Follow Lauren on Instagram at @ohlaurdyart and at her website at laurengourgues.com.
This is painter Lauren Gourgues’ senior year at SCAD, and she’s making the best of an uncertain time by continuing to be creative.
Gourgues draws inspiration from her hometown, Celebration, Florida, a town created by Walt Disney. The surrealism of that experience has provided her with endless inspiration for her work, which is also informed by painter Edvard Munch’s use of color.
Gourgues recently hosted an exhibition at Moodright’s with fellow painter Terri Harris, “Eye In Eye,” and she hopes to apply to residencies when it’s safe to do so.
We caught up with Gourgues last week.
1. This is your final year at SCAD, right?
This is my senior year at SCAD, and I was actually a transfer student from a school in Portland, Oregon called Pacific Northwest College of Art. This is my final year of SCAD, and now it’s online. It’s kind of disappointing, but at the same time, I think we’re all still trying to get things done and trying to get done as fast as possible so we can get a move on with the world—if it’s there!
This next quarter is going to be an exhibition quarter because a bunch of my classmates are supposed to be having exhibitions. It’s weird because there’s just been a lot of things going on throughout these past four years, hurricanes disrupting school time, then finally this happening. My classmates and I have had to figure out how to paint outside of our studios. Luckily, we were given studios senior year, but a lot more graduate [students] came in, so some of our studios we had before were taken by graduate students. We had to figure out a way to paint outside of the school, so I actually have a group of artists with me now and we rented out a space in City Storage and we’re all working in there.
2. How do you feel this situation challenges you as an artist?
We’re young emerging artists and we’re having to figure out ways of cleaning our brushes safely that’s good for the environment. We’re having to think about spaces we can actually work in and thinking a little more realistically about how we’re able to afford these spaces and think about ways of utilizing our time management and really trying to get into the studio as much as possible.
When I came to SCAD, I really had to think about a virtual presence. I was just so enamored with the physicality of painting that I didn’t really think about having to exhibit it online, especially on Instagram. Social media, in my generation, was supposed to be something that was social and now it became like a business. It’s interesting to see how that progressed as well, and having to rewire in my mind that Instagram could be a really good thing for my practice.
3.Where are you from?
I grew up in a quirky little town called Celebration, Florida. The weird thing about that space is it was created, curated, designed by Walt Disney, and the whole neighborhood is almost as if it were built upon a stage. That’s that basis behind my work: it resides along this idea of phantasmagoria where I don’t really understand the line between what’s real and what’s fake because I lived in a neighborhood that was teetering on fantasy.
It was interesting growing up in a neighborhood, walking around hearing background music and having the streets washed every night so they looked brand new, having tourists come and view the town. It felt like I was living in this sort of rehearsal.
That’s where my work comes from: me understanding how my memories and my relationships interact with life and how that is convoluted because I’m trying to figure out what’s honest and what’s not. I sometimes feel as if my memory is convoluted in lies because the way we recall memories are clouded with their own perception.
I think it got to me after a while. I think moving across the country and going to Portland, Oregon, for school made me realize there was more than what Celebration was outlying. Celebration itself is dystopian in ways—it looked perfect, but there are little tiny details in between that are weird. There were a lot of things that happened through my childhood that made me feel like the space wasn’t as perfect as people made it out to be.
4.How did you begin using your hometown as inspiration for your art?
I started in high school, but I was just playing around. It wasn’t really until I went to Portland that I started to think about where I grew up. There was this figure I would always draw in Portland, and in many ways this figure was an emotional puppet where I’d put all my feelings towards a certain situation. I still use this figure today as this protean figure or universal puppet that people can attach themselves to. When I went to SCAD, I realized this figure is something I’ve had my entire life, just visually I put him into action and it’s my emotional shadow self.
I get a lot of inspiration from Edvard Munch, especially in the way he goes about painting. There’s this quote he said: “My art is a self-confession. In it, I seek to understand what terms the world and I are on— ergo, a kind of egoism. Yet at the same time, I have always thought and felt that my art might also help others understand their search for sanity.” That’s how I feel in terms of how I paint, and Munch has always been that mentor of mine. In terms of color, too, it’s like he draws with color. That’s how I’ve looked at my colors, as drawing with color as a tool.
When I recall memories, I think it’s helpful to look back at this objective view. In many ways, having this omnipresent look at our lives is important to see our perspective on the world. The way I look at memory in this ubiquitous way, I feel it helps me understand very philosophical ideas about life. Looking back on a place that was fantastical and idealistic and having it not be that way, I think it sparks up a lot of ideas about the way we live, especially in terms of a virtual landscape and how, in many ways, that’s in the same realm as being a fantasy.
5. What do you have planned for the future?
I’ve been looking hard at residencies, trying to continue working with the same body of work. I would like to move away from Florida, but it very well could be I stay in Savannah for a while and continue my practice, have the storage unit for a little bit, and continue making a lot of work. We’ll see where things go after that.