Oct. 31 2012 01:50 PM

How the 24-year-old artist is making it work

Lauren Siry, with the first painting from her Portrait of an Artist series
Photo by Michelle Siry

At 23 years old, Lauren Siry has an unusual workload—interning at Downtown's Meyer Fine Art while running her own gallery, Eighteen o Five, which opened last June in Little Italy. Without so much as a business class on her résumé, Siry is living her dream of surrounding herself with artwork for the love of it.

Siry moved back home to San Diego last year after finishing college at Tufts University and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. She doesn't deny that opening her own place so soon is risky business, but she says the 100-square-foot gallery, which doubles as a studio where she holds one-on-one workshops with other artists, is manageable. The tight quarters also lend to Siry's quest of making contemporary art more tangible, she says.

"Right now, the openings are a very intimate event. Because it's such a small space, everyone is really able to meet each other and have an intimate dialogue," Siry says. "Some people are intimidated by it at first, but I think it's great—everyone meets each other, and it's kind of like a growing family." 

Being so young, Siry's take on the contemporary art world is shaping how she runs Eighteen o Five. She gets to interact with collectors at Meyer Fine Art and recently helped run the gallery's booth at Art San Diego Contemporary Art Fair. Her main goal is to take the intimidation out of collecting art and making it something that her peers can attain.

"We have pieces that are $50, sometimes lower, and then the max is around $1,000. It's a great range that people can afford, and I also offer payment plans."

Getting art onto people's walls is important to Siry, who works in several mediums, including printmaking, welding, clay sculpture, drawing and painting. She's been curating shows by word-of-mouth and through social media, she says, and is looking for artists with concepts to back up their skills.

"I like art that makes you think more and gets you excited because you see new things in it every day," she explains. "It makes me giddy to know that it'll always change, that there's always something more to it."

Siry's third show at Eighteen o Five (1805 Columbia St. in Little Italy), Small Works, will open in conjunction with Kettner Nights at 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9. The group exhibition will feature seven local artists who work in photography, painting, drawing, sculpture and jewelry. Marie Najera, whom Siry met at Art San Diego this year, will have nine to 12 surreal portraits that she's drawn, some without frames to lower prices, Siry says. Tintype maven Jen Jansen will show her Bodie Boxes, which, when opened, provide an eerie look into ghost town Bodie, Calif., with Jansen's at-times haunting photo effects.

Besides managing the show, Siry's been working on her ongoing watercolor-with-ink series, Portrait of an Artist. None of the paintings are titled, she says, so that their meanings differ from viewer to viewer.

Siry starts her freeform painting with a single gesture. Eventually, a figure emerges and transforms into something else—what  that is, you'll just have to decide for yourself.

"The series is about the transformative effects of art making," she says, "the process of trying to be loose, but also being in control. That's a constant in the artist and with art-making—allowing yourself to be free, but holding back a little bit."

Amy blogs at saysgranite.com and you can follow her on Twitter @saysgranite.


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