We had the good fortune of connecting with Lauren J Whitley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lauren J, what matters most to you?
Creating art that lends itself to the personal, spiritual, and mental freedom of others as well as myself is the most important value that I can name. Personally, I’ve found so much depth in the process of creation, it is like being within something outside of all other concerns, that it allows me to think new thoughts, which in turn is an eye opening recognition of freedom within the potential of new thought. My hope and intention is that the art I create might serve to be a field from which that process of new agency can be sparked in the viewer. That the art can serve as a pause- in all the content, ideas, messages, history, etc, we dwell in during the day, that for me and others it serves as a launching point towards deep internal connection, I pray that what I create brings people joy in some way- which might be to me interchangeable with freedom- because joy facilitates so much, safety, play, love.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The art I’m making now is in part a way to explore and represent interests I’ve had for a long time, in certain symbolic locations. It seems like it’s taken all the art I’ve made in the past to be dwelling in this area here for the time being. I’ve been drawn to myths, legends, magical realism, and symbols and how those elements interact with our awareness of life since I was a child. I know that what I’m doing now is also a step towards what I’ll do next, as well as complementary to other projects I have going at the same time. As an artist I’m always most excited by the act of creation and the way in which we can lose ourselves in it for moments to allow something greater than the day to day mental traffic to emerge.
The most difficult thing about persisting creatively, is constantly moving away from doubt, for me at least. There have been a lot of ways in which doubting myself has altered my perception of opportunity, my worth, the value of the work, and kept me from treasuring the process. At this point I am starting to recognize that part of creation is actually the interaction with doubt, and other emotions, so I’m grateful for the way things are unfolding and continue to. It’s kind of the art behind the art, learning how to live, how to walk, how to keep responding and grounding into what truly is of value to a dream or vision. I guess if I could go back ten years I’d tell myself to ease up in some directions and trust what my gut has to say. It seems like really getting used to listening to what we already know is difficult because it seems too easy, ironically.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
For visiting friends to Athens Ga I would take them to eat first and foremost to The National, excellent food and they source a lot of their food and drinks from local farmers and producers which I think is important. Sea Bear is another great local restaurant with an exciting menu and sustainable practices. The University of Georgia Art Museum and the Botanical Gardens -also part of the University of Georgia, are both examples of natural and person-made art, lots of variety in sensory experience. At night there is almost always a good band playing in one of the many venues downtown- the Georgia Theater, Flicker Bar, and the 40 Watt Club are the most well known examples.
Then for breakfast, I recommend Big City Bakery downtown, has a classic menu, solid coffee, and some beautiful art hanging on the walls.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’ve been very blessed to be walking with people who offer me support, inspiration, and care in all aspects of my life. This year my Aunt Maggie has been a great collaborator in terms of exploring new ideas, working on our art house project together, being in general an example of the delighted spirit which can encounter problems with curiosity. She has been working as an artist for all her life, in multiple mediums, and never ceases to amaze me. As long as I can remember, she has shown me what it takes to stay organized and functioning as an artist which is essential to longevity. I am also very fortunate to know several artists working in Athens who are dedicated to encouraging people as part of their overall mission. They are passionate about their work in a way that lifts others up, and invites fellow artists to find their own genius within themselves. So not only are they vibrantly brilliant in their talent, they are brighter and wonderful in sharing that vision with those around them. I find that truly heroic; people who are willing to turn around and light the path up.
All pictures were taken by me- Lauren J Whitley