INTERVIEW AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY CARLOS DETRES
Part of the reason why I started this series is because of the joy I have in watching artists work. All of these portrait sessions give me a very small glimpse of the creative lives of people, often strangers, who have been kind enough to let me into their world. Local painter, Lauren Begent, was no exception.
I brought over a six pack of beer and we sat down on the floor of her 7th Ward studio, smoked cigarettes and discussed art -- especially the surrealist movement of which she and I are both inspired by. I was there for approximately three hours on St. Patrick's Day. She's an energetic, kind and generous person who has had her share of ups and downs in the last year. Her energy and experiences, as you'll read below are painted into her work.
Do you remember the first painting you ever made in which you felt that you had discovered your personal style?
There have been a few distinct memories of discovering my personal style, which of course continues to evolve over the years. The most distinct would have to be January of last year. After not having painting for nearly a decade, one of my favorite collaborative artists and inspirations, Ian Prowess, put a large canvas in front of me. It was a piece he had personally made with remnants of memories and sketches he had done. He wanted me to cover up this representation of his "old self", and turn it into something beautiful. Within a few short hours, a woman's portrait and multicolored abstract dreamscape seemingly flowed through me. It was such a powerful few hours of clarity, as if a switch had turned on. Ian actually took a timelapse video of this experience:
How would you describe your work?
For years throughout the various arts that I have worked in, it definitely feels like my style is constantly evolving. I would best describe my paintings as a combination of surreal portraits with abstract layers of geometric shapes, poetry, and chaos (of course). A lot of my process in discovering my style has branched from my hand painted clothing company I have been building for some years now, Methuselahs.
Where did the name "Methuselahs" come from?
I found the name Methuselahs partly for my fascination with nature, with it being one of the oldest trees in the world. When searching for a name that felt represented me and my work, I found inspiration from the band San Fermin -- with one of my favorite songs being called "Methuselah". It seemed kismet.
Which books and people have inspired your work?
I find myself hungry for new muses and stimulus- including the tattoo arts, painters, music, live performances, and various literature. Some of my favorites would include the painter Jeffrey Vincent Parise, Tom Robbins' Still Life with Woodpecker, Steven Pressfield's The War of Art, Tobacco and Leather, and Android Jones.
You’ve mentioned that re-discovering painting has helped you through traumatic moments. When this first happened, what was that feeling like?
Relief, surprise, and elation- a very interesting combination that seems to therapeutically change for me often. I firmly believe that art is one of many ways we can put forth our shadow, or darker parts and memories we tend to pack away into our subconscious. Allowing these memories and feelings to take form has been incredibly healing, and been a positive way for me to express both my manic and depressive states of being. Often, people who struggle with mental health issues or traumatic events can feel incredibly broken and isolated. Sometimes we never quite feel whole again. Painting has become a way for me to attempt at putting the pieces together in myself, and hopefully acknowledge and help to transform the suffering that so many of us share.
There is a lot of geometry in your paintings. To me, a sign of structure amidst the curvature of blowing hair and faces. What’s your attraction to geometry and how does it relate to your work?
I feel that the geometric aspects to my work add a sense of groundedness and structure. For me, this is crucial as I am often inspired by visions in my dreams, and feel that I am often in a near hypnogogic state when I working on a piece. I have always had a fascination with finding patterns in my mind and surroundings. I think the combination of these two different worlds seems to make my work feel balanced.
Is there a painting project [series] that you’d like to do? Can you describe it?
I'm currently invested in continuing my "Haunted" series- a series of portraits portraying the aforementioned "shadow" or darkness that so many of us share and often attempt to hide from the public eye. I am holding fast to the idea that there is so much beauty to be found in our fragmented selves, and I aspire to create art that depicts the strong and persevering characters I have encountered see themselves in a new light.
How can people find you and view your work?
You can view my work on www.methuselahs.us, and also find my hand painted clothing on www.methuselahs.etsy.com I'd also like to mention a special thank you to Hellbent Leather, who I happily am blessed to share the lovely studio space pictured.