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Rising Stars: Meet Laurén Brady

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laurén Brady. 

Laurén, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I am fortunate to have grown up in a family that encouraged creativity and spending time in nature. Some of my earliest childhood memories are creating a weekly “newspaper” where I wrote fictional news stories and illustrated the “photos”. My family moved several times when I was growing up, but the most continuous landscape was the cottage my great-grandfather built in Northern Ontario, Canada, where we would spend several weeks out of the summer. The cottage had no television, so entertainment meant playing outside on the shoreline, climbing rocks, or wandering in the woods. Coming in from a day outdoors, I would have pockets filled with rocks, mosses, driftwood, sketches drawn on birchbark with charcoal—always collecting souvenirs from the landscape. I owe my love of the outdoors, my interest in place attachment to the cottage. 

I attended Indiana Wesleyan University for my degree in Studio Art with a minor in Writing. In my creative practice, the written and painted spaces are parallel tracks—the editing process of prose is similar to the layering of media in a visual work or installation. After undergrad, I delved into my studio working to find my artistic voice, build an exhibition record, with the goal of attending graduate school, so that I could teach at the collegiate level. During this time, my husband and I moved frequently. We lived in Indiana, Missouri, and Tennessee, but we dreamed of settling in the Great Lake State. When I felt my portfolio was strong enough, I applied to graduate schools in Michigan. In 2019, I graduated from Michigan State University with my Master of Fine Art degree in Studio Art, which is also where I currently teach as an Assistant Professor. I like to joke that I have two full-time jobs: as a visual artist and as an educator. It’s sometimes a precarious balance, but I love it. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle-free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
I wouldn’t say it’s been a smooth road but more like a meandering path with various roadblocks and detours. Much of the challenge of being an artist is figuring out what that looks like for me and remembering that no artist has the same trajectory. I was told in graduate school that if I wanted to be a teacher and have an active studio career, I couldn’t stay in Michigan; I needed to be willing to move for jobs and to bigger cities to be successful at showing my art. This was potentially the best (and worst) thing anyone could say as it lit a fire in me! I began doing everything in my power to network, hone my craft, disseminate my work to prove them wrong. I feel so fortunate for the amazing art community I have met within this State and beyond and how my work has organically evolved. 

The other struggle is just balancing my studio goals with my teaching schedule and life in general. Each semester is a new adjustment as my class schedule changes, and I find that the amount of time spent in the studio is inevitably impacted. Giving myself grace, creating boundaries, and adjusting the type of work I can make have made a big difference. Also, remembering that it is normal to have lulls in creating…those quiet times build momentum for bursts of energy in the studio later on. 

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am a visual artist whose work explores the formation of psychological and emotional attachments with place through diaristic abstractions using bold color and expressive mark-making. My practice is rooted in respect and desire to observe and conserve the landscape. I most frequently use oil and pastels on panels ranging from 4”x6” to 48”x48”. The smaller works are often made in direct observation to my immediate surroundings, my backyard, and daily walks. I am currently working on an installation of small works on paper that are reflections on tentative, latent, and often, mundane, interactions with nature. The slow and quiet changes of plants as seasons shift—the first crimson leaves on a sumac tree or a zinnias slow sigh towards the ground after the first frost—cause me to pause in reverence. I see the plants I cared for bloom and slowly fade away. Captured with a sense of immediacy and compulsion, these daily paintings serve as entries to an ongoing investigation of the ways we interact, impact, and hold onto places we pass through. Larger works explore the idea of space, merging present experience with past landscapes traversed. Embedded in the layers of these works are calligraphic and poetic marks, dense swaths of paint where imagery is at times simultaneously poignant and obscure. In the paintings, I seek to capture the specific emotional atmosphere and tactility of the combined places—a sense of wanting to better understand and preserve these partial views. 

I am currently working towards two upcoming exhibitions: a two-person exhibition at Soft Projects in Ypsilanti, MI, in August and a solo exhibition at Customs House Museum in Cultural Center in Clarksville, TN, in September-October. 

Along with my studio practice, I have a passion for curating. Recently, I have been collaborating with an artist colleague in various projects that further our shared desire to foster community and uplift powerful women artists. In 2020, we created Disinter, a collaborative project where five artists across the country created works in response to one another. Our most recent curated exhibition in fall 2021, Cynosure at (SCENE)Metrospace in East Lansing, featured eight women artists working across mediums including sculpture, painting, quilting, and drawing. This exhibition was featured and reviewed in All She Makes Magazine. This curatorial collaboration is new—I’m excited to see how it evolves alongside my solo studio art. 

Who else deserves credit in your story?
There are so many people to include, but I’ll try to keep it concise. It may be a cliché, but to be an artist takes a village, and I truly have the best people in my corner. I have to give a huge shoutout to my husband who is incredibly supportive of my studio practice. He is not an artist himself, but he has such insightful feedback and is forever encouraging me. He’s the best. 

I am so grateful for the artist community in Michigan and beyond. Social media is sometimes frustrating, but I am thankful that it has connected and helped maintain connections with artist friends across the globe. 

I have the privilege of working with a few galleries in Michigan. The Nelson Gallery, Lansing Art Gallery, and Eastend Studio & Gallery have been such champions of my work. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention my studio pup, Molly, who is always there, lying under my easel, cheering me on despite the times I accidentally drip gesso on her tail. 

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