The Art of Collaboration: Lauren Everett Finn

This article was written in preparation for our Spring 2023 concert, Complementary Colors.

"Rock the Boat, Baby" by Lauren Everett Finn

It was on a spontaneous visit in early 2020 to the Glen Arbor Arts Center that I happened upon a work by Lauren Everett Finn. Her piece was displayed along with many other artists that day as part of a juried exhibit. I remember what leapt out at me immediately was her daring use of both color and texture. Whether it’s in one of her many dazzling floral paintings or her action-packed abstract works, it’s that adventuresome juxtaposition of color and texture that often takes front and center in her art.

Lauren’s work — filled with such evocative use of color and contrast — seemed a natural fit for our upcoming program (Complementary Colors). The staff at GAAC helped me get in touch with her in March of 2020, and she was kind enough to invite us to her studio. We chatted at length about her processes, her studio atmosphere, a few specific pieces from her vast catalog, and we even selected a beautiful painting for use on the concert poster.

We couldn’t have predicted that less than two weeks later we’d all be sent into lock-down. Our spring program which was just getting on its feet was abruptly cancelled indefinitely. Though it meant shelving the collaboration, I vowed to keep in touch with Lauren and promised that we’d one day pick things back up.

from Lauren's Facebook Page

Since that introductory visit, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing more of Lauren’s work at local galleries and in exhibits and even online. Although she admits to having a love-hate relationship with social media, Lauren’s Facebook and Instagram pages provide a stunning glimpse into her process and growing catalog.

Scrolling through her feed, you can watch as pieces take shape, change, and virtually come to life. In the realm of social media where it seems literally everything is shared these days (albeit selectively curated), there’s something so inherently vulnerable and intimate in her allowing this window into her studio. It’s inspiring!

Lauren’s work is arguably about the creative process itself. “It’s the ‘what ifs.’ I wonder what would happen if — this on top of that, and that is on top of that. Some results you can predict from your experience, but sometimes you get something unexpected,” she says. “It’s the actual process. The paint. The feel of it. The opacity. The transparency. Color mixing. It’s so versatile — that’s the reason I like painting.”

Lauren invited Jason to visit her studio in March 2020

Likewise, a composer summons colors and textures in the form of voices and timbres. These combine to form both a palette and an image (sometimes even a story) for the listener’s imagination. As a musician, I enjoy pondering a composer’s intentions while probing the music for more context. Sometimes there are clues in the title, style instructions over key passages, or perhaps we know from history that the piece was written during a specific event in the composer’s life. I also enjoy when there are no clues and we’re free to bring something more of ourselves to the interpretation. Some of us do that no matter what!

Much of Lauren’s recent work has been focused on two themes: florals and abstracts. This might be surprising to some who encounter the breadth her work in a solo exhibit. Somehow we expect an artist to choose one or more related themes rather than two drastically different ones. Lauren says she loves the contrast between the two themes: florals come to her fairly easily while abstracts tend to present a challenge both for her and her audience.

When was the last time you allowed a piece of artwork (be it visual or performance) to ask something of you rather than expecting it to merely entertain or distract you?

– J.T. McKinney

“With florals, you know what your subject is going to look like; abstract, you don’t. You have to create your subject,” she says. “Floral paintings are easy to live with. I find more people prefer to look at flowers than abstracts because they’re not intimidated by a floral. Somebody looks at an abstract, and you’re asking something of them.”

When was the last time you allowed a piece of artwork (be it visual or performance) to ask something of you rather than expecting it to merely entertain or distract you? Have you ever stopped scrolling to look carefully at a piece of artwork that popped up in your newsfeed? In an uncertain world, is there room to allow artwork evoke to ambiguity? Can we allow art to make us as vulnerable as the artist, and — perhaps, for a moment — become the artist ourselves?

Lauren knows this vulnerability well. “Painting is not risky in the physical sense, but in a personal sense, it can be very risky,” she says. “Every time I create a painting and show it— It. Is. Judged. It’s judged by everyone that views it, with all different levels of expertise. There is one thing you can count on; everyone won’t love it. You have to get comfortable with this.”

Creatives can make connections where there previously were none, and bring a richness and depth to an experience.

– Lauren Everett Finn

Composers and musicians confront that same risk in creating music and curating programs to present to audiences. It is tempting to present only the old favorites — those pieces that are guaranteed to get toes tapping and heads bobbing. But, as artists we long to dig deeper in order to challenge ourselves. We also want to challenge our audience — taking them with us through unfamiliar territory, asking questions while providing no quick answers, presenting colors and motifs that might take time to digest fully. (Not just head bobbing, but head tilting!)

“Creatives can make connections where there previously were none, and bring a richness and depth to an experience. We can illustrate a problem that may bring a person to a new understanding or perspective,” Lauren says. “I also think we encourage non-artists to try their hand at creating.”

We hope you’ll join us for Complementary Colors on Saturday, May 6, 2023. Together we’ll embark on a journey of color and texture in a dynamic program of chamber music, spoken word, and visual art. Surrounded by Lauren’s artwork and the voices of modern composers, we’ll explore how artists in many disciplines use color as a language of expression. Together we’ll combine divergent voices to create new colors and inspire broader perspectives.

Portions of this article were taken from an interview with Lauren
by Sarah Bearup-Neal of the Glen Arbor Arts Center.

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