Lauren Daccache's Impossible Garden Defies Space And Time
The photo-based visual artist renders an intimate immersive experience of the mountain gardens of Lebanon in NYC.
By Asata Maisé
Photography by Matthew Gordon
“I just want to be in her garden again,” Brooklyn-based artist and photographer Lauren Daccache tells me. “And I want friends and family that are unable to go to Lebanon with me to experience pieces of it themselves.” She’s talking about her soon-to-open exhibit, The Impossible Garden.
I first met Lauren in 2021, when she photographed me in my Wilmington studio. A few months later, I reached out to Lauren to shoot my Fall/Winter 2021 collection. These are, by far, some of my favorite images of myself and my work to date. As a witness to her considered approach to photography — she tends to bottle up the true essence of something or someone through her lens to keep forever — I knew The Impossible Garden, her first solo exhibition, would be no exception.
Many would say that there is a sacredness that echoes throughout Lauren’s body of photography work. She began to experiment with printing on fabrics after coming to terms with the feeling that traditional photo prints did a disservice to the images she so intimately captures. “I never capture enough, I never get it quite right, but I keep coming back and I keep trying,” she says.
The Impossible Garden is nostalgia turned into the physical. Exploring the permanence of photography versus the ephemerality of memory, Lauren has brought her grandmother’s garden in Baabdat, Lebanon home. “Impossible Garden honestly comes from a very selfish place,” she shares. “While I cannot bring everyone I know and love to Lebanon, I can try to bring what I know and love about Lebanon to everyone.”
In the exhibit at 22 Ludlow Street, the sensorial photo installation takes its shape through a space fully enveloped in feeling with floor-to-ceiling images printed on textured wallpaper (produced with Wallpaper Projects), photographs printed on mulberry silk, an ambient soundscape of days spent in the garden (produced in collaboration with musician Emilio Quezeda Ibanez), and a subtle olfactory element that follows suit.
Lauren incorporates a soundscape reminiscent of the sounds of her grandmother’s movement in the garden which she woke up to in her childhood. Within this space, she reflects on photography’s ability to preserve and alter the memory in a similar way she would walk in circles in her family’s garden when she needed to think deeply about something. This full circle moment confirms that her intuition has yet to steer her in the wrong direction.
Born in Dallas, Texas, Lauren moved with her family to her father’s native home of Beirut, Lebanon at age one. There she lived with her close knit, multigenerational family until the age of 7 and has continued to spend summers there into adulthood. It is Lebanon which she owes her identity as a person and as an artist. Impossible Garden explores her identity and allows full expression of the moments of nostalgia she encapsulates on film.
There is a certain je ne sais quoi that comes from being a self-taught artist. I think there is more freedom and less self restraint than what can be observed from the work of someone more classically trained. This freedom of experimentation and playfulness led to the use of movement and layering with her images. After underwhelming attempts at layering images in Photoshop for a personal project, intuition guided Lauren to print family photos from Lebanon on sheer panels of organza. This method of physical photo manipulation gave her room to play with space, lighting, hanging, and transparency that wasn’t possible on paper.
A combination of instinct, research, and the desire to balance an experience that was deeply personal yet also visually compelling make the sum of Impossible Garden. Like most artists, Lauren thought she could do most of the labor herself. Soon after the decision of what to do with the space was made, she realized help was necessary rather than optional.
The photo selection was narrowed down to 12 images and a photo collage mimicking tile as the flooring. A quick browse at her Instagram feed of innumerable breathtaking photos will prove that this selection was no easy feat. It is one that she deems as the most important part of the entire process.
The theme of family remains significant in her creative work and life. This lifeline, which she affirms is always ready to immediately extend their help, keeps her grounded in both NYC and Beirut. Many in this extended family who’ve heard so much about the garden can finally experience it by means of the installation. In a way, she is bridging the gap and welcoming us into her reality. She brings the magic to us.
Impossible Garden is an immersive photo installation opening at 22 Ludlow on Friday June 16th, 2023 and will be on view until Thursday June 22nd, 2023.