I first met assemblage artist, Lauretta Lowell, at a small café in LaQuinta, California. Her art is whimsical, magical and at the same time intellectually challenging.  We talked about her artistic process and her life story; a story of courage, inspiration and artistic success.  I knew after our meeting that I wanted to interview her for my ongoing research for my book and blog Artists Narratives. Enclosed find snippets of our interview; I know you will find her life story and her thoughts on how to live a creative life inspirational.

Lauretta was influenced as a young girl by her stay-at-home mother who was also an accomplished artist and fashion designer.  Her father’s military career introduced the family to travel and adventure. Her early years living in Japan exposed her to folklore, colorful parades and imagery that can be seen in her unique assemblage pieces.  Lauretta was always an adventurer and knew as a young girl that she wanted to be an artist but felt she did not have the gift...It was her mother, she said, that had that gift and one that Lauretta would not receive until later in her life.

From the age of thirteen to twenty-six after her father retired from the Army, Lauretta lived in Hawaii, on the north shore of Oahu.  Hawaii’s folklore, superstitions and spiritual activity would influence her life and art in a profound way.

How does folklore and spirituality influence your work today?
Lauretta:  In many of the places I have lived and stayed; Hawaii, Japan, Channel Islands, and Peru, folklore and spirituality are a very big part of the culture. In Hawaii, every home, hotel and business are blessed. In addition, there are many haunted homes in Hawaii, including our home that was built over a graveyard. There was a time, when I was 14 years old, that I was called to task by an evil presence there, in that home. I telepathically chose not to follow this presence and in the end the house had to be blessed and exorcised. Since that experience I have studied psychic phenomena in a healthy way, and I feel I am almost an expert in the subject.
Do you feel you now have spiritual sensitivity?

Lauretta:   Oh, yes, I have it strongly. I am an Empath (a person with the paranormal ability to sense the emotions, state of mind and health of another person) and I have had this ability much stronger since my tumor and strokes. I believe one can see the spirituality in my work, and while I don’t want people to be put off with my spiritual side, it is a big part of my art and part of my gift.

And, tell me about the music you chose for your video links? (See video links below).

Lauretta:  Oh Yes, I use French circus music because it is mesmerizing and like my work, should bring the viewer in… hopefully, making the viewer curious enough to want touch it… but…then again…. maybe not.

Have any viewers said they feel your work is eerie?

Lauretta:  Are you kidding? (Laughs) I use dolls and doll heads…some people are afraid of them.  But, they aren’t meant to scare, rather it should make you smile.

After Hawaii, Lauretta moved to Santa Barbara and had a career in marketing.  She traveled to Mexico and Peru and made Santa Barbara her home base.

In 1988 Lauretta was involved in a terrible plane accident.  On a family owned business photography shoot, their small plane stalled and dropped 50 feet.  The beautiful blue and white Cessna 180 plane was totaled and Lauretta hit her head badly, suffering severe nerve damage to her face.  Fortunately, everyone survived, but, Lauretta’s life would change forever.  For some reason, between the years 2001-2004 Lauretta began losing many cognitive abilities; writing, talking, understanding language and suffering severe vertigo. She knew something was wrong, but it would not be until 2006, after several small strokes that a brain tumor was discovered in the same place that she had hit her head in that plane accident years ago.  While this slow growing tumor was inoperable it was treated with radiation therapy.

What a stressful time in your life, I can’t imagine all you went through.

Lauretta:  Yes, there were so many things going on in my life at that time. Along with everything else, I had divorced an abusive husband, my father died, and I also gave a kidney to my brother.  My boys (Lauretta has 2 children) being boys..they didn’t see my injuries, so they didn’t really know what I was going through. I was all alone.

But somewhere after your radiation treatment you found assemblage art….you became an artist. After suffering so much, how did that happen?

Lauretta:  After the radiation therapy things finally were knitting together.  My vertigo was disappearing, and I felt better.  I started first with collage and then began collecting things. Actually, I always collected odd things. (A visit to her studio is an experience…jars, bottle and cupboards filled with metal pieces, doll heads, buttons and a myriad of objects…a fun place to be).

But it is so physical…metal objects and tools. How did you decide to do that?

Lauretta:  I learned how to build things living in Santa Barbara.  Many of my friends were carpenters and I was curious; I would watch them pick up tools and use them.  I didn’t know how handy this would become until later.  Also, after my accident I became a right brain thinker….my brain totally shifted.  So now, while I can’t read or comprehend well, and instructions may go in one ear and out the other, I can look at something and totally know how to put it together. I am all visual.  It was a dramatic change, everything became a picture to me.

What did this feel like?

Lauretta:  I felt like I was hit with a magic stick.  It was the gift I always wanted…the gift of being an artist.  There was no effort.  I was able to sit down on the bench and without having to think…things would just turn out.  Today I feel like I am tool of God. I don’t plan, I just trust my instincts that my hands will create art pieces  the way they are meant to be created.

Besides creating amazing assemblage art, Lauretta is a teacher. While guiding her students in the art process she is also teaching life lessons along the way.

Did your spiritual sensitivity get you through your long ordeal?

Lauretta:  Well there was a lot of prayer.  My prayers have always been answered.

So, faith is important to you.

Lauretta:  Yes, I know that I am blessed as I have made it through so many things.  I am also a strong woman and I believe I can do anything.  I am independent, and I have always had that attitude.   As a survivor, my wish is that every woman could understand that they can do anything they want…on their own.  Confidence in yourself is the important thing!

And this is what you instill in your students?

Lauretta:  I teach them a way of life.  All our lives we are told that there is only one way to get to the end of a project or one way to reach a goal.  We go through life that way and we don’t enjoy the journey.  So, with this form of art (assemblage art) I try to teach them to not plan their process out ahead of time.  I want them to show up with their collection of materials and treasures and let these objects tell  the student what the art piece will be come. To trust this experience (with my guidance) will be an success is amazing! The ultimate goal is to apply this to your life, TRUST THAT YOU HAVE THE TOOLS WITHIN YOU TO CREATE HEALTHY CHOICES, AND YOU WILL HAVE A SUCCESSFUL LIFE!

A life lesson…

Lauretta:  Yes, it is everything I learned from my travels and from my accident and recovery.  We take these tools we have, we sit them down in front of us and then just trust the Universe.  It doesn’t really take a lot of work.

I tell them go on…it will all turn out ok!

Lauretta doesn’t believe in routines.  “If she had a routine”, she said, “she would break it”.  I also heard that when your brain gets used to a routine it gets lazy. I want my brain to keep on its toes!! Never one who wants to feel caged in, she works when she feels like it and knows instinctively she can do it. She can’t keep up with the demand for her work which continues to surprise and excite.  Would she ever retire...could she live without creating?  “Never”, she said “Art, is what makes me want to live”. 

Experience the pleasure of enjoying her WHIMSICAL CURIOSITIES and take the time to visit her website, video links and galleries.  Better yet...take a class...there is so much to learn.




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