Aurel Schmidt’s Summer Bummer [NSFW]

One of the youngest artists and brightest stars in the 2010 Whitney Biennial, Aurel Schmidt describes herself as “a drawer, socialite, and erotic photographer.” Best known for her meticulous Goth drawings of figures and faces made from cigarette butts, maggots, condom-covered fruits and vegetables, and rolled-up dollar bills, Schmidt is a nonconformist who would rather start her own movement than join the trendy pack. Born and raised in Kamloops, Canada, which she recalls as “a white-trash small town, where everyone did crystal meth and everyone was a ‘wigger,'” the self-taught Schmidt has quickly turned herself into an artist worthy of attention.

“I was raised somewhere between hippy idealism and redneck actuality,” Schmidt told Ana Finel Honigman in a 2007 Saatchi.com interview. “My parents built their own house thirty minutes outside of town, we grew our own organic food, we chopped wood to heat our home, and got our water from a natural creek. We had chickens, pigs, cows, fish, dogs, and cats. There were a lot of flowers and trees and sunshine. My father drove a pickup truck and dirt biked around in the forest listening to classic rock, drinking beer and shooting at animals. My mom grew marijuana in our backyard. I was a teenage slut in gold hoop earrings and leopard hot pants blacking out at bonfire parties up in the woods.”

The subject of a current solo show, humorously titled Summer Bummer, at East Hampton’s hot art spot, The Fireplace Project, Schmidt reveals a slightly mellow moment after years of doom and gloom works, fueled by ten years of urban angst. Made in early August, while visiting family back in the boonies in Canada, the mixed media drawings flirt with her usual death and decay subject matter, but presents a “shiny, happy people” vibe with flowers resting in leftover Diet Coke cans, erect penises sprouting from peaceful gardens, and flies curiously flocking around kitsch, thrift store vases rather than shit.

However, as tricky as these new works may be, we long for Schmidt to return to trolling the dark side of life for twisted topics, which provoked her to proclaim to Honigman, “Our entire lives are in a constant state of decay and renewal. Things we cherish and value rapidly become symbols of disgust and shame. The lovely dinner we have the night before gets shit out early the next day. Our healthy bodies fall apart. Our brand new iPhones will get recycled in China, polluting the drinking water and giving the same children who assembled them cancer.”

Aurel Schmidt: Summer Bummer is on view at the Fireplace Project in East Hampton, NY through September 6. A book of Schmidt’s artwork, published by O.H.W.O.W. and Deitch Projects is available at Amazon.com.

Click through below for a gallery of images and video interviews with the artist.

Aurel Schmidt, Ecstasy Butterfly, 2010. Pencil, colored pencil, pastel, acrylic, on paper. 14 x 14 inches. Courtesy The Fireplace Project, East Hampton