“You don’t realize when you are faced with death and you don’t have a choice. It changes your life completely. You see things differently. You’re completely open because you have nowhere to hide. I’ve been given a second chance.”
Looking at me through my computer screen, Menasha artist Karla Lauden professes the event that transformed her life and artistic practice. Lauden, a high school art teacher with the Appleton Area School District, was diagnosed with severe colitis two years ago, causing her to be bed-ridden and threatening to take her life. After countless tests, Lauden finally received answers, effective treatment and a second chance.
With degrees from UW Oshkosh, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Lawrence University, Lauden works primarily with collage and mixed media, creating artwork that explores new realities by piecing together found materials. Her work has been exhibited nationwide in shows at The Trout Museum of Art, Museum of Wisconsin Art, Charles Allis Art Museum and Columbia College.
But it wasn’t until Lauden faced death that she took ownership of her art. “I needed to make art for me. I realized all these years I was trying to do art through approval,” she says. “Now I’m finally making art where I don’t make any apologies.”
Lauden’s creative process has changed as a result of both her illness and current self-isolation measures. Walking around her home, she captures moments on her phone. After 40 years, Lauden learned how to combine collage, painting, and drawing, layering images and drawing around them to create her painting.
This new process has inspired her next project, called “Still Lifes/lives,” where she captures images from different time frames and overlaps them into a square Instagram frame. This new work represents Lauden’s infatuation with the conscious and subconscious mind.
“You have all these past and present stories playing out in your head. What artists are good at is bringing the subconscious out,” she says.
Lauden’s personal journey has influenced her desire to share art as story, connecting us all.
“My main message is to see each other. Pay attention. We need to tell stories. We need to tell personal stories. What’s wonderful about our era is we have so much connection, but we are still missing personal connection. My work is about revealing us.”
To view more of Karla’s work, visit karlalauden.com.