Rory Coyne & Lauren Levato Coyne, studio visit Chicago
Our final studio visit, and third in one day, brought us nearly right back to where we were staying in Evanston. We arrived just in time for a nice glass of wine (or 2…) at the home and studio of Rory Coyne and his wife, Lauren Levato Coyne. We were welcomed by their four legged children, Etain, a dark Great Dane and Nuada, a smiling white and grey husky. While we happily cuddled them, we refrained from touching the other apartment inhabitants Maebh and Ostara, two large tarantulas in nice living spaces of their own, thankfully with nice heavy lids.
While both artists admire insects and creatures of all kinds, Lauren used to be known as the Bug Lady. Her artwork is in colored pencil. This central insect drawing below is typical of her earlier works which have since developed into figurative works after studying with two figurative ateliers and Steven Assael. Since meeting Rory three years ago and confirming their commitment with marriage a year ago, her artwork has developed into large very carefully rendered figurative drawings. They both spend lots of time at the Field Museum of Natural History where they study, handle and draw from their specimens which often make it into their artwork.
Lauren has a very interesting job as manager of a private art collection with works of over 900 artists, quite a few of which are among our figurative artist members. This has connections with the Virginia A. Groot Foundation.
Here is Lauren’s work set up with a work in progress. The iPad mounted on the wall provides visual references and the trolley below with the Mac monitor slides around to wherever they want it in their adaptable workspace.
Captured here in a tranquil forest glen with their dog Billie are a real couple, professional tattoo models they met through Instagram. The deer heads came from the Field Museum collection, their tattoos are their own. One sports a large Irish Claddagh ring of love across her neck. The white tailed deer heads refer to Diana the huntress goddess, a symbol of power of who these women really are.
The piece in foreground is slated for an upcoming show in September, a beautiful young woman with the body of a hairless Sphynks cat. The self portrait near the brushes is the most recent piece.
Rory works in a traditional style in oil paints, much larger in scale. With the pets who share the home/studio space, Rory has to keep an eye on his palette and make sure the dogs have not swept up anything colourful with their tails. With Lauren working only in colored pencils, it’s easy to know who to point the finger at when a tail sweeps up red paint!
This red bird piece was Rory’s first mythological piece featuring tattoos. This piece is a compilation of tattoos but the only imagined tattoo is this one of a large heart, the rest are real pieces of art on real bodies… someplace. It served well as a good calling card for inviting other tattooed models to come and pose for him for future works.
Tattoos figure prominently in Rory’s works and as well as on their own bodies, beautiful works in progress themselves. In these 2 large 72x 48” nudes, the subjects are standing on or near labels of the tattoo artists responsible for the artworks on their bodies. She is the tattoo artist for much of their own personal tattoos including the eye on his hand seen here. With her gray horse head and large owl wing, she conjures relationship to Rory’s mother and his relationships with confident and intelligent women. The owl symbolism is repeated in the subject’s own tattoo on her wrist. The dark Velasquez background and the rich black and white tiled floor anchor these contemporary figures within a more traditional European artistic context with layers of Galkyd Light used with the paint and overtop, creating a smooth lustrous glow to the skin and surface.
He is a co-worker of Rory’s. These are painted a little larger than life size. They were created as a triptych with another central piece but now stand on their own as strong independent works. The horse’s head relates to a newly found sense of confidence and strength that he feels since his commitment to his shared life with Lauren.
In another recent piece we see a version of the Leda and the swan story but this Leda is taking over the power struggle, taking a stance, fighting back and saying NO!
While Rory’s works follow a traditional line, there is a sense of humor with many inside jokes for those in the know.
The conversation and the wine flowed until it was time for us to make our way, just around the corner to home. Thank you so much for your hospitality and tossing around those interesting ideas for future projects with us!
Lauren Levato Coyne