rally podcast S1 EP02

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[00:00:00] Josh: Welcome to the Rally podcast and I’m Josh Vaughn 

[00:00:02] Marissa: And I’m Marissa Raglin. We are the co-founders of Rally where we are all about cultivating community through creativity. In this podcast series, we explore creatives, and the communal landscapes they foster 

[00:00:16] Josh: Today we’re talking to Laura Midgley. She’ll be the first Lively Beerworks taproom artist with 2022 presented by Rally and hosted by Lively Beerworks. Lauren is an award-winning fine art photographer, specializing in surrealist, conceptual self-portraiture. Her work has been shown in galleries in Austin, New York City, Denver, and more. She lives in Norman, Oklahoma with her husband and their family.

Well, welcome to the podcast, Lauren, and welcome to my living room. We’re glad to be able to speak to you today and just have you share about your art and share about community. And we just want to know more about you and about who you are and why you create and what you create. 

[00:00:54] Lauren: Thank you. Thank you for having me. It’s very exciting. 

[00:00:56] Marissa: Yeah, so you are a fine art photographer and by the way, big fan of your work. And, um, we see that you’re specializing in surrealist, conceptual self-portraiture, and we’d love for you to describe your medium and process for those who aren’t familiar with your work. 

[00:01:12] Lauren: Sure, a lot of people don’t know if you, if you tell them surrealists, you know, fine art self-portraiture, um, there’s a couple of different things that I think pop into people’s heads.

First of all, they don’t really know what conceptual fine art really means. The other thing is when you say self-portraiture, they immediately go to selfies and I’m like, okay, well, yeah, they’re selfies, but they’re not selfies. This is not like social media, smiles and polish, um, or filters as well. There’s a lot of editing involved with it.

That’s different from filters, um, ultimately conceptual fine art kind of centers around the idea of, um, taking a concept and building around it and hopefully creating a narrative that people can interact with. So, um, I hope that clarifies some things. 

[00:02:08] Josh: Yeah, much inspiration from your work comes from dreams as I’ve heard you talk about before, but you, I heard you once mentioned about awake and asleep, both the dreams like that.

Can you just elaborate a bit more on what this experience is like, or maybe what you were talking about when you’re talking about dreams? You know, is it like an overlay? Is it like vision or is it like. You’re not there. And you’re just watching something or just explain it in your own words, kind of more what the awake and asleep dreams that you have that inspired this work.

[00:02:37] Lauren: Sure. Um, a lot of my dream world is very vivid. Um, I have kind of a history of having all sorts of reoccurring dreams. Um, I remember a lot of dreams. I can remember dreams from when I was a kid, um, all sorts of wacky stuff. Right. And I love the idea that in a dream, there are no rules. Anything goes in a dream and you really don’t have any sort of power around what takes place within a dream.

Or if you do, it’s like very, very limited, right? So. A lot of my work kind of stems from things that I see while I’m dreaming, but some of it actually stems from like daydreams. So one of the questions I usually get asked a lot of is, you know, where do you find your inspiration? How do you cultivate that constant flow of creativity?

And what I found was ironically, I found this out and was able to articulate it when everything shut down, back at the beginning of COVID. A lot of artists really felt that pinch where all of a sudden our creativity was no longer flowing. It took me probably a good solid three months to figure out well, what changed for me?

And I have two theories or really it’s one theory. And then one discovery. And the theory was that if you’re familiar with Enneagram at all, I’m an Enneagram seven. Okay. And Enneagrams go to one in times of stress. And one is the reformer. And what I realized was that it wasn’t so much that my, or my theory I should say is that it’s not so much that I wasn’t operating creatively anymore.

It’s that I was operating creatively as a one on the Enneagram and not as a seven, which is what I know a lot better. If that makes sense. The other discovery that I made was that the music stopped for me, I wasn’t listening to music. I wasn’t in the car, running my kids around town. I wasn’t traveling to go see family where we’re, you know, driving up I-35 through the Flint Hills with music rolling. Those are the places that my creativity really flows readily and all of that stopped during COVID. So it was actually kind of a really interesting self-discovery. That is something that’s absolutely vital to my creative process. So anyhow, well, the Enneagram theory part of that is yet to be told, but you know.

[00:05:05] Marissa: Yeah.

[00:05:05] Lauren: Does that help? 

[00:05:06] Josh: Yeah. What, so what music is playing in the car stereo when you’re rolling out? 

[00:05:13] Lauren: Yeah. I am all over the place. Um, I’m one of those people that will not usually recommend to people because you never know how it’s going to land. They might be like, oh, you’re one of those, you know, But there’s a couple of go-tos for me.

Uh, Bears Den is one of my absolute favorites. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of them. Um, so quick, funny story. When my husband and I were dating way back in the day, we almost broke up because… It was very important to him that we did…not that… he okay. It was important to him that we liked the same music and he was discovering that we actually, there’s not that much in common in terms of music, but Bear’s Den is really like special to me because it’s one of our few overlaps.

And so we both share, um, a love of Bear’s Den, but I listened to all sorts of things. Ben Howard. Um, I’ve really been on a Daughter kick lately. Um, my husband, he always laughs at me because he’s like, oh, we’re going the emo route today. Huh? I’m like, well, I mean an Enneagram seven and I’m an extrovert and I tend to be kind of high strung.

And so I feel like, you know, really mellow chill stuff just helps to kind of help me find my equilibrium. I think. So, yeah, typically those, but I’ll listen to everything from, you know, Lord Huron to, oh my gosh, let me think. 

[00:06:42] Josh: They just had a new release yeah. 

[00:06:46] Lauren: Of Monsters and Men, love them. They’ve got some new stuff coming out, still waiting on some new stuff from Bear’s Den. We saw them in Dallas 

[00:06:54] Josh: If you’re liking all that vibe, have you heard of a band called Foals?

[00:06:57] Lauren: Yes. 

[00:06:58] Josh: Yeah. I do like some from the Foals. My husband really likes them a lot. Yeah. 

So that’s cool. 

[00:07:05] Marissa: You were mentioning the dreams and I was just curious as a person who can never recall dreams that I have in the night. They’re so vivid and so colorful while I’m experiencing them but when someone asks me to share, you know, I’m not able to pull, what did I, what happened? So I would love to know, like, how do you record, how do you recall back to these days, uh, daydreams or dreams that you’re having? 

[00:07:32] Lauren: So I think if you read about dreaming, I think I’m a really crappy sleeper. I think that’s why I’m able to remember a lot because, um, if my memory serves me, um, dreams take place during REM sleep. And if you wake up during REM sleep, that’s when you typically remember them. So I think ultimately when it comes down to is I’m not a good sleeper, but a lot of times, um, there it’s been a really interesting process. Cause as I’ve kind of honed in on that as a source of inspiration, Um, I find that there were several times that this happened to me.

In fact, this piece behind you is one of them where I was actually in between waking and sleeping. Um, and this piece, which I titled “Love Letters,” just kind of unrolled. It, it was almost like a scroll just dropped in front of my eyes. And I saw that piece and I woke up and was like, wow, I need to recreate that.

I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m going to do it. And so I set out to do it. And interestingly enough, and this part just blows my mind is all the elements that went into that particular image were very meaningful pieces. What I find interesting about my work and photography, as opposed to the historical roots of the medium is that it’s, you know, photography came about as a way of capturing the moment, which is great.

Um, But seldom in my work, do I feel like the historical part of it really, you know, like seeps through, but in that particular image, um, the one I titled “Love Letters” and really dead because there were two… in order to make this tree trunk that you see in this, I took, uh, two different trees and one of them came from a tree that was nicknamed after my great grandmother on our old farmstead in New Harp, Texas. And so I used to grow up… when I was growing up, we’d go up there for holidays. We’d spend Christmas out there. And it’s like 200 acres out in the middle of New Harp, Texas. And there was this tree and we, we called her a Mammo. And so it was Mammo’s tree. Now, I went up there a few years ago and my grandmother passed, which would have been her daughter.

And I had wanted like an old dead tree, but. Those of you that know about Photoshop know that’s really kind of challenging to single out all the little limbs and twigs and everything. And so I saw this tree and it was mostly dead. And so it didn’t have a lot of foliage on it. And I thought that would be a fantastic tree just to have on hand for stock photo.

So I, I captured it and then sometime later, I guess it was probably after I created the image, I showed it to my mother. Told her about, Hey, that tree came from the farm and she was like, oh, that was Mammo’s tree. I didn’t realize that was like a significant tree when it, when it went into that. And then the other part of that tree is the trunk, which actually came from my backyard and my previous house.

And the interesting thing about that tree to me is that when we moved in and needed some trimming, we called out the Tree Wizard. No, this is not sponsored. But the Tree Wizard came out and he came out and he had this like moment with this tree and it’s like, what is happening? But he looks at this tree and he’s like, whoa, that’s a durmast oak.

I was like, okay, cool. What’s that? And he, he told me a little bit about it and I went and looked it up cause I was like, wow he like really enjoyed this tree. And it’s not a very common Oak to have around here. And it’s massive. 

[00:11:10] Josh: And it wasn’t a blackjack, like every other tree in Oklahoma. 

[00:11:14] Lauren: No, no, not, not a blackjack.

Um, so I’d look this tree up. Come to find out it’s the national tree of Cornwall, which happens to be the origin of my maiden name. Um, and then of course, there’s my wedding dress in there. And then there’s a book that was, um, given to us on my wedding day. And I dunno, all those elements coming together. It was just super meaningful to me.

And so ultimately that’s why I called it Love Letters, but I found it interesting because there’s so much symbolism there and I honestly, I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of what all that is, but it’s a really deeply meaningful piece to me. So it’s a huge honor that it’s on your wall. 

[00:11:54] Josh: Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, we’re glad to have it. The interesting thing is, is I’ve heard you talk about it before, is, is. Like you’re, you’re not sure what all the meaning is yet or whatever, but my wife said she’s like when we went to go see your show, uh, that, that we bought that at and we went and I was like, I gotta figure out an angle to get my wife who’s not a photographer to, you know, buy a piece or whatever. And, but she loved the work all the work more, but we came around the corner. It was in the back, I’m carrying the corner. She was like, this is coming home with us. And I was like, Okay. Yes. And so I went and paid for it as soon as I could because that was a she, but she said, uh, even today she was just like, I told her that about how you’re still kind of discovering what all it means to her.

She says that’s interesting because it means so much to me automatically. She was like, I connected with all the pieces of it. And it’s like, she knows what it means to her. Probably maybe even more than, you know, what it means to you, but you created it. And so I think that’s one of the awesome things about art is you create something beyond yourself.

That’s able to touch somebody, not just their thoughts, their feelings, or their preferences, but it’s actually something that’s like in their soul that they connected with and you were the conduit for that. And so, um, my, my wife, thanks you very much. So this is one of her favorite, favorite pieces that we own. 

[00:13:17] Lauren: Wow. 

That is a huge honor.

[00:13:19] Marissa: How would you say, you know, you were just sharing with us about you’re seeing your dreams.

You want to then have this creative expression in this great example that you talked about with your, your work here on Josh’s living room wall. There’s probably other ways that you’re manifesting these dreams through your work. This was sort of a literal construction. It was in your mind. Um, so can you share how you unfold and unpack and explore the dream that you’ve had through creating and manipulating images?

So what’s that process like of manipulating and how do you, how do you change an alter that works, that you’re creating. 

[00:14:02] Lauren: A lot of times, I feel like it starts with kind of, I always called them like fixations, you know, it’s like, there’s an idea. Sometimes it starts with just a pose that I, you know, like usually it’s some awkward semi-creepy body configuration.

I’m like, I don’t know why this, this needs to, I don’t know. I need to do this. Um, Yeah. And, but my, my process usually is really playful on the front end. And so it starts with like an idea or kind of like a rumination. I mean, whatever you want to call it, it’s, it’s something that comes to me that I can’t seem to shake very easily and it’s intriguing and I just need to explore it.

And so I, I kind of start from there and build out. And a lot of times, uh, I have to ask myself questions like, okay, if I am going to move my body this way, What is the narrative? What does that make me feel? What story could that tell a lot of times, you know, as anyone who’s a photographer, especially if you’re in to like photographing people, there is always the problem of what do you do with your hands, you know, and solving little problems like that along the way is like the most fun part.

I feel like little surprises happen along the way. I was just trying to solve those problems. And then you get to the end of it and you, I just kind of sit back and try to figure out, okay, so what does this mean to me? You know? Cause I’m not always… The meaning of something is very rarely like on the forefront of my mind when I’m creating it, it’s usually more or less like just following whims and your gut instincts and seeing what comes out and then seeing how that resonates with you.

Um, and kind of like Josh said, like I’m just amazed, probably the most fun part to me is seeing how other people respond, even if it’s negative, right? Like, Why is it negative? What’s that bringing to the surface for you? And for me, like, so I’m Enneagram seven, but a lot of my friends say that they think of more of a four, which I do relate to a lot.

Um, and four is kind of like the haunted soul, right. I think as humans, we long for deep connection. And so when I see somebody react negatively, I kind of want to dive into that, you know, like, Hey, why, you know? And, and some of that comes from the fact that I’ve learned Brene Brown says, yeah, all the time, but like, it’s hard to hate up close.

So like, if you can like get some context, I find so many times that there have been people that have been like deeply offended by something that I put out. And if I have the chance to build a context for them of like where that came from. So much of that is alleviated and they’re like, oh, okay. Or, you know, just having that conversation of like, why did that not sit well with you?

You know, and finding the stories. And that kind of, I guess, brings me to a little bit of that, like trauma piece, you know, we all have trauma in our lives and creativity can be an outlet for kind of digging in deeper. And kind of unworking that a little bit. And so any of those conversations are always really fastcinating to me.

[00:17:26] Josh: I love how you speak about your work in your artist’s statement. This exploration has become a platform, which I move through areas of brokenness playfully, exploring the wilderness of the heart space and fostering a deep connection with my audience through conversation. Most people avoid the very thought of sharing their, their brokenness. But you, you embrace it. I’d love that you, you want to move into there.

You want to live in that space a little bit and explore. And I almost feel like it’s taking that brokenness and not just saying, oh, this is a painful thing or something, but there’s something that I can render and redeem from this. My question is, is there an example of how art has helped you navigate through one of these areas of brokenness that you can share with us?

[00:18:13] Lauren: One of the things that I feel like really was shocking to me when I started into this process was when I had to abandon kind of who I wanted to be for the creative expression that was innately in me. I discovered a lot about myself and I had to, it was a little uncomfortable and not a little, it was a lot, it was a lot uncomfortable.

I was really afraid, um, of what that would look like to other people, what would they feed into maybe falsely or even accurately about that and who I am, but ultimately it was the most freeing experience. Truly. It’s really funny too, because if you’ve listened to me talk at any point, you might’ve heard this story, but the first piece I put out was desert flower and it’s the one with figure and the red dress, and she’s holding a cactus in her lap and she’s got hair covering her eyes and it’s kind of like this ominous.

I don’t know, almost foreboding presence. I feel like, but it felt powerful in a way. And I put that out there and I had done nothing else. Like it, I mean, it was like a complete 360 turn from like, well, let me say this. It was a complete departure from anything I had done previously. And it felt the most like me, the most authentic.

And I had a friend text me after I released the piece. Like, like two days later, it’s just like, Hey. You Okay? Everything all right? Like actually I’m fantastic. Not just fantastic. I’m freaking over the moon right now. Cause like I felt like I had finally tapped into something that had been dying to come out for a long time.

And so, um, Yeah, wanting to recreate that process meant that I had to dig a little deeper, get a little bit more uncomfortable, see what would come to pass. Um, and so, but it’s interesting to me because I’ve already said this and I don’t mean to be redundant, but, um, my process looks really playful on the front end.

You know, a perfect example of that is the suitcase piece, which I call “Baggage” where it’s a figure shoved in the suitcase. Um, I was actually getting ready to go on a cruise with my grandmother and I needed a new suitcase because our other one is falling apart. So I went to, I think it was like TJ Maxx and bought this like set of suitcases and I’m wheeling them through the parking lot.

And I’m like, as I, you know, it’s one of those, that’s got the spinner wheels. So you’re you feel like you’re walking a dog. You know, and I’m wheeling this thing through the parking lot and I’m like, I wonder if I can fit in that? That’d be an interesting photo. So I went home and, um, you know, started putting it together and challenging myself to fit into that suitcase.

And I mean, my neck was a little sore for a couple of days, but what was ultimately interesting to me was how it, um, unraveled. And the editing process. I had really no preconceived ideas about what it would look like. Um, and honestly, like I’m going to take a big rabbit trail here. Cause I feel like I’m in the living room with friends.

[00:21:25] Josh: Right. Go for it.

[00:21:26] Lauren: And one of the things, so I come from a faith-based background and a lot of my work is very spiritual in nature to me. And so to answer your question, I feel like. It’s diving deep, but also having that anchor. Um, and for me, that anchor is faith, you know, cause if you dive too deep and you don’t have an anchor, you know, you can get easily lost in those spaces.

And so it’s important to have something that you can kind of, I guess, lean into a steadying force with that said, one of the things that I really wrestle within my work and in art and in general, coming from, um, a very conservative, evangelical background is the presence of nudity in art. And so I actually wanted the fakers to be butt-ass naked, but I couldn’t at that stage.

And really even presently, um, I, I don’t really feel the freedom to do that for a lot of reasons. And that’s a question I’m often asked because I use myself as a figure, obviously, you know, I have myself, I have my kids to think about, you know, I’ve got my husband to think about, and then I’ve got my audience to think about.

And they really, unfortunately, they come last for me because the work of art, I think for me is such a spiritual thing that. They need to come last, you know, it’s between me and my creator. And then I take that to my husband. And I’m like, how do you feel about this? Anyhow the point is I ended up in underwear and tank top and I think it really worked out for that photo specifically, but that was one of the things that I wrestled with in the process was should this figure be nude because I wanted her to be nude anyhow, and I just come back to the suitcase piece. So here I am shoving myself in a suitcase and there’s, you know, pieces of like crumpled up paper.

And one of the things that I encountered when I set the suitcase up, so it was shot in two parts. The first part was with the suitcase up against the wall and the flap of the suitcase kept closing. And so how do you solve that problem? Well, I have these rain boots. You know, they fit kind of like the color palette.

So just stick those there and then started to shove and paper in there. And I photographed it and then I laid the suitcase down and then shot over the top so that I could crawl in it. And it was a challenge and I didn’t have a remote trigger at the time. And so I was crawling in and out like three or four times setting a ten-second timer.

And yeah, it was a challenge. 

[00:24:02] Josh: Running over there and squirreling yourself into a challenge.

[00:24:06] Marissa: Yeah. That’s like a Minute to Win It task. 

[00:24:09] Lauren: So, uh, it was an interesting process, but ultimately when I put it together, like the mood that was set from that, um, I don’t know like it…something rose up in me, it was really uncomfortable. And I just realized there was so much to unpack, pun intended with that piece.

Um, and for me, it’s, you know, half of the fun of creativity is diving into those places when something strikes a chord and just trying to figure out and take that. You know, to my faith place and trying to figure out what that work is, what needs to be done here. And ultimately, one of the other questions I ask is like, how long does it take you to create a piece and then release it?

Or, um, a lot of times the question comes in the form of, um, how do you present yourself so vulnerably? And really what it comes down to for me is that I never release a piece before I have taken it to my faith place and process that because if I can come to a place of resolution or peace in that space, then it doesn’t really matter what anyone else has to say.

[00:25:19] Josh: That’s good, that’s really good.

[00:25:21] Lauren: So, and sometimes that takes. It’s usually a lot shorter, I think than people think. But sometimes it’s a day, sometimes it’s a week. It’s not usually more than that. 

[00:25:30] Josh: Yeah. I really liked the fact that you like to go in and explore the, maybe it seems like darker areas. It’s not really for you. If it’s someplace that you know that, oh yes, I still have home base, but that gives you the freedom actually to go deep into the, some of these things that could be very destructive for someone or are very in truth, they’re very destructive because they don’t go into them and it’s okay. You have a safety line, you have a safety line out. And, and I think that that is interesting because I feel like too many of us today either are diving blindly into the darker parts of ourselves.

And not, we don’t have a safety line back or we’re too scared to dive into those things and unpack those things. And for me, it’s, it’s art is always where the hard things are. Where the broken things are. That’s where the best art comes, the best art doesn’t come from having all the freedom and all the golden paint that you can.

It comes from having limitations and you have this thing stirring inside of you and then, but then you still have to make it, but you don’t have a perfect world and it comes out. And when it comes out, it’s more beautiful than ever could be because of going through that filter and actually going through the hard space instead of trying to drive around it.

[00:26:50] Lauren: Yeah. Well, even from a practical standpoint, I love how you touched on, You know, not having the perfect setup, you know, or all the parameters that you need to create something, those challenges that we face on the creative side, um, the problems that we have to solve in order, because so often what I miss about like the earlier days of creating conceptual fine art is that.

I had a lot more restrictions and limitations, um, in terms of equipment than I have now. And man, those challenges are your friend. They’re so uncomfortable and man, it, sometimes it just pisses you off, but it’s the working around that that creates the most incredible magic truly. Um, and so yeah, I actually have had to come to a place where I’ve been intentional about trying to, um, be okay with having limitations. How do I solve that problem? Because I find that as much as it would be nice to have all the best equipment and everything that you need, like, what does, what do you gain in that in terms of being creative? If you have everything that you need, then it’s no fun.

[00:28:07] Marissa: Right. And I think, you know, we’ve talked so much about what the medium is that you’re working in and how, but I’m really curious. Why do you create?

[00:28:16] Lauren: Hmm, that’s a good question. So I have a tagline and this is one of my favorite parts and I’ve kind of stepped out of this world. Temporarily. I hope to get back to it.

Cause I love encouraging other people and like getting started and building creativity as a business and helping them hone that, like that is a, that’s a passion of mine. And I can’t really do that right now, but my tagline, the thing that I always tell people, and I think it’s important that as creatives we’re able to like have a tagline.

Right. So, because here’s the thing. I still occasionally am a church-going individual. When I step into a church and show somebody my work, which granted doesn’t happen a lot very often if ever, but when it does happen and it has happened, um, I get some interesting looks and you know, you’re talking about the church world.

They’re, you know, they’re not the most, um, not usually there are definitely some faith circles that I run in that have man an open door to creativity. There are just phenomenal in that bridging for me is like, sends me over the moon, right? Like art and faith together. I mean, it’s my favorite thing. I think it’s important for people who are not familiar with creativity to be given a context.

There are a lot of people out in this world who, and I personally believe that we were all born creatives and that, you know, that’s kind of hammered out of us. Most of us as we get older, but so you’re dealing with huge parts of the population that are not familiar. They have not delved into art and creativity in a long time.

So they may have a hard time instantaneously relating to the work that you put in front of them. So if you can give somebody build context and a picture, um, I think that’s incredibly important. I love, love, love coaching people on how to do that. Not that I’m an expert, but it’s really fun. And it’s very life-giving to me to do that.

So. In a very long-winded roundabout way of answering your question. Um, I create for the purpose of moving through brokenness and cultivating community and the process through conversation. So well, yeah.

[00:30:32] Josh: Well that’s funny because that is that’s one thing that we’d landed on when we started Rally is cultivating community through creativity and, uh, that’s that’s before whenever I saw it was some interview when I was researching for the podcast that you mentioned that I was like, Hey, Hey, so, uh, for us, just for us both it’s like creativity is off the charts important. And it’s, it’s one of the top things up there for both of us. Uh, but community just edges it out a little bit, because if you don’t have, if you have creativity without community. You’re probably just an asshole. 

[00:31:12] Lauren: I love it. That’s often true. Unfortunately. 

[00:31:18] Josh: So can you briefly share with us your origin story? How did a Wylie fire department intern in the year of 2000 end up as a nationally recognized artist speaking at conferences and leading virtual workshops in their media 20 years later?

[00:31:33] Lauren: Oh, that’s a loaded question. I love it. Uh, man, Wylie fire department that takes me way back. You calling me old?

[00:31:45] Josh: Oh no, I think I’m older than you so…by quite a bit actually.

[00:31:47] Lauren: That is a fantastic question. And let me tell you, I feel like I have grappled with that question for about gosh, probably 15 years. I could not like I couldn’t place the two, so, interesting thing happened. My origin story when I was 16, I won’t say what year it was, but when I was 16…

[00:32:17] Josh: What music were you listening to?

[00:32:22] Lauren: I liked Bush. A lot of Bush. Um, yeah. Okay. So when I was 16, I was in a really bad car accident. I had gone out. It was like, it was actually the first time my oldest brother had invited me to like, hang out with his friends and I was stoked and we went out to like Chili’s or TGI Fridays, or one of those, like, chain restaurants or something and had a great dinner.

We were on our way back and I rode with one of his friends. And, um, I have like a few little memories about what happened, but in a nutshell, we were making a left-hand turn and we got hit broadside and I took the impact. Um, and the driver was going at least 50 miles an hour. And the gas tank ruptured and I was, my clothing was covered in gas and, uh, that actually was told to me later.

And yeah, so I have a few little like freeze-frame memories of what took place. I remember kind of opening my eyes and feeling something wet on my face and the car. I had a piece of glass, like a little tiny shard. I say tiny, probably about the size of a pea, a lodged above my right eye and a broken collarbone because the impact was so great that the car actually began to the metal began…I have pictures of this… began to tear like paper. So it was pretty intense car accident. The anchor for the shoulder harness on the seatbelt got pushed back behind my seat and all the way to the driver’s side of the car, which is what broke my right collarbone. Anyhow, I woke up in the back of the ambulance trauma naked, as we say.

And, uh, they cut off my favorite Lilith Fair t-shirt I was so mad. Yeah. Because, um, you know, I was in my teenage angsty years and it had a pair of boobs on it. And it was like the only, I was like, my mom’s, you know, she doesn’t want me wearing this, but, it’s got boobs on it! You know, like rebellion, but there’s boobs! Anyhow.

So yeah, I lost my favorite Lilith Fair shirt that night woke up in the back of the ambulance. They took me to Parkland hospital in Dallas, which is the level one trauma unit. And, you know, it was interesting. Just a rabbit trails, all the rabbit trails. I’m sorry, Josh. You can edit these out. This is what we’re here for the, uh, Um, you know, back in like, I guess it was late nineties, um, there wasn’t as much talk about concussion.

So like they like released me the next morning. Yeah. Which, I mean, obviously I’m fine. I’m a functional human. Great. Thank you. Um, well, Hey, easy there now. Um, it’s just interesting to me that I was released so quickly. It was quite a traumatic day. Uh, But anyhow. So in the recovery process, I just kind of became really enamored and curious about, you know, the ins and outs of like, what, what took place, you know, like emergency medicine, what a cool thing.

Waking up trauma naked in the back of an ambulance at the age of sixteen being incredibly confused. I remember they were asking me questions to figure out my level of consciousness and I couldn’t answer them. And I remember getting really angry because I knew these were dumb questions, but I couldn’t answer them.

Like I couldn’t have told you who the president was. And I remember asking about the driver of the vehicle, but I couldn’t remember her name. I just remember saying. What about the other? What about the other? I couldn’t even like form like an intelligible sentence anyhow. So moving forward, I just became really enamored by that.

Um, you know, the idea of like helping people and their worst moments, you know? And so I felt really well cared for by the EMS professionals that helped me in that scene. And so I began kind of exploring my options. I was, I think I was going into, or either in now I was going into my junior year of high school after that.

And there was like a career program. And so I started exploring that as an option. And so my senior year in high school, there was a career development program at my high school. That was kind of like a new emerging concept. I think they all have them now, but they had, they offered me an internship with a fire department in Wiley, Texas.

And so I joined that. I did that for the duration of my senior year and a little bit during the summer and also through my healthcare science program. They selected me amongst six or five other students to go to EMT school. So I got my EMT certification at the age of 18 graduating high school, and I loved it.

Like I was pulling some serious hours on top of high school at the fire department and loving every minute of it. And, uh, but there’s a problem here and it’s a problem that still exists because one of my peers is kind of in a similar situation where we’ve got these kids that are coming out of, sort of are being certified at the age of 18.

And not many places will hire them because supposedly, and I’m using air quotes for those listening, that insurance won’t hire them to drive an ambulance until you’re 21. And as an EMT and an ALS unit, meaning advanced life support EMT is or basic life support certified. And they do a lot of the driving or at least they do on advanced life support calls.

So, I couldn’t get hired anywhere. So, and my parents wanted me to get a four-year degree anyway. So I moved on, um, I was gonna do nursing as a major. I started out in nursing and then my, where were you at 911 story? Yeah. Um, I failed anatomy and physiology. My, I failed my lab that morning with like a 34 and I had studied for days leading up to that.

And it’s a hard course. Anyone who’s taken the course will tell you, in fact, I just finished A&P 1 and A & P 2 these last 16 weeks. And oh my God, it’s hellacious. It’s awful. Anyhow, I failed it about morning on 911. I got, I went to lab, failed the test. I came back. I was in the elevators and some dude in the elevator looks at me.

He’s like, have you seen what’s going on? And I was like, no, what’s going on? And he’s like, go turn on your TV. So he did. And that was the morning of 911, anyhow. And so I was still certified and I, I remember. Watching this on TV and thinking I could go, I could go and help them. You know, like in New York, like dig through rubble and stuff, and it was certified to do that, but my parents wouldn’t have wanted me to do that.

Anyhow, I stayed the course, but I decided that morning after failing that test that I no longer wanted to pursue nursing because it just didn’t line up. It wasn’t the emergency medicine route. And so I kind of fell out of love with that. And so what was the next best thing? Fine art. Right? Because that makes so much sense.

[00:39:25] Marissa: Plot twist.

[00:39:26] Lauren: Yeah. So it was interesting though. Cause I had to walk by the fine art building for like every day on the way to class. It was right there on my path. And I remember just feeling like it called to me. I had basically no previous art experience whatsoever. So I was completely new to me and my dad was pissed when he found out that I changed my major, you know, it was like some serious family drama going on, but anyhow, yeah.

I decided to pursue fine art. And then I met my husband during that time. And then we got married and had kids and, you know, I just kind of, I lost all of it. You know, I decided to go the family route. Cause that was really the most important thing to me at the time. And so I had always kind of had it in the back of my head that I would go back to emergency medicine if and when it ever made sense. 

[00:40:18] Marissa: So I know that the pandemic brought about big changes in your life, occupation, and educationally, you reconnected with the spark you once had as a first responder. What brought about your becoming a nationally certified EMT and has that awakened another part of you? And if so, do you see any ripples of it coming to the surface of your creative process?

[00:40:39] Lauren: So when COVID hit, I mentioned this earlier, a lot of us created. Kind of felt this creative pinch, you know, or all of a sudden the things that we had gone to, to spur our creativity, to get inspiration were no longer present. And, you know, whether you forgot them or lost them or whatever, the case, like you just didn’t feel like your creative self.

And so I was kind of grappling with that, but it really kind of came at a good time for me because I was feeling burnt out as an artist because I’d been trying so hard to pedal fine art as its own supporting career, which man hats off to the people who successfully do that. And I’m not saying that I’m not successful.

I think you have to define success differently than monetarily, right? Um, I think that’s incredibly important to do, but at the time, success to me meant financial stability. And when COVID hit, nobody had that, you know, at least not in the creative world, um, or if you did awesome, but I didn’t. And so I kind of found myself, I was tired, tired of peddling for so long.

So I kind of took the initial shutdown is like this, oh, I’m going to take a break. That’s fine. Nobody cares. You know, and it kind of snowballed from there to the place where like the idea of creating something felt laborious and not fun. And I’d kind of lost the love of that, which is so important to have, like, you have to kind of maintain that otherwise, I don’t know, but it’s not good.

So. There we were, um, fast forward a little bit to, to September. My son started complaining of abdominal pain one night, and I still maintained a little tiny bit of shred of knowledge from my previous EMT certification. I started palpating his belly and notice he had rebound tenderness, which is indicative of appendicitis.

So took him to the hospital. Um, low and behold, not the right one for one that will operate on a child of the age of 12. So we ended up being transferred up to Children’s. And while I was on the back of this ambulance, my son was completely stable, not in a lot of pain. I started asking the guy that was in the back.

I was like, Hey, what’s it like working on the back of the ambulance? You know, tell me about this company. And so he did, I basically like interviewed him, like for a potential job opportunity for myself. Anyhow. Yeah, that was in September and January I was enrolled at OCCC and finished the program in May and decided to keep going.

So I’m currently, I’m in school, I’m in my third term for a paramedic associates and paramedicine. So I think that’s how I say that. I don’t even know, but. It’s really interesting to me, because for so long, pretty much all of my life until recently, I could not quite put my finger on how it is that I love creativity and love emergency medicine.

How do those two pieces fit? What the heck? 

[00:43:58] Marissa: What’s the overlap?

[00:43:59] Lauren: Like they seem like completely like diametrically opposed parts of me. And it took me some, a lot of digging deep, but do I figured out is that it really is an extension of the same heart. It’s like your right hand and your left hand, because I, as you heard me say earlier, you know, my purpose in diving into creativity is to move through areas of brokenness and cultivate community.

[00:44:28] Josh: That’s good.

[00:44:28] Lauren: When you’re on the back of an ambulance, you’re doing that very same thing. It is meeting people on their worst day, in their most vulnerable moment and building a rapport and a relationship with them and trying to stabilize them and being that calming, reassuring, stable force for them. As you are taking them to the hospital.

And that to me is like, it’s everything. 

[00:44:56] Marissa: Yeah. Wow.

[00:44:56] Lauren: You know? And so having that, like revelation kind of floored me, I was like, wow. I, I am. I feel like I’m right where I have always needed to be. So that’s pretty cool. 

[00:45:08] Josh: Yeah. That is very cool, do you see any ripples of that coming through your artwork yet? 

[00:45:13] Lauren: Oh, I’m sure. I mean, school has to be very busy right now, so I, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to have the space to create new work, but I have many ideas stirring, and I can definitely see kind of the heaviness that I have to shoulder in my job. I can definitely kind of see that as being kind of a, a creative river or force. Um, that will definitely play into my work. I don’t know what that looks like yet, but. I definitely see, see the ripples, as you say. 

[00:45:51] Josh: That’s cool. 

[00:45:51] Marissa: That’s beautiful. 

[00:45:52] Josh: I’ve heard you mention before about how you have to find your tribe.

One thing that I’d like to clarify on that, that really the definition of tribe is a social division of traditional society, consistent of families or communities linked by social-economic, religious, or blood ties with a common culture and dialect. Typically having a recognized leader. That’s the definition of a tribe.

And you’ve spoke to having to find your tribe and find your, another way to say as your community or your people. My question is what makes up your tribe and how do they encourage you? 

[00:46:28] Lauren: Hmm. That’s a good question.

I think that the key to finding your tribe or your community is really just is being authentic. You know, I think so many of us walk around and we feel lonely and maybe that’s something you cycle in and out of, or maybe it’s something that you feel the burden of all the time. Um, for me specifically, I feel like I did not find my people until I found my art. Which, my art was representative of my most authentic self. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still wrestle all the time with a performance mentality. You know, like the hats we wear, right. Or maybe not the hats, but the masks that we wear, it’s a constant wrestling match of like trying to figure out, you know, who you are and was I being authentic?

Was I not? Was I, you know, was I performing? Whatever. So finding the space of creativity to take off those masks and just dive into whatever came out. What I found when I was so afraid of, like the quite opposite happened. I was afraid of the people who currently knew me, well, rejecting me thinking, oh, that’s weird or it’s dark or spooky or whatever.

And what I actually found was like, I wasn’t rejected by nearly as many people as I anticipated being rejected by, and this whole other iteration of people kind of moving towards me, which was incredible. So, I think when you find like that space and that freedom to just be who you are and your most authentic expression, your community finds you and they find you in the way that they see themselves and what it is that you’re reflecting.

What I found was when I chose to express myself creatively in the most vulnerable way, suddenly I didn’t have to look for those people. They were just there. And that, that was amazing, right? Because loneliness is like this thing that feels like you have to try, like, if you feel stuck in loneliness, you feel like you have to try so hard to find relationships.

And what I found was, it was effortless. 

[00:48:58] Marissa: I was just really curious if from your tribe and your community and those that inspire you, who are three creatives that inspire you.

[00:49:08] Lauren: Oh, man. For a long, long time. One of my primary inspirations was Brooke Shaden. Um, she’s another conceptual fine artist. She is very successful in what she does.

Um, she, I think if you looked at my work and he looks at hers, they’re very different, but they’re also very similar in a lot of ways. Um, she probably the most encouraged me to really step outside of conventional boxes, you know? She’s so playful in her approach. And I was like, wow, it can be playful, you know?

Um, so she’s definitely one. Okay. This one’s a funny one. This one’s really funny. Um, Justin Timberlake kind of inspires me a little bit. Um, there’s a piece that I created after listening to his song with Chris Stapleton. Oh yeah. Yeah. That piece was it’s called Hydrated and it’s the one where a figure, it looks like she’s underwater.

There’s a fish floating by her head and she’s got like tape across their eyes. And, uh, anyhow, it’s just so the backstory, in a nutshell, as I listened to the song, I watched the music video. It was great. They’re moving through this space. It was super creative. I loved the way, um, the video had movement. Um, you know, and at first it looks like him just moving through this warehouse and then suddenly there’s Chris Stapleton and he’s moving through the warehouse and they’re kind of like moving in different directions, but they come together at the end.

And when they do, you suddenly realize. There are all these people that have come together right for this creative vision. And I thought to myself, I wonder what I would do if I had access to the same creative force, creative collective that Justin Timberlake has, so I was like, what would I do well, that building’s really cool.

I’d like to fill that up with water and do an underwater shoot, but that’s not really realistic because how would you seal up a building? To fill it up with water, you know, it’s a warehouse for goodness sake, right. Like, anyhow, but I was like, I can maybe Photoshop something to look like it was underwater.

So I did. And, uh, anyhow, so he was really inspiring to me. Um, I know good old JT. Madeline Lingle, um, is incredibly inspiring to me in the way that she writes. Um, so much about. Creativity existing, both in chronos time and then I think it’s kairos time, you know, the idea that it’s like, she tells a story about how, when she was little, like she was convinced that she could actually like float down the stairs without touching her feet on the stairs.

And whether or not, she was like a hundred percent serious in the book, you know, she mentioned that she actually believed that she could, and that, you know, as an adult, you know, she just has to maintain that belief that she was actually floating down the stairs for the sake of creativity, you know, and the idea that moving and creativity allows you to step outside of the confines and the rules of this world.

This like tangible world that we know. And she expresses that. And the way that, you know, ideas free flow, when you step your brain outside of chronological time or chronos time and there’s so much more, um, to her writings than that, but that was really inspiring to me because I think as creatives, if you’ve ever been doing something playful or creative and suddenly time’s up, or like when you’re a kid, mom’s like, all right, time to go.

And it’s that jarring feeling of like, oh, it’s over now. You know, like you have to come back to chronological time, you know, play as that place where time slips away and you have like… You have no cognitive knowledge of time passing and it’s gratifying and fun. And so anyhow, her writings, um, the way she talks about, you know, creativity and how it flows like that is so incredibly inspiring to me.

[00:53:39] Marissa: What does cultivating community through creativity look like to you? Or how would you like that to look in the future? 

[00:53:46] Lauren: Um, well, COVID aside. I would like for it to look like this right here, more often, this is so fun. Um, gatherings in people’s living rooms, um, community looks like to me, well, I’m an extrovert, so I mean, it’s pretty, pretty easy to say, like, put me in a room full of semi like-minded and I use the word semi because you don’t have to think exactly the way I do.

We just have to have a common thread, a common, exciting thread, and then I can build on that for days, you know? Um, so something like this, you know, just gathering of people’s homes. You know, outside of that chronos time, right? Um, eating good food and talking about things that inspire us. I mean, it is unbelievably life-giving to me, that’s community and even providing a space to dive into harder questions.

You know, I think over food and good drink, you know, those conversations can be fielded in a very casual way. If we can talk about things below the surface, you know, that to me is at the crux of building community. So I want more of that. 

[00:54:59] Josh: You can see Lauren’s work in person at Lively Beerworks during regular taproom hours from January 8th through March 5th, or you can come hang with us and Lauren on February 19th from 7:00 to 9:00 PM at our artist’s reception at Lively.

Check out her work on her website, www.iamwonderandlight.com And follow her on Instagram at @IAmWonderAndLight. Find this information and other links mentioned on this podcast in our show notes for this episode at our website, Rallyokc.com

[00:55:28] Marissa: And of course, we want to thank our audience for listening, please like subscribe and share this podcast, if you enjoyed it. You can follow us on Instagram at @Rally.Up.Okc. We hope to join you again soon on the next Rally podcast. Cheers.