Human Voices: Laura Forgie
The Human Family presents Human Voices, a podcast featuring conversations with artists and filmmakers about creating socially aware and relevant art.
These conversations, niche as they may sound, are actually universal. Every episode features a guest as they explore their own spiritual connection to their work as well as what it means to be human and why we try to tell stories or express ourselves at all.
Today’s guest is Laura Forgie a mixed media artist based out of Moorhead, Minnesota. You can learn more about her art at lamifo.com/
This episode of Human Voices is produced by Chamber Six Media, a multi-media group based out of Fargo, North Dakota, and was written, edited, and hosted by Oscar De Leon.
OSCAR DE LEON
Hello and welcome to human voices. I’m your host Oscar De Leon. Every week we talk to artists about their submissions into the North Dakota Human Rights Film and Art Festival.
On today’s episode we talked to Laura Forgie, a mixed media artist based out of Moorhead, Minnesota. Her art explores taboo and not-safe-for-work topics through embroidery and collage. Her unique perspective on sex, pornography and bodily autonomy creates dazzling pieces of art.
In 2018 she submitted Bella Donna, a picture collage and embroidery hybrid that features a porn actress of the same name. This is part of her larger series, “National Pornographic”. In this piece, the actress is in several sexual positions with anything sexualized being censored by pictures torn out of a national geographic.
Her work is confrontational but wonderful outlining the humanity in all of us, including sex workers.
Here, Laura explains her origins and artistic process.
I graduated college at University of Northern Iowa and was kinda not really sure what to do. And I’d been, I worked out at the airport and that was, that was decent money, but it was, it was heavy labor, pretty labor intensive and very conservative style, um, customers, that sort of thing.
And so then I was kind of sick of doing that so I saved up some money and went out to New York for a couple of trips. I went for like a week just to kinda check it out and see what was going on. I had a friend up there, so he let me stay. And then I went back and tried to live out there for a couple months and it was kind of a challenge. But I learned a lot, got to see a lot of culture. And eventually I ran out of money.
So I went out to California, out to Napa Valley because I had cousin out there and she invited me out there to stay with her for awhile. So got to see both coasts, got to do some fun stuff out there and then ended up going back home for a couple months over that winter.
And then I had friends up here that kind of convinced me to come up here. They were going to Bali for a month to go on their own vacation and do stuff there. So I just house-sat for them and eventually found work and made friends and made connections. So it’s been, it’s been good. It’s been worth staying. It’s been an easy city to navigate right out of college.
And a few years after that I had been doing all this death imagery and so I take pictures of all these dead animals and stuff and then I got kinda bored with, with that. I felt like I’d worked that idea out enough. So I started looking for different things and how to expand upon the medium that I’d already been using.
I have a friend that works with restore and somebody donated an entire, like a wine box full of magazines. She just said, come get it if you want it, and I picked it up and started working with that material is kind of collage and playing around with the different forms and stuff.
There’s a lot of really cool contemporary artists out there that are doing collage and there’s a lot of, a lot of people that aren’t so good at it that are doing it as well. So I think it’s interesting to kind of see the balance of collage can be done by anybody, and that’s kind of the aspect I like about it. But then you can take it to a whole, another level with the craft of it and the juxtaposition of what you’re saying and that sort of thing.
One of the artists that’s kind of stuck out for me was Wangechi Mutu. She’s pretty cool. Lots of, African-American imagery like with masks and collaging alongside with like fashion magazines and that sort of thing too. And the distortion of the figures that she does.
And there was um, so it was half like more explicit pornography and the other half was more softcore where it was like motorcycle magazines. So it just like topless women posing with these bikes and that sort of thing. So that materially wasn’t as useful for me.
I ended up kind of recycling some of this, some of it I felt like just to present the, the pornographic image like whole as it comes out and magazine is a bit much, it’s a bit overpowering. And for general audience you have to send through it to some extent. I didn’t want to sensor it entirely cause then it just loses all substance to it. But then to be, should I have it more digestible was kind of the idea.
And I’ve kind of, I keep continually pushing that too is how far do I want to send to this. Cause some of them I haven’t done, there’s no like detailing, it’s just, you know, a woman with her mouth open and then some crocodiles feeding and that’s what you see in that piece. But then other pieces, I’ve gotten pretty graphic with it. And so BELLA DONNA was kind of pushing it a little bit.
I just say that it’s not-safe-for-work. It’s more to do with more deal with more taboo subjects and that sort of thing.
I always just kind of describe it very basically is like, it’s an inkjet transfer collage. So I’m transferring the images onto this very sheer fabric. I usually use organza. So I’m basically transferring the image with some magic that I do. And then I add some embroidery detailing around the borders and the entry edging to kind of add a little extra flair, a little more emphasis on the, the craft and the the artist’s hand in the piece rather than just like a printed image. Because everybody prints. You can print anything anywhere.
I had felt I had been doing very large work for a long time and then I felt like it needed something else. It wasn’t enough to create these large pieces that we’re going to sit on a wall. It needed to have the hand brought back into it, something visually that brought the eye into it a little. You want to examine the piece and see what stitches are done and I do a large variety of stitches with my work each time I do a large piece, a larger piece anyway. Typically I learned one new stitch each time, which is, I’ve got quite a catalog of stitches now that I have to keep up with but it’s fun.
About a couple of years ago I had done some like hand sewing, some basic craft work for a long time, but then I had never really done it as elaborately and specifically with the embroidery work is as dense it is as it gets some times too.
I’ve always done a lot of work with collage just cause it’s such an accessible media to use. And so just and becoming more body positive has kind of helped me kind of explore different topics as well.
And, and then with the current political climate changing, that was about the time that I started to get more into the subversive aspects of it and to play around more and to take more risks. Because I felt like the death, the death themes that I was working with were very safe. Like it’s very, it still makes people uncomfortable, but it’s still a little more, it’s easier for people to grasp. Most people have experienced death at some point, so something that everybody could kind of relate to or find beauty in, in that way. But then with the sex, people have very strong opinions and about body image and everything that goes along with that. So, so yeah, it was, it was lot changing here that I kind of wanted to make more of a stand with what I was saying.
And it’s tough when somebody actually looks at my work they’re seeing all these very beautiful white women, these like models with perfect makeup and perfect bodies that are photo-shopped and, and so it’s also kind of a gest at that, the idea that this is what perfect is supposed to look like when it’s just generally not what people’s actual, what their preference actually is. You know, I think we all kind of want the real thing most of the time. And it’s just, I would like to use more normal bodies within my work and more not just white women, but it’s really tough to find that sort of thing in porn in the free magazines that I’m getting, this is kind of what I’m handed so I’m working with that. But yeah, in terms of body positivity, you kind of, you just have to work with what you’re given I guess is kind of part of it.
But then I’m also kind of distorting their, their bodies too and censoring them to, yeah, I think autonomy’s very, very important. And I also think sex work is very important and valuable.
It’s hard to explain that to people, especially when they don’t, they don’t understand that they’ve never experienced how valuable something could be, or just to accept people for who they are, the they want to put these people in boxes, you know? And it’s just kind of a nice reminder that you know, all these people, they’re actually people. There are people and you know, they have lifestyles beyond porn, like things they have hobbies and I just, I’ve become a lot more open with my opinions on things rather than just not speaking up about a lot of stuff, especially regarding women’s women’s rights and gender issues and that sort of thing.
So I’m just using it as a platform to say things a little bit louder with these loud images and that sort of thing. And then people can take what they want away from it. I guess I’m not like explicitly saying certain things. It’s just kinda hinted. Hopefully. I don’t really like to be too specific with a lot of what I work on, I just like to kind of leave it there and let somebody else analyze it. I like to do it from kind of an organic standpoint where I just kind of look through a magazine and make notes or pull the image out of the magazine dogeared or it or whatever to sing. I like this image for some reason I like this. And then I do kind of a collection of, I like this thing and then I combined the porn with the national geographics and just looking at which images kind of say different things, which colors and shapes look nice.
So it’s all kind of just like a knee jerk reaction of like a gut feeling like this works. And I kind of make decisions like that throughout the entire process. So as I’m doing embroidery, I’m looking at like which stitch would go here, which size, which color and that sort of thing.
So I just kind of start with grabbing images and laying them all across the floor so the whole room is messy. And then I glue the images onto the fabric. And so this is called inkjet transfer. It sounds super fancy, but it’s pretty simple and anybody can do it. You let the glue dry and then you on the reverse side where it would just be paper from the image, you start to peel that paper away, you get it wet and you kind of burnish it off. And then what’s left behind is the ink and the color and all the detail. And to varying degrees of success, like over the years I’ve gotten my images pretty crisp and clean and bright.
And then I just, I did a collection of like eight, eight pieces all at once this last time. And then I kind of put them aside and picked one to start the embroidery on.
I’ve kind of done things a little differently this last time where I, instead of using pornographic images in the ink tread transfer, I bring the porn in after. And that’s just done with embroidery now. So it’s just these contour drawings, essentially an embroidery over top of the National Geographic like landscape images or whatever I choose.
So, so now it’s got this overlay of embroidery that you’re looking through multiple layers of images.
It was, it was good this last year I went to the opening and it was a really good turnout. It was interesting to see the artists, you know, cause a lot of shows you go to, you don’t get to meet the artists, um, or to have the artists talk, you know. So it was interesting to see their standpoint from things and also see artists, um, that weren’t local. You know, they had artists from a couple of different regions. This last year I thought it was more, more open. So, and I liked the idea of, of it being a traveling show as well, going to, you know, Bismark and grand forks as well
This episode was brought to you by the Human Family, promoting human rights through film and art in North Dakota. For more info, visit our website at www.human-family.org This episode was produced by Chamber Six Media and written, hosted and edited by Oscar De Leon.
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