Surreal Scenes by Lauren Jones Worth
Refuge, 15x18, mixed on paper, 2020 © Lauren Jones Worth
Worth’s collages feel fresh yet familiar to encounter. Her use of strong patterns and contrasting colors may feel challenging at first, but come together to capture the feeling and energy of being in nature. Works such as Growing Season (2019) and Refuge (2020) veer away from reality and enter a dreamscape world, where pink and blue rolling hills are overshadowed by overgrown foliage. The forests and windswept flowers that greet us in Blue Faeries (2017) and Aqueous (2020) feel like vistas one might encounter on a quarantine ramble. Throughout all of it, one can easily forget that these works are indeed assemblages, many different parts carefully chosen and crafted together to create Worth’s perfect magical realism.
When did you first come to love art?
I come from a family of artists, so I’ve always been around creativity. Both my uncle and his son were and are noted portrait painters. My grandmother and mother were gifted seamstresses creating their own designs. My mother also encouraged me to appreciate art history, so there were art books laying around our house that I loved to peruse as a child. I distinctly remember looking at the work of Hieronymus Bosch and his weird, otherworldly depictions of life and the afterlife and thinking what a strange, fantastical place the world is.
Growing Season, 17x21, mixed collage on paper 2019 © Lauren Jones Worth
What is your favorite part about being an artist?
Just about everything. It is something I have to do. My inner life and outer world depend on it. Whether it’s the act of creating or looking at the work of others-it just is.
What is your favorite thing in the studio at the moment?
At the present moment, it’s the view of the outdoors.
What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?
I have no typical day in my studio, but I wish I did. Life’s other demands and family obligations crop up continuously, but I usually find time to be in the studio at least 5 days a week. When I’m not there, it’s always in the back of my mind, solving visual problems, thinking about new ways of expression, rooting around the internet looking for work of other artists that inspires me. My goal for the first half of 2021 is to do more experimental work and concentrate less on completing a finished painting.
Blue Faeries, 36x60, 2017 © Lauren Jones Worth
What does making art feel like to you?
It’s almost like an out of body experience. Time stops. Reality shifts. I am totally present. To be able to completely focus on solving the puzzle of a piece utilizing all the basic principles of art and design is such a satisfying experience. Sometimes it’s the only way that I can remove myself from life’s other issues. I’ve heard it is called “being in the zone.”
What do you do when you’re feeling uninspired or having a creative block?
The best thing for me to do is to step away from the work and go do something else, preferably take a walk outside which reminds me of one of the reasons why I paint in the first place-and that is to call attention to the beauty of the natural world.
Usually when I’m stuck, I’m concentrating on one part of the painting that I love and want to protect, but the rest of the painting refuses to see it that way. That’s when I take a deep breath, bless the image, and then cover it up with gesso, paint, or whatever scraps of paper I find on the floor. The painting is then free to move forward as a complete whole. I have no preconceived notions about what a painting is supposed to look like in the end. That’s the beauty of mixed media collage. It changes from moment to moment.
How has lockdown/quarantine affected your art making, particularly as it often depicts nature-something many people aren’t able to access right now?
Some of my greatest concerns are for the state of the environment and what initiatives will be implemented that will guarantee cleaner air, soil, and water for everyone living on this earth. Our planet can get along just fine without humans, but we have nowhere else to go.
Per the art world during COVID, fortunately I have had several larger commissions (by large, I mean in the 36 by 48-60” size) and they’ve kept me busy. But honestly, lockdown has made it difficult to stay focused. I like lots of stimuli outside the studio-travel, museums, communing with friends, and no one has had much of that recently.
Corona Dream Machine, 36x48, mixed collage on canvas, 2020 © Lauren Jones Worth
You say in your artist statement that you look for the ‘aberrations and strangeness’ of nature-can you go a bit more in depth with this? What does it look like to you?
When I say that, I mean that imperfection has its own beauty, and many times, our perceived notion of what we think of as ‘beautiful’ must be altered for the sake of survival. When a tree trunk starts to grow in an irregular fashion to try and find light or water, it may seem ugly and distorted to some, but I find it beautiful and interesting because it’s the tree’s way of surviving. I watch a seagull on the shore that has lost a leg but finds a different way to propel its body forward to find food. That new way of walking is fascinating and beautiful to behold. For me, imperfections, or strangeness that often promotes alienation for humans and other living creatures, convey a sense of strength and courage, and it is up to the rest of us to look harder, to look more closely, and to find compassion and beauty in that.
Your works often include bright colors and patterns-what role do these play in your works and in the process of composing them? How does it help to communicate your message?
I see the world and feel emotion through color. It forms my dominant thought patterns. I am constantly in search of it, looking for different variations of it, searching for words that best describe it. As Georgia O’Keefe said, “I found that I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way-things I had no words for.” I thrive on color and pattern and create ‘puzzles’ within my paintings-children especially love them. Nature is filled with the most amazing color and pattern, and this, along with morphing the contextual information of a life form (i.e. removing it from its natural environment, or using the parts of several different life forms to create a new one,) I hope to get viewers to take the time to look at nature more closely, to appreciate more fully, to feel how absolutely necessary it is to protect the health of our planet.
Tree Spirits VIII, 20x30, mixed collage on canvas, 2019 © Lauren Jones Worth
Do you feel that your process of creating art is still evolving/adapting or has it found its final form?
My work has definitely not found its final form. I most likely will always work with a variety of mediums, and abstraction, pattern, color, and texture will continue to inform what I do. I am not a minimalist, but it would be a great exercise to delve into that realm at some point. I am well into my 60’s, and I find art more exciting and enjoyable than ever. Maybe it’s because I am older, wiser, have a thicker skin, and don’t care as much about what others think. That’s a liberating feeling, and it has taken me way too long to get to this point. I hope to continue to evolve as an artist for as long as I live.
What is an upcoming project/exhibition/etc....you are excited to share?
I have just finished with a group show of North Carolina Artists at the Green Hill Center for NC Art and have a few commissions in the works for later in the spring. I will continue to work with my NY art dealer, mentor, and friend Walter Wickiser who has decided to close his Chelsea gallery after many decades and concentrate on using a digital format to conduct his business (WalterWickiserGallery.com.) It’s an exciting time for him, and I look forward to our continued collaboration. The next few months will also provide an opportunity to get more organized for the next chapter in my art world and have the time to experiment with different techniques and mediums.