Lucien Shapiro: While You Praise the Butterfly Don’t Disrespect the Caterpillar

Roswell Artist-in-Residence Exhibition
Spring River Gallery
May 20 – July 23, 2023

Artist Talk and Reception: 
Friday, May 19, 5:30-7 p.m.

Lucien Shapiro draws inspiration from his environment, and the sculptures in this exhibition began as a slight reference to butterflies, which he saw living at the Roswell Artist-in-Residence (RAiR) compound. It wasn’t until the works were over half done that he realized they explored the metamorphosis of a butterfly: the different stages of cocoons, the transformation, and the butterfly’s death and rebirth as an angel. The actual caterpillar itself was built at the end. After standing back and looking at all of the sculptures, Shapiro realized the work’s personal and subconscious connection to his 11 month old daughter. She is the butterfly, who experiences daily transformations and has recently emerged into this world soaring. 

Shapiro invites viewers to praise the beauty of the butterfly, but also to remember and respect the journey of the caterpillar. This journey is a metaphor for the change, hardship, and spiritual growth that we all experience in our lives.  

Shapiro’s sculptures are made with salt, a material often associated with protection and purification. Salt has been used for centuries to preserve food and prevent decay, and Shapiro sees this as symbolic for the ways we protect and preserve our own lives and experiences. The exhibition includes sound recordings of his daughter, further emphasizing the personal and emotional nature of the work. The chrysalis itself is made of the artist and his wife’s faces, which are conjoined, contorted, and combined, creating the beginnings of their daughter.  

Lucien Shapiro is a multi-faceted artist whose work spans across sculpture, performance, and film. His artistic practice is process-focused and common themes include repetition, a meticulous attention to craft, self-healing, and the transformation of forgotten objects into interesting and symbolic relics. 

Shapiro utilizes materials most would discard to create a raw conversation between treasure and trash. Through laborious and meditative repetition, he examines how small individual elements can come together to create a powerful and transformative whole. There is an inherent duality in his work, namely the contrast of urban materials (which are ephemeral, prescribed, industrial) and an aesthetic of something deeply rooted (poetic, hand-crafted, and eternal).  

Lucien Shapiro was born in 1979, in Santa Rosa, California. He attended the San Francisco Academy of Art University and received a BFA in 2003. Residencies include Red Bull House of Art in Detroit, Space Program in San Francisco, Bed Stuy Residency in New York, and more. His work has been exhibited and collected nationally and internationally at museums, galleries, and art fairs. Published works include two separate Taschen releases, Not a Cult, Artforum, Juxtapoz, and more.  

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Top: Lucien Shapiro in his studio at RAiR, Photograph by Tonee Harbert, Courtesy of the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program.

Middle: Lucien Shapiro, Henrys salt circle, 2019, Resin, Salt, Wire, Courtesy of the Artist.  

Bottom: Lucien Shapiro, Self Portrait III, Street Diamonds, Love, Resin, Bottle Caps, Studs, Blood, Courtesy of the Artist.

Exhibition and related programs presented in partnership with the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Foundation.