Thursday, October 29, 2009


Due to the snowstorm, Laurie Zuckerman's Day of the Dead slide lecture and gallery talk in conjunction with her memorial altar exhibit at the Loveland Museum has been postponed until Sunday, November 1, at 1 pm. The museum opens at 12 noon and closes at 4 pm. This is the last day of Laurie's nine-week exhibit.

Please join Laurie for this "closing" event program, which coincides with the first day of the Day of the Dead ceremonies.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


The review below appeared in the Loveland Reporter-Herald on October 14 in conjunction with Laurie Zuckerman's one-woman memorial altar exhibit at the Loveland Museum/Gallery, entitled "Memento Mori: Deconstruction of the Nuclear Family." My gratitude to Kenneth Jessen for his thoughtful interview with me, conducted at the museum on September 24, 2009.

[appeared on the front page of the Loveland Reporter-Herald]

As there is not an on-line version of this article, I have retyped this copyrighted article below:

"From the time she was nine, Laurie Zuckerman knew that she was going to be an artist. She drew and painted from an early age but also collected beads, buttons, and shells.

"She grew up in Los Angeles as the daughter of a famous screenwriter, George Zuckerman.

"Over her career, she has had many exhibitions, and her work is on permanent public display from Washington State to Virginia.

"Some of Zuckerman's art takes the form of altars, and of this she says, "I have no idea of why I am doing what I do I find myself collecting things such as religious folk art. It all started when I was living in Blacksburg, Virginia. I had had a successful career in the Pacific Northwest and found that there was little to do here as an artist—it was simply not an art-oriented town.

"Having grown up on the West Coast, it was the first time I saw images of African American culture. I saw bottle dolls that fit over the top of a bottle and were once used as doorstops. Collecting these items was both horrible and beautiful, and I ended up with mixed feelings."

"Zuckerman's parents had a troubled marriage and occupied separate portions of their home. When her father died, her mother didn't even have a funeral. The body was cremated, and someone was hired to sprinkle the ashes on the ocean.

"Zuckerman was denied the grieving process. This was yet another reason she started creating highly personal altars to family members, and in the process incorporated distinctive Christian images.

"Zuckerman lives with these complex altars in her home with as many as three in a room. It has helped her mourn the death of her parents, but she does not pray or light candles. She says, "They are permanent features, and I will always have altars."

"The antique stand for her father's memorial contains scripts he wrote for stars such as Tony Curtis, Rock Hudson and others. Some hold childhood family photographs. To put them on public display is obviously a brave move by Zuckerman. Priceless mementos, culturally specific antiques collected over a long period of time, items from her childhood that have deep, personal meaning, sit out for anyone to see. It exposes her very soul.

"Called "Memento Mori: Deconstruction of the Nuclear Family," this intense artistic expression is unlike any previous exhibit at the Loveland Museum/Gallery."

Monday, October 19, 2009


On October 29th, Laurie Zuckerman will present her Day of the Dead lecture in conjunction with her memorial altar exhibition at the Loveland Museum entitled, "Memento Mori: Deconstruction of the Nuclear Family." Laurie has been documenting these unique altars and cemetery decorations during the El Diá de los Muertos celebrations in Colonial Mexico during the past several years. She has traveled to cities and villages in the States of Oaxaca and Guanajuato to obtain her photos. Days of meticulous preparations lead up to private remembrances in people's homes, lavish public ofrenda displays, and haunting gravesite rituals. These annual festivities occur November 1-2, in conjunction with All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day.

"The Loveland Museum/Gallery presents artist Laurie Zuckerman’s slide presentation entitled Diá de los Muertos Cemetery Decorations and Ofrenda Altar: Colonial Mexico, in conjunction with her exhibit, Memento Mori: Deconstructing the Nuclear Family. Laurie’s photographic lecture will take place on Thursday, October 29, 2009 from 7 – 8:30 pm downstairs in the Foote Auditorium. Following the talk, Laurie will speak about the personal history behind her own Day of the Dead ofrenda included in her Memento Mori altar exhibition in the Main Gallery. This confrontational installation, entitled Devil May Care, was created in honor of both parents’ memories, both the good and the bad memories. It combines the humor and sorrow of traditional Mexican ofrendas, and incorporates colorful vintage and new Day of the Dead folk art from villages in Colonial Mexico."

Laurie has previously lectured on Mexico's Day of the Dead altars at Virginia Tech University, Front Range Community College, and the Fort Collins Public Library.

The Loveland Museum/Gallery is located at 504 N. Lincoln Avenue, in downtown Loveland, Colorado. Families with older, school-age children are encouraged to attend, as the colorful photography portrays images of toys, sugar candies, and skeleton images traditionally sold for Mexican ofrendas and cemetery decorations.

For even more information about Laurie Zuckerman's exhibition, open through November 1, click below for the Loveland Museum/Gallery newsletter and scroll to page 2.


Laurie Zuckerman's memory jugs, on display at the Loveland Museum, were profiled earlier in October on Fort Collins community radio station KRFC/88.9 FM as part of their program on Storytime Radio entitled "Speaking of History: Ranching Life, Home on the Range." The show is written and hosted by Katy Little and Gail Larsen Khasawneh. Here is a transcript of their show:

"Welcome now to Museum Mysteries. On exhibit at the Loveland Museum Gallery until November 1st is "Memento Mori: Deconstruction of the Nuclear Family," altar works by Laurie Zuckerman. Laurie's installation altarpieces and sculpture honor her parents and other members of her family in a heartfelt and long-standing tradition of remembrance.

"Gail and I had research to do at the museum for our "Ranching Life" series, and when we walked into the museum, our attention was drawn to the right, into the gallery and the exhibit "Memento Mori." We were struck by the color of red and the numerous memorabilia that Laurie had collected to form altars: memorial shrines, forget-me-not tins, and memory jugs. We were walking along searching each of the memory jugs, and what should we see—a memory jug that spoke to us of ranching life. It was covered with various tokens of cowboys, Indians, cattle, wagons, horses, and more than we could name.

"We thought it would be fun for this month's "Museum Mystery" to be a memory jug. A memory jug is a hobby craft that is traced to many cultures. In America, it goes back to the Victorian era and to the Southern African-American traditions. A memory jug can be [made from] pottery, crockery, coffee pots, vases. They are covered with personal tokens: cloth, beads, buttons, figurines, shells, and jewelry— anything that might have also belonged to the deceased.

"We have picked a "Museum Mystery" for a visitor to discover at the exhibit "Memento Mori: Deconstruction of the Nuclear Family." It is the memory jug titled, "Up in Smoke." We hope you have fun as you stroll through the gallery and your eyes come in contact with that particular memory jug, and how it seemed to pertain to our program: "Ranching Life: Home on the Range."

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Laurie Zuckerman at the Loveland Museum/Gallery
reviewed by Sarah Vaeth for Scene Magazine October 2009

Laurie Zuckerman is a more-is-more artist. In her solo exhibition, Memento Mori: Deconstruction of the Nuclear Family, installations and assemblages of found objects take on visual power in proportion to their abundance. 

Moments of gorgeous excess bring an obsessive personal involvement to her use of traditional craft forms of ritual and remembrance: altars and memory jugs. For Zuckerman, the emotionally charged objects (some nostalgic, some troubling) function as a time dredge. Memento Mori is a reflection upon the artist’s childhood in 1950s and early 60s Los Angeles – both the personal history of her family and the society that shaped them. By choosing objects that resonate with memories, Zuckerman re-creates the lost terrain of the past to explore and to analyze. She wryly confronts ambivalent feelings toward her fallible Hollywood parents and toward the faulty political landscape of the Atomic Age: creating a re-vision of childhood from the vantage of adult understanding.

Most of the installations are tied together with a dominant color, which unifies the objects, and has its own symbolic meaning. For example, Red Scare Altar Installation uses red in a complex metaphor. Zuckerman links the stereotyped “Red Man” of her father’s Western screenplays and the pervasive Cowboys-and-Indians games of a 50’s childhood, with Communist “Reds” of the same era. Both are adversaries in mythologized American conflicts. One was familiarized as child’s play. The other formed a fearful backdrop to Zuckerman’s childhood – routinely punctuated with the siren shrieks of air raid drills. Red also refers to the anger and volatility of her parents’ marital conflict, and the constant threat that the family would be “annihilated” by divorce. 

Zuckerman chooses and arranges period objects in a way that colors children’s pass-times with an atmosphere of anxiety. Strikingly, in the center of the altar, toy Cowboys-and-Indians props (tom-toms, feathered headdresses, hatchets, pipes) are placed, together with Chinese and Russian figurines, in the shape of a bomber dropping missiles represented by darts, pick-up-sticks, and bowling pins. 

Zuckerman reintroduces us to artifacts of recent American history – from souvenirs of the Cold War to ugly tokens of racism. But I’m intrigued by the private history she points to with strange symbolic clues – like the lobsters appearing in Red Scare Altar and its companion memory jugs. Zuckerman explains that these recall happy memories of family visits to a seafood restaurant, but more specifically they’re a double-sided recollection of Zuckerman’s mother: her favorite food and her “prickly” personality. 

For the viewer, it takes some time to absorb the narrative richness of Zuckerman’s work. I found myself relying heavily on the museum’s various interpretive materials and on the artist’s own explanations to make out the more obscure connections. Inevitably, my attention was divided back-and-forth between the work and the supporting materials. Rewarding in the end – but I wonder whether Zuckerman could have integrated text or voice narration within the work itself, or some other intrinsic means to guide the viewer through the visual “story.”

Presentation issues notwithstanding, by weaving in symbols of personal reference, Zuckerman addresses uncomfortable social issues in a way that is sincere and self-reflective. Several works honor Anne Dooley, the African American housekeeper who cared for Zuckerman when she was a small child. Zuckerman lays bare a troubled mix of feelings about Dooley’s nurturing but subjugated role in her family. In American Vodou: The Black Madonnas Installation she represents the relationship through a diorama of white baby dolls in the care of stereotyped black mammy dolls: implicating her family in an exploitative system. Yet her childhood bond with Dooley was very real. Zuckerman identifies her as her “better mother.” Without alleviating the intentional discomfort of the piece, she subverts the mammy’s role by dressing the dolls in the garb of the Black Madonna (as used in Haitian Vodou), identifying them with a powerful female archetype. I see in this act a rectifying of the child-caregiver relationship, acknowledging Anne Dooley as a powerful force in Zuckerman’s life. But Zuckerman explains that the Vodou connection first came out of her reaction to the dolls themselves, which looked to her scarily like Vodou dolls.

American Vodou is visually the strongest of the installation pieces. Among the big floor-to-wall installations, it makes the best use of the gallery space: avoiding the intrusion of wall paint and office-pattern carpet that compromises the impact and historical illusion of the other large-scale works. The many smaller altars and intricately encrusted memory jugs are satisfyingly self-contained, well-spaced, and dramatically staged, making this a thoughtful exhibit on the whole.