrera Expedition.”
Over the past six months, Carrera has turned a once-vacant 4000-square-foot space into an eight-room Artbox, her homage to the great natural history collections and collectors she admires. She calls it a “pop-up museum.”
It really is an expedition, an adventure into the world of the artist that invites viewers to create their own narratives as they go along. Every painting, assemblage and diorama tells a story, and the closer you look, the more you see.
Check out the closet-sized “Book Drop,” which includes a small white cityscape overlooking a large clutter of books. And “Permanent Collection,” a white-cloth, mad-tea-party table lit by a glowing chandelier of I-V drip-bags. There’s a bunny under glass at each place setting, and each bunny seems to have a story, too.
The Expedition includes many bunnies, among the myriad birds, butterflies, goldfish, and assorted lost-and-found objects that have made their way into Carrera’s art. And then there are the large-scale pod paintings, inspired by a mysterious piece she once saw in a dark corner of Chicago’s Field Museum.
This is not an installation to rush through. Attention must be paid. The artist’s Field Notes may help you to understand her thinking, but she wants you to do your own thinking, too.
And this is time-sensitive material. The installation will be here for a while, and then disappear.
“It’s like Buddhist sandpaintings,” said Carrera. “It has a time limit. I’d like to share it while I can.”
If you go
What: Museo du Profundo Mundo presents ‘Specimens & Renderings from the Carrera Expedition’
When: 4-8 p.m. Thursdays, noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays, Sundays through Dec. 15
Where: Artbox Studio, 2835 Perry, corner of Historic Decator at Liberty Station
Artist reception: 5-8 p.m. Nov. 4 with food, wine, and exhibit tours with Carrera
Contact: (619) 971-8747