Any person who has five or six different websites has got to be multi-faceted. This would perfectly describe Lauren Curtis, a Franklin Park resident and artist who is a painter, photographer, poet, illustrator, collagist, mixed media, graphic and commercial artist — and then some.
However, no matter what category you might place her work in, it all has an otherworldly feel.
You’ll find underlying themes of her love for mythology and symbolism from both ancient and modern cultures, as well her inspirations from traveling throughout Europe and around the United States, most recently to New Orleans, a city she absolutely loves.
Using diverse materials — included a collection of human and animal X-rays she has compiled — the peripatetic Ms. Curtis is especially busy now and throughout the autumn, participating in exhibitions as well as numerous street and seasonal fairs in the area.
She’ll be on hand vending her Steampunk jewelry, T-shirts, photography, etc., at “Behind the Veil,” the Psychic Expo and Holiday Extravaganza at the “haunted” Elks Lodge in East Brunswick, Nov. 5, 1-6 p.m.
In addition, several of Ms. Curtis’ ethereal works are currently on view in a group show, the New Brunswick Art Salon Fall 2016: “L’Appel du Vide,” at the Alfa Art Gallery on Church Street in New Brunswick, through Nov. 20.
”L’Appel Du Vide” — a term which roughly translates to “the call of the void” -— focuses on the “…everlasting flow of life, matter, and nature, thus providing a glance into one’s experience of nature’s materialized essence, both tangible and intangible,” according to the gallery’s website.
Exhibiting alongside more than a dozen artists from New Jersey and the greater New York area, Ms. Curtis focuses on the interconnectedness of art, spirituality and culture. As a Wiccan, her art often expresses her personal spirituality and beliefs, which evoke the power of feminine archetypes.
In addition, there is always a sense of reverence for nature in her works. Perhaps this has its roots in her childhood in Colonia and Edison, where her father, a microbiologist and talented amateur artist, was her first art teacher.
”My dad was a great artist, did a lot of pen-and-ink works, wood carvings and whatnot, but it was always nature — animals and wildlife,” Ms. Curtis says. “He did it just as a hobby, but he was really good.”
Ms. Curtis majored in painting and drawing, and earned a BFA from the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 1988, where she was particularly influenced by the surrealists and “metaphysicians,” such as Salvador Dali, Giorgio di Chirico, as well as Rene Magritte.
”I also loved Matisse for his bold shapes and colors,” she says. “I was taking a lot of graphic design courses and felt that Matisse’s work had a graphic type of quality.”
Over the last three decades, Ms. Curtis has participated in some 100 solo and group shows, most recently (in central and south Jersey) at the Straube Center in Pennington, the Tulpehaking Nature Center in Hamilton, and the Noyes Museum in Atlantic City. Her work is in galleries and commercial venues throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and she has clients and collectors all over the world — from Scandinavia to Australia.
One real clue into Ms. Curtis’ aesthetic might come from her love for American artist and illustrator Edward Gorey, whose macabre pen-and-ink drawings evoke spooky and ironic scenes, usually in Victorian and Edwardian settings. (In the 1980s, Mr. Gorey became particularly well known for his animated introduction to the PBS series “Mystery!”)
”Edward Gorey is my all-time favorite illustrator, and I actually got to talk to him on the phone,” Ms. Curtis says. “I collect his books and was looking for this one sold-out edition. I read an article about him which named the town he was living in, so, I looked him up and he was listed in information. I called him, he answered the phone and we talked for a while. I could have been a crazy stalker, but he was very cool, very pleasant.”
Through the courteous Mr. Gorey, Ms. Curtis found the volume she was seeking, in a Gorey-loving bookstore in New York City.
Another aspect of Ms. Curtis’ unconventional personal style can be seen in her world-renowned fingernails. She is sometimes known as “The Talon Lady from Ripley’s,” meaning “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not,” the book of world-class oddities. Ms. Curtis’ remarkable long fingernails were included in the Ripley’s 2016 edition, and the recognition has brought the artist local, national and international attention.
”I’ve been growing my nails for about 25 years, and they’re over a foot long,” Ms. Curtis says. “I’ve been in Ripley’s book, I was featured in a Ripley’s (print) cartoon two summers ago, and I was on the TV show ‘Oddities.’ I was also on a TV show in Germany, their version of ‘Entertainment Tonight;’ they came to me to do the interview.”When asked how she functions daily — let alone creates a variety of art — Ms. Curtis explains that the nails have been growing so gradually, she’s adapted over the years. “You get used to it,” she says.
”I never planned it, I just always liked long nails — I fix them when they break and paint them myself,” Ms. Curtis says. “It just kind of happened, and then it became my symbol as an artist, so I went with it. I call them my ‘living sculpture,’ and they are like sculpture.”
Lauren Curtis’s artwork on view in the New Brunswick Art Salon Fall 2016: “L’Appel Du Vide,” at the Alfa Art Gallery, 108 Church St., New Brunswick, through Nov. 20. Gallery hours: Tues.-Sat., 11 a.m.- 6p.m. For more information, go to www.alfaart.org or call 732-296-6720. More about Ms. Curtis’ fine art can be found at www.laurencurtisart.weebly.com. More about Ms. Curtis’ illustration and graphic design can be found at www.nabaroo.com/laurencurtis.
Ms. Curtis will also be at the Psychic Expo and Holiday Extravaganza at the Elks Lodge, 21-B Oakmont Ave., East Brunswick, Nov. 5, 1-6 p.m. Admission costs $7. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.