Statement for Art Heals:
Journey Down Under
I hadn't planned on taking pictures that snowy morning. But, having arrived early for a meeting at a local hospital, I ventured downstairs, ostensibly for a walk. I hadn't been in its tunnels for years.
As a matter of fact, the most recent visit was back in July 2015, when I quite spontaneously left my therapist's office, for good. I recall time passed in cinematic slow motion back then, instinctively comforting myself, We never-ever have to come back here.
Padding down the hall in my black ballet flats, I gingerly climbed the century-old brick steps and leaned in to a heavy metal door that ultimately gave way to a pool of mid-summer light. For the first time in 23 years, I was untethered from Psychology.
In the here and now, the tunnels are desolate, funereal. Decades of memories bubble up as I walk briskly past spider-webbed windows and a myriad of alcoves. A faint, forlorn self is revealed. One tainted by charlatanical standard-of-care protocols that intentionally or not were shaming. And scarring.
As I traverse the serpentine passageways with their signature decay, I feel more than encroaching wariness: an admixture of boldness, empowerment, reclamation. I take photographs reflexively, as a means of defusing my anxiety and documenting an emerging emancipation.
Lauren Omartian's photographs have been published in the Belmont Citizen-Herald, Springfield Daily News, Watertown TAB and Prevention magazine. Additionally, her images have been featured online as part of the Harvard Human Rights Journal and Social Documentary Network websites. The Belmont Gallery of Art, Brandeis University and ZONE Gallery have held group shows featuring her work.
Lauren, a native of Springfield who calls Watertown home, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in communications from Simmons College and an Associate of Science degree from Holyoke Community College. She feels immense gratitude for her early-on fine art photography classes with David Majeau and the “A-listers”: Sharon Mann Burke, Marilyn Kalish, Louis Germani and Laura Thompson.
Statement for Art Heals:
In 1988 I had a serious accident at work and sustained a bad back injury. For over a month I lay flat on my back nearly paralyzed by pain and by the damage to bones, nerves, and discs. Eventually my condition improved to where was able to slightly turn my head and haltingly move my arms. But when or if my injuries were going to resolve was not at all clear at that point. In fact, it would be many months before I could walk again. This accident was kind of the crowning blow of a series of personal upheavals, tragedies and losses.
I've always been an animal lover and also caregiver. Over the years I've rehabilitated many pets, farm animals and other sick or injured creatures. This time, animals were there for me.
My cats, Buddy, Duffy, Cleo stayed close by and kept watch, exuding warmth and comfort, and setting the atmosphere vibrating with their purrs as the days came and went outside my window.
But then one day, an artist friend who knew I sometimes made art brought over a tiny set of watercolors, propped up paper on a cushion and steadied a cup of water amongst the blankets. I thought he was crazy. But I agreed to try. It took a while to master my grip on the brush and aim it successfully from paint to paper but eventually I succeeded and began transposing my horizontal vista onto the distant page. But then, as time stretched out and bent backwards I found myself feeling stronger, steadier, surer.
Even then I knew something miraculous had happened. This painting, with its softly glowing colors, its flow of lines, the solid presence of the personable felines – was downright amazing considering the circumstances. At that moment I knew that although I had hit bottom in my life and in my soul, I had also just found myself - who I really was. In the center of being I was an artist! When everything else was gone this was what remained. I had never really known who I was or why I was here. I was not even sure I even belonged here. But now I knew for sure that I did belong. That I had something to be and to do, no matter what else happened. And so my journey began.
I am a painter but also a photographer, musician and writer. I began studying art at around age 8 and am continuing my studies and art research over half a century later. I utilize many mediums and combinations thereof: watercolor, oil, egg tempera, encaustic, fresco, chalk, collage, sculpture, writing, music, mixed media, new media and multi-media to tell stories in art. Often landscapes of expansive vistas. Employing a huge variety of styles I enjoy observing and exploring then building the reality I envision or have experinced. Plunging in and celebrating the qualities, textures, and materiality of the medium or its components- I often make my own paint for instance. I sometimes work on complex, layered pieces for months or even years. Each series and sometimes a single work represents a summation of countkess steps and incarnarions of the work, different streams of thoughts and energies. Underlying it all would be my deep connection to most of my subjects which often feature a nature or spiritual component. Generally speaking my art moves in a light-hearted and positive direction.
Do You Accept Private Commissions? Yes - All types.
Statement for Art Heals:
During this past terrible pandemic year, the more I was confined to home, the more I found solace in the natural world. I painted a lot of flowers and ocean scenes, gravitating toward soothing blues, greens, and violets in many of my watercolors. I craved the bits of beauty that made me feel calm or happy for a time. This past year has brought the opposite of inner peace and tranquility to so many of us. We have been fearful about the pandemic, restless, frustrated, isolated, worried about family, friends and ourselves falling ill, grieving lives lost, angry and anxious about dangerously polarized politics and the confounding number of people who violently believe in blatant untruths, incredulous and outraged at social injustice heaped upon social injustice. I didn’t want to paint representations of the tension, conflict, anger, anxiety, or frustration. I already had too much of that in my head. I needed to create images that gave me a bit of respite from all that ugliness.
Carving out the time to paint has been a challenge with family members at home all day, every day, but often it has been worth staying up until 3 am to get some quiet time to myself with my palette and brushes.
A medical illustrator for 25 years, my work combined artistic ability, a thorough understanding of human anatomy, and knowledge of surgical and medical procedures. As Chief Artist at what is now Tufts Medical Center in Boston, I spent 12 years producing illustrations using traditional and digital techniques for medical and dental textbooks, journals, videos, presentations, exhibits, pharmaceutical and medical advertising, and patient education materials. When the art department closed in December 2000, I continued working from my home studio for the next 12 years. I spent much vacation time painting for enjoyment, primarily detailed watercolor studies of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. I gradually phased out medical illustration work to pursue new artistic directions, working in larger formats, exploring acrylic on canvas, coastal landscape, and human and animal portraiture. I continue to enjoy floral watercolors while broadening my technique and subject matter. I have displayed and sold work in local shows and art auctions since 2007 and create work on commission. I have been Co-Chair of the Belmont Art Association since 2017.
I find great beauty in the details and complexities of the natural world and try to interpret them in my work. Close observation of striking moments in the environment around me is part of my artistic journey, and I hope my paintings help people see everyday scenes in a new light. I am especially interested in color and the dramatic contrasts of light and shadow as they move throughout a painting. I have always been fascinated by watercolor and love the challenges of a medium that allows for few mistakes. I enjoy the visual tension that results from the interplay between focused areas celebrating the beauty of specific details against looser, more abstracted backgrounds, where the spontaneous interchange between pigments on a wet ground can be spectacular and inspiring.
My passion for art and animation began in early childhood. My parents are both renowned Boston Expressionist painters and teachers, I grew up is constant creative chaos. I could say I am completely self-taught, but I do not feel that way. I believe that being an artist has as much to do with observation as it does execution. Artists must view the world as a collector of images, emotions, and ideas to be filed away in their mental toolbox and used later in their work. Our teachers are everywhere. Viewing the world like this is just as significant a way to learn as is taking an art class.
I do not draw distinctions between fine and art and commercial art. They both involve the same principals of creativity, technique, and imagination. I find the hilarity of a 1940’s Tex Avery cartoon just as relevant an art form as a DaVinci painting. These types of diverse influences have shaped my creativity and driven my career as an artist, animator, illustrator, character designer, and teacher. Working in these diverse ways challenges me to expand my own boundaries and push myself to higher levels of creative possibilities. This is what excites and motivates me to constantly evolve as an artist.
GP Studio Arts of Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GPstudioarts
Documentary film currently in production: http://releasefromreason.com/
Statement for Art Heals:
When COVID-19 hit us a year ago, creating new art felt superfluous and in the beginning I felt stuck. I wondered what the role of an artist should be during a crisis as extraordinary as our pandemic one; when science, politics, and the economy seemed to be the only topics relevant to the health crisis. I needed art for when the pandemic was over, but I also craved it to keep me focused on the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, while transitioning through its long stretch of uncertainty. Thus, I did what I love, and I painted.
While painting, I reflected on the emotions that the overall uncertainty and the fatality of the virus was bringing to me and my loved ones. Layer after layer of colors and textures, I produced a series of paintings that include “Breaking Free II”, depicting biomorphic shapes that could be thought of as islands, maps or cells of organisms, indicative of my scientific background permeating into my artistic tendencies, and accentuated by the blasting of scientific news. By adding a variety of mark-making, these shapes seem to be adapting to internal or external factors that pollute or alter their nature. I like to think that I am connecting this duality micro/macro in my imagery -- cells of organisms/maps & islands -- as metaphors for the lability of Life and of our individual reality.
Nurturing my creativity has been a road map to resilience and to healing during these uncertain days. Moreover, through my art I have kept rooted and connected to souls alike whom I have inspired with my creations in many corners of the world thanks to the beauty of virtual communication. I humbly feel that my art has had a ripple effect of bringing happiness in times when despair and hopelessness could instead take over our minds.
Statement for Facing You:
Ruminating on my emotions during the early days of the pandemic, I created an image that evokes the portrait of a person sequestered as a result of quarantine or stay-at-home situation: either hopeful while enjoying more privileged shelter-in-place conditions, desperate for the crisis to be over and put an end to an even worse reality than that of infection, or even that of a COVID-19 victim that did not or will not survive the 2020 pandemic.
I produce my visceral paintings in a state akin to meditation. I ruminate on an emotion kindled by a personal dilemma such as identity or loss, or by global crises such as climate change or the current pandemic.
Using a diverse visual vocabulary of shapes, lines, and dots with a vibrant palette, I work in layers with a gestural approach. My non-representational paintings often bring to mind biomorphic shapes, evoking maps, islands, or the cells of organisms -- perhaps a marriage of my scientific background with my artistic proclivities.
I work mainly with oil-based paint but experiment with acrylics to create more fluid textures, and with other mixed media techniques to realize my artistic visions.
I can entertain private commissions
ELAINE HAWKES speaks on Art and Healing.
Cellist SARAH FREIBERG ELLISON performs
Special presentation by artist JOHN WILLIAMS
LIVE on Ch 96 (Comcast) Ch 30 (Verizon)