Lipton's black and white drawings strike with sinister, sardonic force: 'I made [Love Bite] to help share her work & philosophies to more humans'
In one of artist Laurie Lipton's best known drawings, a woman with a ferocious look in her eyes bites down on what one assumes, initially, to be a piece of fruit. Except it's not a piece of fruit. It's a baby's head, grasped in the woman's fingers like an apple.
The work is called "Love Bite," a sardonic title that hints at Lipton's almost gleeful encounter with the perverse and taboo. Women in our society are supposed to express maternal elation with infants, right, not snack on them.
The name of the drawing serves as the title for James Scott's short documentary on the artist, Love Bite: Laurie Lipton and Her Disturbing Black & White Drawings. The 34-minute film, named a Vimeo Staff Pick, is free of charge on the platform [click this link]. It's also embedded here:
The film, which first caught my eye at the SXSW Film Festival in 2016, is one of my favorite short documentaries of recent years - which says something about my own taste in art, but also the skill of the filmmaker.
Love Bite shows the artist drafting multiple pieces on paper, works that look somewhat like M.C. Escher by way of Hieronymus Bosch - without Bosch's moralism. Her art is remarkably detailed and hyper-real, with the intensity of a nightmare. But also funny, at least to me.
"When traveling around Europe as a student, she began developing her very own peculiar drawing technique," Lipton's official website observes, "building up tone with thousands of fine cross-hatching lines like an egg tempera painting. 'It's an insane way to draw,' she says, 'but the resulting detail and luminosity is worth the amount of effort.'"
Black and white is the color of ghosts... It's the color of past and longing.
"I've been drawing now for over 50 years," Lipton notes in the documentary. "I'm isolated, I'm in my head, I'm in this piece of paper."
That statement may sound despairing (on paper), but it's said with a mirthful glint in her eye. Lipton speaks of being compelled to draw, of feeling like it's what she was put on the Earth to do, and essentially has no control over the destiny dictated to her.
"All I can do is draw," she says with amusement. "It's all I'm good for."
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.