Page 21 - The Noise August 2017
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The Science of Seeing The Dark anD The LighT The arT of Laura hineS
by jen TurreLL
Laura Hines started drawing early in life, but it wasn’t until working her first post-college . desk job, that she realized the desk jockey life was not for her. So she enrolled in the Natural Science Illustration certificate program at the University of Washington. That was when she really started taking her art seriously as a career.
“Science illustration requires research, thoughtfulness, and a deliberate approach in or- der to successfully and faithfully render a specimen or object for scientific use. You learn to really “see” your subjects for their general shapes and features as well as their finer details. I think this way of “seeing” allows me to create work that is both highly detailed as well as full of life and vitality. Although my work is essentially evolving away from this illustration genre, I find that zoology and biology continue to creep into my larger concepts, and I can’t ignore my love for animals. I think I create my best work when animals are involved.”
Four of the pieces that Ms. Hines is showing this month at Arts Connection in the Flag- staff Mall are from a series called “Anima” which she completed in 2012. In these images you can see her scientific illustrations skills at work. Some of the other works on display are based on nineteenth century daguerreotype photographs, re-imagined as illustrated portraits.
“I’m fascinated by images of history, particularly when the faces of the dead seem to come alive through sheer force of personality. When I look at these faces, the past suddenly doesn’t seem so distant, and while I can only speculate what their lives must have been, they inspire a whole history of memories and experiences that, for a moment, resurrect them from the oblivion of anonymity.”
The remaining work in the exhibition is from a newer series Ms. Hines has been exploring and which will be included in the “Nasty Women Art Exhibition” at The Hive in Flagstaff. Art and politics often intersect and it is interesting to see this presentation of important women throughout history who might have been called “Nasty” by patriarchal men who wanted to keep them down. Especially since the women that Ms. Hines has focused on so far are women who many today probably won’t know much about.
“I love early Hollywood history and silent films, so I chose to portray two iconic women of the silent screen, Louise Brooks and Anna May Wong. They were each strong, freethinking, and iconoclastic in their own way, conducting their lives and careers under highly repres- sive social, racial, and sexual circumstances. They bucked societal conventions and rebelled against the patriarchal systems of the time, especially the Hollywood studio system itself. They represent two nasty women out of many who I admire and respect. I intend to eventu- ally expand on this series, although it may morph into something less ostensibly political and more historical in perspective. I’d like to highlight more incredible women from the silent era, such as Josephine Baker, Marion Davies, and even a young Gloria Swanson.”
Feminist, humanist, science and nature enthusiast, Ms. Hines manages to express much of her personal philosophy and life outlook through her art.
“I would say that politics normally do not figure very much in my work, but as a science and nature enthusiast, artist, feminist, and humanist, it has become impossible to ignore the recent overt politicization of certain subjects that I once took for granted. For example: as inspiring as it was to see broad public support for scientists and scientific research, the very fact I felt compelled to participate in the March for Science makes me profoundly sad that the credibility of science itself is being called into question in the political sphere. Go- ing forward, I suspect that my political views will necessarily creep into what I do, although I can’t predict how they will manifest themselves.”
Looking on Ms. Hines website, one can’t help but notice that some of the work also has a darker, at times even macabre side. When asked about this she readily related her own struggles with depression throughout her adult life.
“I was diagnosed with chronic depression when I was 17. I didn’t truly deal with it until I was in my late 20’s, thanks to cognitive behavioral therapy and medication. Before I started showing signs of depression in high school I was extremely active in art and every creative activity imaginable. The depression truly took my creative spark away, and I didn’t consider returning to my artistic roots for many years. Perhaps I felt shame for my mental condition, and thought the best way to make up for it was to lead as ‘normal’ and traditional an exis- tence as I could. There was also an element of fear in making art, not just a fear of failure or financial instability, but also a fear of emotional access and introspection.
“Depression drained me of all hope and inspiration, which I think are essential to any cre- ative practice. It also left me lost in the world, unsure of myself or my path in life. Although I accomplished many things in my 20’s, it feels like a lost decade. I’m so thankful I had a supportive family and amazing therapist that helped me take the time and effort to finally break through the emotional and mental fog and bring my depression under control. It’s been five years since my last serious bout, and my art practice has helped me stay on an even keel. I think it’s a reciprocal relationship, where the depression severely curbs creative desires, but stoking creative desires helps to curb the depression.”
Many artists and creatives throughout history have danced a delicate dance with depres- sion and other mental health issues throughout their lives. Some have expressed the feel- ing that the art was either enhanced or came from the darkness itself, and others felt that their art saved them from being overwhelmed by it.
“Once you’ve sunk into an existential abyss, I think the darker side of the world stays with you, so while I’m essentially a happy and optimistic person, my interests and creative output lean towards the macabre. I think about death a lot, in human history and in the natural world, and I appreciate its weird beauty. Impermanence and the power of memory to resurrect the dead figure heavily in my work. I love that I can see the dark and the light of life; if I had never experienced the depths of depression, I wouldn’t have this ability, and I would be a very different artist indeed.”
The more people who have the courage to publicly speak about depression and mental health issues, the lighter the stigma will rest on us all.
So what’s next for Ms. Hines in her artistic career? This August she will be participating in the Flagstaff Open Studios for the first time. She also has a couple of small projects in the works, but accordingly, her next step is to focus on art and storytelling for graphic novels.
“I’ll be writing and illustrating my own projects, and I already have several story outlines in the works. My first foray into graphic novels will be an exploration of my family heritage in the US, combining photos, letters, newspaper clippings, and family folklore into an il- lustrated history that blends reality and fiction. I’m currently in the midst of researching the ancestors and stories that I want to include, and I predict this project will take a couple of years to complete. I am incredibly excited to tackle a new genre and stretch my artistic and literary muscles!”
You can see Ms. Hines work on display at Arts Connection in the Flagstaff Mall this month. To learn more go to her website at | the NOISE arts & news | AUGUST 2017 • 21

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