I create situations that allow viewers to become aware of how they pick up information and communicate with all of their senses. We perceive the world kinesthetically and through sound, touch, and smell as well as visually. And we communicate non-verbally as well as with language. I'm intrigued by the range of the senses.
— Ingrid Lahti, 2010
Ingrid Lahti has been able to expose herself more honestly than most artists. Both inviting and denying us the right to see the work, she successfully pulls us along her journey of suggestion and, on the way, encourages us to examine our own equally complex subterranean life.
— Carole Fuller, independent curator, July 1999
Ingrid Lahti in her studio shared with artist Paula Whelan — VR Image by Bradford Bohonus:
Ingrid Lahti builds her installations and sculptures from evocative materials — tumbled Frazier River rocks, aluminum and cold steel, water, wind and heat, light and sound — but her medium is felt experience. Lahti deploys spaces, materials, and objects expressly to elicit bodily sensations and return us to the present moment....
> Read full essay by Leo Daedalus.
Ingrid Lahti explores the interplay of multi-sensory perception and communication along three overlapping channels: installations, sculptures and public art, and signage. Comprising objects and imagery both original and found, her liminally narrative works link emotion and memory with the history and meaning of specific events or sites.
In gallery and alternative settings she presents open-ended installations which encode personal narratives in objects, spaces, and sensory experiences for others to interpret and consider in the context of their own experience. Wet/Dry (1991) and Hot/Cold (1993) invited participants to experience the contrasting physical sensations for which they were respectively named. Squeeze (2005) offered a neoprene structure in which to experience and explore the sensation of being squeezed. A video of a woman awkwardly squeezing her decidedly non-Hollywood body into a constrictive neoprene wetsuit reinforced the sensation by other means. Video and audio media frequently appear in Lahti’s installation work.
Her sculptures and public art invest Lahti's multi-sensory explorations with the emotional psychology of specific sites and events. These works engage community as viewers, passers-by, and sometimes collaborators, as with the 9/11 Memorial (2002). Endless Flower (2008) grew out of the environment, referencing plant shapes and habitat loss, moving in the wind like a living thing. Hisselly Songs of an American Robin (2005) and Sonogram (2007) are attempts to understand sound through the mute proxy of visual information, sensorily encoding a metaphor of loss in the realm of nature.
Her installations function like the "behavior-inspired settings" described by Winifred Gallagher in House Thinking: A Room-by-Room Look at How We Live (HarperCollins, 2006):
"structured environments [that] combine with our habitual ways of reacting to them to create a third entity: the person-environment dynamic of a behavior setting" (p. 33–40).
Lahti’s signage pieces include works in neon such as come here/GO AWAY (1999), and those in other materials such as Forget (1993), in lead. These play on the imperative of public notices and marks, establishing basic contradictions and dissonances as structural observations of pervasive social-perceptual paradoxes.
Ingrid Lahti, BA, BFA, MFA, initially studied biology and molecular biology at Reed College and Yale University. She currently resides in Seattle with her husband Robert Eisenman. She is recipient of the Betty Bowen Memorial Award (Seattle Art Museum), two Mark Tobey Scholarship Awards (Cornish College of the Arts), and grants from the Seattle Arts Commission (Seattle Artists Program, Interdisciplinary Award) and the Center on Contemporary Art (Artist's Project Room Grant).
My concern for the natural environment and my use of natural and recycled materials constitute a major aspect of my art practice. By using common objects and simple construction materials to create the installations, I re-use materials from older works in creating new ones. At the conclusion of my exhibitions, the documentation materials are all that remain.
I find it satisfying to make strong statements with minimal means. I have incorporated river rocks, recycled thrift store lamps, and the energy of the wind into my installations and public artworks.
In 2002 I was able to build community participation, both conceptually and literally, into the 9/11 Memorial for Bellevue, Washington. This project involved volunteers who created and assembled large parts of the work in their spare time in the enclosed loading dock of the Bellevue Arts Museum. Community professionals provided services such as structural engineering and signage, and community businesses contributed materials free or at cost. Many of the sculpture materials were free and green: wind, sunlight and reflections on the surface of the Bellevue pond.
— Ingrid Lahti, 2008