What it feels like to be in an art show

linocut print of a woman looking over her shoulder printed on used notebook paper that has been sewn together

Tomorrow I will be driving out to the Chehalem Cultural Center in Newberg, Oregon to see my artwork next to several other artists’s work. It is my first group exhibition since moving to Corvallis last September. This will the 20th time my work has been exhibited. I am anxious, excited, nervous, giddy, satisfied, prideful, and lots of other feelings all at once.

linocut print of a woman looking over her shoulder printed on used notebook paper that has been sewn together

I have heard artists compare exhibiting their work with standing in the middle of a room naked. If you are genuine when you create, I can imagine the two activities are comparable. I have never stood in front of a group of people while nude and allowed them to talk about me as though I am not there, but I imagine the feelings you would get are similar to the feelings you get when someone stands in front of your artwork.

I love and I hate showing my artwork to other people.

I love it because it’s a way for me to connect with someone even if I never meet them. I can speak a language that crosses lingual boundaries. I can influence the world (hopefully in a good way).

I hate it because I’m afraid people won’t like it. As I age, I care less and less about what people think, but there’s still a part of me that wants everyone to like me and wants everyone to appreciate what I do. I hate it because it is all of me. It feels like an open door to all of my thoughts, ideas, wishes, dreams, my soul.

But, I have to do it.

And, I’m so happy I get to make it.

And, most of me is ecstatic that some other people get to take a peek at the work and hopefully get something out it.

I moved

Some images of our old place in the Bay Area. I loved the house and wanted to take some photographs of my favorite compositions I had found over the years.
Some images of our old place in the Bay Area. I loved the house and wanted to take some photographs of my favorite compositions I had found over the years.

My little family and I moved to a new state last month. We went from a big city to a small town.

Here are some things I’ve noticed so far.

1. People are friendlier. I don’t get a grimace back when I make eye contact and smile at someone when I walk by them. I am the mean one now. I have to re-learn to not be shocked and a little scared by someone starting a conversation with me. I have to take the grimace off of my face.

2. Traffic is almost non-existent. We do live in a college town, so there can be traffic on game days. But, for now, if feels like nothing compared to our old trips to and from place to place.

3. Parking is mostly free AND available. The longest I have had to drive around for a parking space is 5 minutes. There is parking downtown that is free for 3 hours. What is that craziness? I love it.

4. I feel like I can breathe. That isn’t just because the air is much cleaner and crisper here. There’s more space too. There aren’t buildings and freeways and cars every corner I turn. Open space is doing wonders for me.

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5. I am becoming me again. Moving has this way of letting you reflect and start over. I am a fairly new mom and am still adjusting to how that fits in to my world. How do I be me and a mom at the same time? I have this amazing opportunity. I get to watch my son grow by the minute. At the same time, I get to pursue a career of my choice. I am one lucky girl. But, I have been struggling because I want to do so much and I want to show my son, Everett, that you can make your dreams a reality as long as you are willing to work for them. At the same time, I want to be present and available for him. I don’t want his memories of his mother to be me constantly distracted and saying, “just a minute,” as I finish up one last thing for my work.

Life is short. People throw that saying around so nonchalantly. But, life really is short. I don’t want to be so obsessed with accomplishing a million things that I miss the moments that are staring me in the face. I often find myself reflecting on the past or planning for the future. I want to be here, right now.

My brother once said to me, “If you stand with one foot in the past and one in the future, then you piss on the present.”

Quirky and silly words to live by. For now, it is my mantra.

So, I am learning to wake up earlier and stay up later so that I can be the me outside of the mom and be the mom I want to be.

The Value of Art. (in my humble opinion)

As my organization, Art is Moving, is in the front end of a 45 day fundraising campaign, I was inspired to write a letter to everyone about why I am a believer in art.

Here it is.

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Dear Everyone,

I believe in art. I believe in its power to bring out the best in people. It can also help them deal with the worst in life. I know this from my own experience and from watching people of various ages, ethnicity, gender, etc. make art, talk about art, look at art, and buy art. I am not the best at explaining what it is about art that makes it special, it’s just something I know to be true.

I know there are skeptics out there who think that art is fluffy and just a bunch of phooey.

I was asked by a friend once, referring to art, “What’s its function, what purpose does it serve for society?” He seemed to be interested in an A + B = C kind of answer. You put bread in a toaster, turn it on, then you have toast, and then you eat the toast. The bread and toaster each have a clear purpose.

Here’s what I told my friend.

Art is a tool. You use it to communicate ideas and thoughts to yourself and others. You use it to make your house look nice. You use it to start up a conversation. You use it to make a bare wall colorful. So on and so forth.

I don’t expect everyone to be as passionate about art as I am. I just want them to believe in art. I want them to give art the respect it deserves and not let it be pushed to the sidelines of our lives.

There are a good number of folks out there who are afraid of art. Their fear keeps them from experiencing the benefits art provides. I can’t put my finger on it, but something in our way of life discourages art making after a certain age. And it also puts art way down on the list of necessities for our society.

I formed Art is Moving with Lisa because I want to show people that art is not just about how well you can draw or paint or compose a photograph. It is about conversation, connection, release, therapy and so much more. It’s this thing that can do so much for you if you just open up and let it in.

Let art in.

Sincerely,
Lauren

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I hope you find some inspiration in the words.

Photographing Tragedy

I know I’m not alone when I say that photography has a lot to do with memory for me. There are images that I look at from my childhood that transport me back in time. I love the feeling of nostalgia and treasure it. I think about that when I photograph my almost brand new baby boy. What will he think when he looks at photos of himself? What memories will come up for him?

I remember a trip my family and I took to Wyoming a few years ago. My Dad was sitting at the table with his mother and all of a sudden called me over. My grandmother, who is the reason I have the middle name Odell, proceeded to take off the necklace she was wearing as I walked over. She handed it to me and said, “You’re the only Odell left, so you should have this.” I looked over and saw my Dad crying. My instinct was to take a photograph of him. He looked at me like I was crazy. So, I didn’t do it.

There’s a great deal of bittersweetness (not a word, I know) attached to photographs of events that bring up darker emotions. I don’t want to forget the tragedy or sadness in life because it’s what keeps me from taking anything for granted. But, I hate being reminded that we are all playing a game of chance. That you can be at the right place at the right time just as much as you can be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I can’t bring myself to watch the videos from Monday’s bombings during the Boston Marathon. I’ve looked at several photographs. They are frightening and beautiful. They show us both sides of humanity.

Photograph by Rex Features
Photograph by Rex Features

I’m not a photojournalist. I have no idea how it feels to witness and record an event like the one that occurred in Boston.

Photograph by John Tlumacki
Photograph by John Tlumacki

Sometimes I think, “Why didn’t that photographer stop taking pictures and help those people?” Then I realize that he/she is helping us. Helping us not forget. Helping someone like me over in California feel some small sense of how terrifying it must have been to be in Boston on Monday.

image of a marathon runner crying
Photograph by Winslow Townson

Behind Closed Doors

image of artwork by basquiat

I often think to myself that you don’t really know what goes on behind closed doors.  Apparently, sometimes that’s true.  An ex-girlfriend of Basquiat’s, Alexis Adler, has just revealed that her apartment is covered with his artwork. Besides murals on her walls she also has photographs, notes, clothing, and sketches. Why take 30 years to tell someone? Adler stated, “Part of the issue has been that I am a working biologist who has raised two kids on my own and have not had time or energy to deal with it,” Adler said. “Now is the time, however.”

How crazy and cool would it be to grow up in a house covered in art installations?  The kids imaginations must have run wild.

image of artwork by basquiat

As someone who is constantly curious about how a person gets to where they get, it’s refreshing to know that the work that Adler is preparing to show is Basquiat’s early work. We get to learn something about Basquiat that we may have never known had she decided not to share that part of him with anyone else. So, thanks Ms. Adler.

(more here)