Artist and Writer Lauren Redniss | 2016 MacArthur Fellow

Artist and Writer Lauren Redniss | 2016 MacArthur Fellow


I wanted to create books where every
page was a new surprise. Where every time you turn to page, you got flooded with
color and new textures. My name is Lauren Redniss and I’m an artist and a writer. My work has been called visual
nonfiction. I write nonfiction books that are also art books. I want to create a
kind of blend of fact and feeling that I don’t feel I’m able to achieve with
prose narrative or visual art alone. I report the stories and I research the
history. I take oral histories and I create the artwork for the books so that
the artwork and the text become integrated. I designed the layouts and a
design the book cover, and they design the typography. When i’m approaching a
typeface, I think of the voice I want and then I imagine what that voice would
translate to visually. My first book is called Century Girl and
it tells the life of the last living Ziedfeld folly dancer. who when I
started the project was 99 and live to be 106. I wanted to depict
the hundred years of her existence and how it reflected and shine light on
different moments through that American Century. I used her archives to create surreal
photo collages to depict the spectacular panorama of her life. My second book is
called Radioactive. It’s about the scientists Marie and Pierre Curie. I
wanted to make a visual book about invisible forces, and two invisible
forces animate the lives of Marie and Pierre Curie. They studied radioactivity
in their scientific research and they lived an incredible romance. My most
recent book is called Thunder and Lightning. It’s kind of a stealth climate change
book. I wanted to look at humanity’s struggle with the elements in the form
of weather, so I examined weather and warfare, weather and religion, but also
weather as pleasure; you know the joy of a sunny day or the pleasure of a cool
breeze. I think I want the reader to experience pleasure when they read my
work even if the subject matter is difficult. I want the book to be a
sensual and beautiful experience for the reader, something vivid and hopefully
astonishing or or strange. I have a drawer full of ideas that I write down
and file away usually because they seem too far-fetched to pursue. Because of MacArthur, I think I’m going to open that drawer and look back at those ideas with
a different sense of what may be possible.

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