Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Artist of the Week

Lauren Feece

How does your environment affect your art? Environment could mean physical surroundings, your studio, your office, the way you arrange the objects on your desk, or it could be your geographic location. Would your creative output change if you moved to Alaska or Russia or say Puerto Rico? A change in climate may in fact give the artist new subjects, a new pallet, a new outlook on their work in general.

Lauren Feece is a Chicago artist who relocated to Puerto Rico a year ago, and has found a renewed passion and vigor for her craft. It was that change from the fast-paced rush of the city to the warm glow and casual creativity of the island, that brought her work into a whole new world.

Recently, Lauren was kind enough to answer a few of my questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your work?
Lauren Feece (LF): Really, I think the best way to describe my work is that it is a visual
recording of my life. It seems to me that the things I see get mixed around with things I am thinking, or emotions I am feeling until it funnels out through my hands and I'm left with the work. I know this is a very simple way of understanding the work I do but I appreciate simple
definitions and explanations, they leave you room to explore.

OA: Last year you moved from Chicago to Puerto Rico. How that change impacted your work?
LF: The move was motivated by a need to change the way I work. I was working fulltime making art when I lived in Chicago. I worked hard and was very grateful to be able to support myself. But I began to think I was working too hard, my love of creating art was getting extinguished. That love of making things, the joy in exploring new ideas, the wonderful feeling you get from being absorbed in creating, those things are really important to me, not only because I am an artist but because I am a human being.
When I first got down here I couldn't make anything. I really was so burnt out, I used a few months just to decompress. As my old life in the city was replaced by this whole new experience I began to make things again. At first I was only doing small drawings but after awhile I began
to paint. My paintings are very different since I've moved. I have so much freedom to explore content and the paint itself. I have the luxury of being able to take a very long time letting the painting evolve slowly or build up many layers. The most amazing difference is the quiet here, I feel like I can listen to myself so much better in this solitude. My work here is much different from my work in Chicago because I am different. There are so many factors that inform that difference. I was younger in Chicago and I didn't have as much experience as I do now,
also I felt more scared about fitting into the art world. Now in the country, with a few years behind me I have less desire to fit in, the distance from the art world is nice. That gives me freedom and my love of making art grows as I explore the world. Those are the elements that
produce a different kind of work.

OA: In your opinion, to what degree does physical environment inform the work of the artist in general? Does city life produce a certain type of art versus country life or tropical life?
LF: I think each individual artist decides to what degree the environment will inform their work. I do believe that the physical environment always has some effect on art making, even if that effect is subconscious. I guess it took me a while to realize how great the effect of the environment on my work was. It hit me when I was living Chicago, I remember noticing with such awe and awareness the cycles of nature. I had grown up so used to the natural world surrounding me, but it wasn't until I was in the city that I really began to notice grass growing,
buds springing up, tree roots pushing through sidewalk and streets. I needed to connect with the natural world because I felt so overwhelmed and over stimulated by city life. But that’s just me...I get over stimulated really easily. Sometimes I get over stimulated here in Puerto
Rico and I live in the middle the country, with nothing in sight but acres of trees and jungle.

For me an essential part of making work is being able to listen and just be still. Nature has always helped me do that, so wherever I am I know I am searching for that quiet kind of solitude. I feel so lucky to be in the environment I am in now. It suits me well and it is so
beautifully peaceful. But there are many things I love about being in an overcrowded busy city, it makes the quiet you can find there that much sweeter.

OA: In your artists statement you state that “life is a photo album of
decorated daydreams”. When painting, do you typically use a photo as a
reference point?
LF: When I was a little girl I was obsessed with my family's old photos. When I was painting in college I began exploring that obsession in my paintings. It has evolved and informed my work over many years. Using the photograph became limiting because I have naturally always drawn
from a more instinctual imaginative place, and I realized I was afraid to make those drawings into paintings. So I began to explore making paintings from my drawings. Now I think I do more paintings that way, because it is a challenging process. But I still use the photo as the subject for many of my paintings. I love the snapshot and the photograph... I love that most people have a
camera and a photo album... It's such a common cultural experience, yet for me it has this beautiful existential level... The paintings from the photographs flow out of me with a great ease. That’s nice, but I do like a challenge... just to keep it interesting.

OA: Do you feel that you have a set color palate that you utilize? Has this palate changed at all since you relocated?
LF: Color is amazing to me, I really love color. My color palette changes often because I am always falling in love with a new color. I'll work with a palette pretty exhaustively until I fall in love with a new one. The first time I visited Puerto Rico I was blown away. The color is different down here because the light is different. I finally understood this beautifully subtle relationship between pink and green. I worked with that for awhile, until fell in love with turquoise during a winter in Chicago. I had twelve paintings I was working on, all the same color. I would come into the studio and be drowned in a turquoise sea. I love being engulfed in a color. Currently I am in love with a deep full orange. It is such an amazing background for portraiture... but I just discovered the deep dark hues of aquamarine blue and diazonine purple...

OA: What’s next for Lauren Feece?
LF: I just watched a movie about the oceans and there was this little bit about these massive whale carcasses on the ocean floor. All this bacteria and microscopic little things seemingly spring to life on the bones and help to decompose it. It's at the bottom of the ocean and there is no light so it's life springing forth from death. That was beautiful to me and I felt so inspired by it I'm hoping to make something from that. Also, I just got a puppy, so I'll be busy house breaking.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Puerto Rico sounds like it would be a great place to drink a cup of
coffee? Do you drink coffee? If yes, who has the better cup Chicago or
Puerto Rico?
LF: Puerto Rico is an amazing place to get a cup of coffee. Actually, the land we live on was once an old coffee plantation back in the day. We're not growing it anymore but some coffee plants are still around and when they bloom the smell is phenomenal! When I moved down here I had been caffeine free for a few years, but those smells got me. Now, I love coffee. I love the fact that the coffee we drink here was grown a few miles from our home. It's wonderful to have it so fresh.
I also love the way they make coffee here, cafĂ© con leche, it’s a rich full flavor but with a generous helping of milk and sugar. It is such a treat...

Now that I'm drinking coffee again, when I go back to Chicago I have to get my fix of wonderful coffees. A close friend of mine was a roaster at Intellegencia, so I know a lot about their amazingly delicious selection...I have fond memories of lattes at Red Hen Bakery in Wicker Park... but the best cup of coffee is at Metropolis Coffee on Granville, so amazing...

OA: Do you listen to music while you paint? If so, who are a few or your favorites while painting and in general?
LF: Yes always, I love music when I paint. I love a wide, wide, wide range of music. My husband has one of the largest music collections I have ever seen so I am spoiled by his excellent taste. Usually we both are working on something so we choose a mutually enjoyable selection of fairly mellow music. broken social scene, yo la tengo, tortoise, brokeback, jet black crayon, are some old favorites. I love reggae, funk, soul, and he's been teaching me about old school hip hop... I've
always had a soft spot for a singer and a guitar and I'm always willing to rock out... Lately I'm loving Feist, Joni Mitchell, Sharon Jones, and Flight of the Conchords.

For more information on Lauren Feece please visit her website.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Chicago misses both you and Chris. Congratulations Lauren! Looking forward to seeing your newest works and so glad you are loving Puerto Rico.