Teetering between life and death, past and present, old and new, mixed media artist, Lucien Shapiro constructs a hauntingly evocative kingdom of sculptures delving into identity, addiction and time. Powerfully seductive, his pieces incorporate multifaceted elements of large conceptual ideas that are as terrifyingly dark as they are absolutely beautiful. Shapiro’s masks are made from a multitude of components ranging from found bottle caps to cast forms, transforming discarded materials into expressive emblems and inventing new realities behind veiled existences. “I make what I see in my head,” Shapiro states. “It starts as an idea that can evolve into something completely different by the end. The goal of my creation is to be open to the process of building, destroying and rebuilding, which is partially why I use many of the materials I choose. They are easy to manipulate and re-appropriate. I often surprise myself with the outcome.” Focusing on sculpture for 13 years, Shapiro has been shown in galleries in the States as well as abroad, and done collaborative performances with musicians such as Gas Lamp Killer and Death Cheetah. His documentaries, though, are what stand out. Seeing his work in action, his world come to life in dark fantasies is striking…and horrifically brilliant. Reminiscent of shamanistic ceremonies, “The Hunters Moon Ritual” is evocatively disturbing with probing music, drinking of a tincture, and blood being drawn with a group of masked individuals. More intimate is the undeniably erotic “Mating Ritual” where Shapiro methodically constructs a very blatant representation of coupling in his masks. “My work has always been evolving, I’m always surprised about how much I’ve grown, changed, and progressed from where I began as an artist,” he says. “I went from studying the figure and abstracting it, to working with hair and glue, to creating hand made toys, and to eventually what has made me the happiest: removing the figure and creating modern Ritualistic Masks, weapons, Vessels, and other objects.” In his pieces, he encounters his realities—emotional and social battles. He aspires to answer the questions he faces in life, personal and global, and through his depictions, he hopes to inspire others to face their own struggles and obstacles, asserting that honesty, persistence, humility, happiness are essential. “My art tends to tell people about myself. As artists, we put ourselves on the line. This is probably one of the hardest parts because I think everything I make can always be improved, and my pieces serve as placeholders for the ideas I had at that moment in my life.” And as with as much complexity in his work, there is equal parts relentlessness in his method. “My process is a neurotic meditation and a step-by-step hands-on experience. For example, I collect bottle caps and I have to make pickups from bars and friends that save the bottle caps for me. Once I have received around 40-50 gallons, I begin to sort. I sort by type, because rarely are two bottle cap colors the same. Then I drill holes with a drill press and a specialty jig for hours before I start stringing them up. That process alone can take weeks. There is a lot of sculpting that I do by hand or mold casting for the face pieces, and the rest of the mask making process consists of piecing together other found, collected, or purchased parts. I run through hundreds of mixing sticks for epoxies, glues etc., tons of nitrile gloves, countless tubes of acrylic paint, and many pyramid studs that I hand bend individually before mounting. I use your basic shop tools as well like hammers, tape measure, screw gun, hot glue, paintbrushes… the list goes on.” Using such a wide array of materials, it is a never-ending process in production and vision. Shapiro shares that he never knows exactly what he will end up with, but it is the challenge that’s the draw. “Each piece is a new problem to solve and this makes [him] both frustrated and happy.” Through this course, he has developed a “looser” perspective, paying less attention to small details to focus rather on “experimenting with abstraction of form and material.” Wrapping up a number of projects and galleries, Shapiro’s most recent body of work, entitled 1xrun, is a limited edition of 20 Polaroid’s and their negative counterpart; two copies of additional Polaroid’s documenting both the Ritual and a hand made candleholder used in part of the ceremony. He will release the collection with a small video documenting “The Light Collector Ritual.” In addition, he is working on a new series of masks for a show at CES Contemporary in Los Angeles, set to open in December. Though his show at New Image in LA just closed, Shapiro’s masks are still on exhibit at Mini Mansion, a Guerrero Gallery pop up in San Francisco, as well as at Benny Gold through the end of August. Inspiration: “I gather from life: friends, family, streets, forests, oceans, graveyards, breath; I can see great inspirations in every step I take.” Something about him that no one else knows: Sometimes I tear up at Rom-Com’s, but shhh… don’t tell anyone.