Lauryn Olivia King (right) and her piece, entitled "Hollow"
AICUO EVAs 2015 Grand Award Winner, Lauryn Olivia King, shares with us her experiences and plans as an artist. She will be returning to the 2016 EVAs as a second round judge.
What is your backstory as how you got involved in art?
When I was very young my aunt bought me a little plastic pottery wheel that my father taught me to throw on. From that moment on I absolutely loved playing with clay, working with my hands, and throwing pieces on my wheel. Then, when I reached middle school, the art room happened to be equipped with a full sized pottery wheel. So I continued to throw and get better with working with clay. At this point I loved working with my hand and with clay immensely, so my dad and I took open studio classes at the local art center. I began to use art as a way to relax and as a coping mechanism to help handle my depression. By the time I finished high school I knew that if I wanted to be happy in my life I was going to have to pursue a career as an artist.
Your art is so powerful and there is such a meaningful message behind each piece, where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes primarily from what I have experienced in my life. I use the depression I have endured as a springboard for many of my sculptures. I also draw upon my friends and family’s experiences with mental health. Much of my artwork comes from how mental illness affects the people who suffer from them and their loved ones. I am also inspired by how people who have suffered from mental illnesses are depicted in the media and the fine art world, mainly the lack of representation of different races.
What is the most important message you want the audience to take away from your work?
The primary message I want people to take away from my art is that mental illness are a very real problem in today’s society and they can affect anyone. I want people to understand that there is a difference between what the media portrays as mental health and what having a mental illness is actually like. Almost everything that has to do with mental health is portrayed by Caucasian people. I have found that this is true for both the media and the fine art world. I am exhausted of seeing primarily Caucasian people represented in our society when these problems affect everyone. Through my art I want people to realize that every person can be affected by mental illness regardless of their race. To do this I use a dark patina on my figures, which allows almost everyone to relate to my figures.
Kelly Phelps (far left), Xavier University's Chair of the Art Department, and King's family just after King received her award sculpture.
How did attending a Xavier help you find yourself as an artist?
Attending Xavier University allowed me to learn different processes that I use in my work. Xavier helped me expand my ideas through taking non-art related classes simultaneously with art classes. The small class sizes gave me the individual attention that I needed when I first started college to develop my thoughts into artwork. When I was completing the art for my thesis show my professor gave me the space I needed to do it on my own, like I would be doing as soon as I graduated college. Being so close to my mentor at Xavier helped me find myself as both a person and as an artist.
How did participating and winning the EVAs affect your life as an artist?
Participating and winning the EVAs has given me opportunities to show my work, which has led into many different people purchasing my art. Winning the EVAs has also given me the funds to expand what I can do with my artwork and help me buy some of the equipment I need to make my work.
What advice do you have for students wanting to pursue the arts as a profession?
My advice for students who are planning to pursue a career in the arts is to stay hungry and passionate for what you do. Never ask if you have created enough artwork because it will never be enough if you want to survive as an artist. Most importantly never stop making artwork and apply for everything that you possibly can.
What are your plans for the future?
I plan on going to Gatlinburg in the fall where I will be a part of the work-study program at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts. After that I will be returning to Ohio and continue to create and sell my artwork.
Visit King's website for more details and photos of her work!