The two of us picked up both sides of the steel bars. The yarn stretched between us. We shuffled down the hallway into the installation room, just barely catching the eyes of peers and professors walking past us.
Building 34 isn’t much different than other buildings on campus save a few fixtures: seven-foot sculptures, charcoal fingerprint smudged across the walls, a courtyard painted pink with the words “Dexter Donut.”
Thousands of students swarm across Cal Poly’s campus every hour. Despite the thousands of corresponding narratives, caveats and details, I rarely think about what the kid who scootered past me on the way to class is going to do that day. It’s difficult to remember that other people have just as complex of a life as I do when I’m so consumed with what I have going on.
But when a woman carried a massive yarn sculpture into a classroom a few weeks ago, I started to pay attention again.
That person is Lauren Goldenberg, a Cal Poly art & design junior with an affinity for crocheting. Goldenberg and I sat on the floor in a white-walled and windowless installation room and got to talking about her style, Cal Poly and her yarn.
Do you view art as your main form of self-expression?
Absolutely yeah, 100 percent.
And you feel like you have other forms of expression or do you try to channel it all into your work?
I take pride in my sense of style, like with my outfits and everything. I feel most confident and comfortable when I can like wear whatever I want and when I can get weird with my clothes. Almost like a good type of gross is my vibe.
A little unrelated, but how do you feel about the culture of Cal Poly, specifically as an artist?
I chose to go to Cal Poly as opposed to an art school because I wanted the full college experience. I wanted to meet people with different points of view — and I still think that’s really valuable. I didn’t want to be around the weird art kids always, but now that I’ve been here for awhile, we’re certainly missing that type of person. Arts are underrepresented here, people don’t really know that we have a gallery on campus. Dexter isn’t just for Subway or the lawn.
How did you start to care about art? What sort of inspirations led you to do the type of work you’re making today?
As a kid growing up in a wealthy white neighborhood where everyone’s goal was to get into an Ivy League school or go to USC, I kind of just enjoyed art. I wouldn’t even say I enjoyed art as much as I enjoyed coloring. As a kid I never thought art was important.
When I got to high school my dad told me that I should take art, “You’ve never really had the chance — so — here it is.”
Honestly, I took the art class and initially it was — stupid. We did watercolors and charcoal and it was fine, but I went to the next art class and then the next one. I ended up going to a college level class and I got really serious about it. Long story short, my dad is a huge inspiration for me because he’s always believed in me and told me I could do it.
“Overlooked moments are beautiful I guess, even the kind of gloomy ones.”
Let’s talk more about this piece. What were your first ideas about it?
Basically, right now I’m interested in intimacy, and how that affects someone’s everyday life. Without intimacy we seek to fill voids with things that can’t say no to us, like inanimate objects. I was kind of channeling the sadness that you feel when you’re missing something emotionally and how that can actually be really beautiful. Overlooked moments are beautiful I guess, even the kind of gloomy ones.
For this piece specifically I brought up memories of growing up in a beach town and going to the beach when it’s rainy or dark and no one is there. I wanted to channel that energy and abstract elements of those visual conventions I was used to seeing at the beach, like fog or sea foam.
What do you think your art offers to people who see it?
This is the first piece of many, so I’d like to think that my art offers a sense of fresh air, something different. You don’t have to just paint or sculpt, you can do whatever. I used to really like making drawings or paintings that looked exactly like photos that I was referencing, but the more I think about it the more I think, what’s the point? We have the ability to make something that doesn’t exist in the world yet, so why not make that new thing?
We don’t realize that, by interaction or sheer proximity, we’re never more than a few degrees from somebody’s hidden habit or hobby. The nooks and crannies aren’t ever deep below the surface, they just take a little extra observation to notice. In more than a few cases, that catharsis takes a central role in the lives of our peers.
(This article is the first installment of a series by Ally Millard, a KCPR DJ and Cal Poly art & design sophomore. In the series Millard, through word of mouth, seeks out the eccentric hobbies of San Luis Obispo people. Then she sheds light on them.)