Olivia Kaplan // Behind the Album Art

Since the announcement of Olivia Kaplan's record Tonight Turns to Nothing we've been getting a lot of positive and inquisitive responses about the album art, so we asked Olivia herself to sit down and give a little background on how the visual came to be paired with these songs. Below you get the backstory & links to further profiles and interviews with the artist, Olivia Erlanger. Thanks for checking it out!

This image is from an installation by an LA-based artist and friend, Olivia Erlanger. 'Pergusa' (2019) is one in a series of handcrafted mermaid tails draping out of laundromat machines. The first iteration appeared in the Laundry Zone in Los Angeles and later in galleries in NYC and Seoul.

I was drawn to the idea of collaborating with a visual artist who made their work separately from my music. I don’t follow contemporary art closely, but Erlanger is someone I was introduced to through friends. Having never seen the installation in person, I sat with this image for a while before approaching Olivia.

When I first spent time with this image, I naturally projected my own existence and baggage onto it. I was struck by profound empathy for and identification with this mythical creature pouring lifelessly out of the washing machine, caught in the threshold between her world and this one.

Erlanger describes mermaids as “a representation of a chimeric existence that I feel we each take on as different environmental pressures effect a transformation of sorts” She references Ariel, the Little Mermaid who famously traded her voice for legs. Albeit a slightly heavy-handed stretch, Ariel’s aspirational transaction gone wrong really spoke to how I was feeling in the process of finishing this record and preparing it to take shape in the world. It tapped into this overly dramatic cynicism that comes with the pursuit of a place in music/art within the framework of an oversaturated American industry. I thought, “oh, maybe this is a good self-portrait for my debut record.”

That being said, when I stop projecting my own shit onto the image, I’m left feeling inspired by the levity and playfulness with which Erlanger has placed fantasy so starkly inside the everyday working-class setting. The way this art functions as a little surprise for the laundromat-goers who unexpectedly come into contact with something so beautiful, is ultimately what I value most about this piece.

Maybe someone will stumble upon this record and find it rewarding in some way, like finding a mermaid tail where they thought they’d find a wet sock.

I would point to these sources for those who are interested in Erlanger’s perspective on the piece: Colossal feature // Elephant interview

Stay in the know: Subscribe to get periodic email updates specifically about new Olivia Kaplan music, tours & exclusives.

more Olivia Kaplan:

also available:

a hand-picked mix of Olivia Kaplan merch and related titles. view all →