Oska Lappin’s Scary Vision of America
If you visited Oska Lappin’s open studio during Coastal Currents last September, you will be familiar with the splashy and expressive red white and blue mixed media woodcuts which make up her Scary Amerika series. These were produced during an intense six-month period immediately following Donald Trump’s inauguration. As she was working on the images, Lappin was also writing poetry and the two are combined in an artist’s book which has now been published by Seditionaries.
Her previous work has at times nodded to the book format; dialogue boxes often give her characters a voice and she has always written poetry, but this is the first time her words and images have come together in this way. “Neither came first.” Lappin explains, “There was a real synchronicity about how it all happened.” The book is a sweary, seedy journey through the dark underbelly of the American collective consciousness, with characters from deep within the country’s cultural psyche (The Statue of Liberty, Pinocchio, the cheerleader, the politician) brought to life to enact a variety of neuroses and atrocities. “I was always in trouble as a child for writing swear words everywhere” she tells me. “I looked like such a nice girl, it really shocked everyone.”
Lappin grew up in New England with her father, who is also an artist. “I felt like an outsider in America. I didn’t want the things the capitalist America wanted me to want.” she says. “While there is a lot of anxiety around Trump’s presidency, I find it quite difficult to talk to other Americans about the things I’ve always found frightening about the place, like the ideology behind the National Rifle Association and how distraught some people were over the prospect of social healthcare. To me, it’s this kind of nationalism which has led the country to where it is now. I want to remind people that even in the golden years of Obama and Kennedy, there was still bullying – with Obama there was still drones.”
Lappin moved to London in 1993 and quickly felt more in tune with her surroundings. Moving to St Leonards in 1999, she now finds inspiration every time she steps outside. “There are so many eccentrics here, narratives just present themselves to me.” she says. The area has had a further advantage for her work; cheap studio rents have meant less pressure to focus on making her work pay. “I’ve been able to work every day with authenticity. My dad would always say, concentrate on doing the work and the opportunities will come to you. I’ve been able to do that here, and they have.”
The original mixed media woodcuts for Scary Amerika are now on display in the Fabbrica del Vapore gallery in Milan as part of an exhibition called Axis, curated by fellow St Leonards artist Alan Rankle. This gallery now represents Lappin in Italy and are giving her a solo show in September. Her work is also currently on show at the Stables Gallery as part of their Prints with a Point exhibition until the end of March.
Scary Amerika can be purchased from the Stables Theatre and Art Centre, The Cowley Club on London Road, Brighton and the Rye Art Gallery and De La Warr pavilion. For more information go here
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