How are you? In the last artist feature I think I totally forgot to ask about you.
Get excited, because in this letter I get to share with you very many cool things about artist Laura (they/she). Laura was the first person I interviewed for this project, and it was a very spontaneous interview process. I felt comfortable running around with my messy schedule and jumbled words because Laura is also my dear friend. Laura made me feel validated in my EXPO marker insanities (image below).
This image captured the end result after I explained the anthropology literature on temporalities that inspired my research. You might think I’m f*cking crazy based on this image alone, but rest assured, I was talking and drawing at the same time. So, when Laura said it made sense to them I breathed a sigh of relief.
Anyways, Laura and I started the conversation talking about their relationship with neurodivergence/ADHD. They got diagnosed with ADHD in college. Laura said “I think I got diagnosed when I did in college because I reached a point [in completing my work] where I was like, “I’m not scared anymore! I’m really not!” Relatably, procrastination becomes much more of an issue when you’re taught that you need to prove something (but what?) to the university that chose to admit you. Even when we are down to the wire, things will get done, though. Laura added, “It’s gonna suck while I’m doing it, but I can do it, therefore it will get done ‘’ That actually me with this project, even though I adore doing this. Curiosities are endless, but deadlines are real. One of the unofficial research questions I have with the project is: Can I really do it? Can I get this done? What is done?
Laura has messy handwriting that’s “clear enough so I can read it, but vague enough so other people can’t.” They are a VADA (Visual and Dramatic Arts) and Art History double major here at Rice. Their work in visual art provides only one medium for the great depth of Laura’s brilliant chaos. In classic Gemini fashion (pun intended), they are frequently changing their hair color and cut, creating messy, playful makeup looks, and donning screen-printed graphic tees with their art on them, of course. (I have one too.) Laura’s energy feels good to be around. Their expansive curiosity is obvious, whether through observing their visual art or simply being in their presence. The expansive curiosity of Laura pulls you into what I can only describe as a provocative growth zone. They are spontaneous, as well as genuine and intentional. In my mind, there exists a gap between impulse and intention. I admit this confusion is because my moments of impulse were historically in search of instant gratification, as opposed to embracing the inner workings of my brain through intentional creative flow. Laura left me to wonder how I might honor the voidspace through mysticism and expression. “Hey, the void exists!” There, that’s what we needed to say.
Above is an image of Laura’s work, kick! stab! cry! before the humanoid figure above encountered hammers and fists.
Below is an image of kick! stab! cry! after humanoid figure became transformed through play (rage? catharsis? so fun!)
While there are words in Laura’s work, (I am not only referring to kick! stab! cry!) what I witnessed was a collective effort that was and is both in-time and out of time. Their mystic temporality is one that could only become realized by Laura in this present moment, Laura then (every version of their younger selves) and all of the people who have kept them safe throughout the journey in time. I see myself in their work, too. I connect to a deep desire to ask my infinite questions, questions that cannot be asked with words alone. The lessons I learned during our conversation provoked me to confront tensions between my creative process and spirituality. I then considered a few more questions: How much of me is in my art? Who was I when I created this? What if I don’t remember?
Laura and I were looking back at their old journals. While we read old journals from highschool, they said “I wish I could go back to that era.. I am going to look up a key word ‘cycle’”
During our conversation, Laura also showed me their poems from when they were only seventeen, a senior in high school. They say of their writing, “I was also so obsessed with feeling like I was existing in a redundant space: agonizingly a ‘time did not pass’ kind of way” .
In Earle Coleman’s book Creativity and Spirituality, he argues that art and religion are complementary responses to the quest for self-realization. Religion, for my analysis, is comparable to “spirituality” in function. He is not referring to any specific institutional power here. He continues to argue that the “mystical” current in religion invites a comparison with aesthetic experience, and in aesthetic experience, one may lose herself through an all-consuming absorption in art or nature. Brahman, a thinker mentioned in this book, also said that “the presence of the divine ensures that all things have a religious character”. Artworks, like other kinds of objects, cannot be devoid of spirituality. I understand this to imply everyone is seen in their art, and we can see into the self here. I am curious about the degree to which we are also able to “lose” ourselves in the process.
In April 2022, I went to Laura’s final Visual and Dramatic Arts Senior Showcase. Being in a space surrounded by all of these talents and experiences was so joyful. Laura won an award for their work (!!!!!) and afterwards, they showed me what their advisor had written about them over champagne.
I was so happy for them. Here’s exactly what their advisor said:
“More often than not one chooses to be an artist. Sometimes out of insistence, or necessity, stubbornness or even, let’s be honest, foolishness but in very special circumstances, when moons are full, planets aligned and spells are cast, an artist is chosen by the practice itself. A magical and rare anointment made by the oath of an ink stain or the smudge of some charcoal. Laura is clearly an anointed one. I have no doubt art chose her.”
There’s more, it is amazing to read, here:
“Laura’s work-nimble drawings of boisterous, migrating line, tiny books of resistance, nests of paper and prints, soft sculptures- at its core creates comfort and cultivates care. The care one feels when hunkered down on the floor of an old book shop lost in a book as the shopkeeper’s cat eyes you from a shelf. In [their] work, art and life tangle together in a glorious and comforting mess. Drawings nestle sculptures, books nestle prints, puppets witness, and marks multiply. Within her studio there is a palpable air of mystery and the mystic. The lucky ones who get to experience her work and the worlds they cultivate will recognize her studio as an incubator. It is in this space where drawings hatch like baby chicks ready for the world with beaks and talons. I can’t wait to see where these glorious birds transport you next. May they lead you to fruitful ground.”
I’ll leave you with that for a second. I cry like every other time I read it.
During the beginning stages of my friendship with Laura, I read their birth chart. I have studied astrology for two years, and reading birth charts (“natal charts”) is of great importance to me. I began by learning about my own chart, and I understand many versions of history behind my Capricorn rising. Laura, while a Gemini sun, shares a Capricorn rising. Brief astrology fact: the planetary ruler of Capricorn is Saturn, and you may know him as Chronos. When you think Chronos, think “chronological” because in mythology, Saturn/Chronos is the lord of time. Laura has a deep relation to time that, while also cosmically inclined, becomes obvious in their art: “Printmaking is just obsessive cycles where you draw one thing, transfer it to something else, carve it out, and then you’re printing it over and over,” Laura also shared to The Thresher in February: “Right now I’m printing on construction paper, because it’s a little mundane and not made to last forever. I really like that element. I have a bad habit of using non-lasting materials in what I make, and I think it [speaks] to a lot of my motivations behind [my art].”
Even if Laura’s materials are non-lasting, the materials are with them in time through the experience of creating profound impermanence. It is difficult to envision material creativity without envisioning eventual material loss. I was reading Ian Robertson’s book Opening the Mind’s Eye while I was writing about the relevant literature for this project. In it, I learned the ability to visualize also enables us to tap into new dimensions of the creative. Robertson writes “creativity flourishes in these wordless domains of mental life-but the very same processes that foster creativity also make us vulnerable to superstition and magical thinking.”
Is superstition not observing the multitudes of patterns in our lives and honoring their histories? Who would we be if we weren’t superstitious? Who would we be if we were not thinking magically? Who would we be if we could not dream of a mystical future, a future that is our own to create? The vulnerability that accompanies revolutionary dreaming is not without risk. We risk the “crazy” label, at the very least hearing “that sh*t’s not real.” or “that sh*t is not possible”.
How dare you say magic is not real? Look around me. Laura is one of the people who has helped instill in me the divine insanity to say, without a single doubt in my mind, that magic is real. The kin I have made in my last year were not without vulnerability and risk-taking. I think we are beginning to wonder just how delusional we can be, pushing back against a world that places limits on imagination. I am crazy, and so are you, reading this (digitally on the Internet, lol) as a form of cosmically transporting experience.
Thank you Laura for all you are. Cheers to being cosmically ruled by the Lord of Time and cheers to resisting it in every moment!
Until next time,