Lauren Phillips is a queer, autistic visual artist based in Kansas City. She frequently works with wood cutout acrylic paintings and sometimes experiments with other mediums like mirrors, neon, and digital illustration. Her work has been featured in solo and juried shows at Plug Gallery, Weinberger Gallery, Beco Gallery, and Interurban Arthouse, among others. In 2022, she was awarded an Inspiration Grant from ArtsKC and, in 2020, a Crossroads Artboard from the Charlotte Street Foundation. Her work has been commissioned by International Planned Parenthood Federation, VML, and Ripple Glass. Her work has been published in Frankie Magazine, Create! Magazine, Curious Magazine, and on The Jealous Curator. In addition to her art practice, she has been an art educator for the past 10 years.
Being raised as a girl often means being socialized to value romance and ignore the dangers of intimate situations. This can result in distrusting or blaming ourselves when situations become frightening or threatening. My work combines the visual culture of romance with eerie elements to create simultaneous feelings of power and vulnerability, allure and danger, and pleasure and panic. The pieces generate an all too familiar back and forth internal dispute, causing the viewer to scan supposedly safe environments for threatening clues and question themselves and what they are seeing.
When did your interest in art begin vs. when you began thinking of it as a career/life choice?
I’ve been interested in art for as long as I can remember. In kindergarten, my very cool, queer art teacher introduced us to Keith Haring. My little 5-year-old mind was blown and I fell in love with art, artists, and my art teacher. It took me much longer to take myself seriously as an artist and believe that this is a viable direction for my life. Growing up in my family, no one was an artist and any career path outside of the normal 9-5 salary was met with confusion and judgment. Just in the last few years have I begun to see that living my life as an artist is the right path for me.
What draws you to your particular subject matter?
I’m drawn to imagery that has a pop quality and is held with some amount of esteem. It is the most fun for me to play around with and warp or insert some darkness into. Imagery from femininity and romantic culture is so familiar to me and holds an association of comfort and excitement as well as darkness.
What interest of yours (outside of art) ends up influencing your practice the most?
The way I process my feelings has a big influence on my art practice. If I’m having a strong recurring feeling, often it will create imagery in my mind that I use in my work. In this way, my work is directly influenced by trauma and hypervigilance.
What is one piece of advice you wish you could give your younger self?
You deserve to be happy and being an artist is a big part of that for you. Allow art to take up more space in your life and allow yourself and your work to take up a bit of space in the art world. Just because your path is non-traditional and non-linear doesn't make you less deserving of opportunity.
What would you say is your biggest goal for this year?
One of my goals is to finish a new body of work for a solo show in November. I’ve also made it my goal to get more rejections this year. I’m hoping that will take some of the sting out of being rejected and encourage me to go after more and bigger opportunities.