Laurén Brady


Themes of wandering through various environments, loneliness, solitude, and transience surface within the drips and thick swaths of paint to create and obfuscate.


Laurén Brady is a visual artist, writer, and educator based in Lansing, Michigan. She received her BA in Studio Art with an emphasis in Painting and Writing at Indiana Wesleyan University in 2013 and recently earned an MFA in Studio Art from Michigan State University in May 2019. Her work has been included in several solo, small group, and national juried exhibitions and has been awarded artist residencies with Golden Apple Artist Residency, The Sable Project, and La Macina di San Cresci. Laurén currently is working as Development Manager at REACH Studio Art Center and is an Assistant Professor of Art, Fixed-Term at colleges in mid-Michigan.


Dwelling is to live in. To think, write, or speak of a place, a memory. It is a conscious lingering that is innately present and past.

My current body of work explores landscape and memory by looking at the emotional and psychological attachments placed on daily events. Themes of wandering through various environments, loneliness, solitude, and transience surface within the drips and thick swaths of paint to create and obfuscate. Charcoal and pastel carve into the surface as indelible vestiges and soft echoes of pine forests, shorelines, architecture, and cast-off objects. These mundane memories are painted with tenderness. The objects, often discarded fragments, are precious and intrinsically tied to a particular location. Their meanings are heightened in retrospect becoming place-holders for particular experiences. Within the works, imagery slips and sinks; on shelves, plants removed from the earth shrivel as a memory that fades. Color and form fragment across the painted surfaces, punctuate in moments of clarity.

Through abstraction, expressive mark-making, and layering, the paintings are intentional meditations on daily life and an attempt to understand and hold on to the liminal. The works expose shifting and moving in the present; the things in process of losing and the things that are lost. My work seeks to pause, acknowledge, and reflect on the everyday through tendency and tenderness, reverence and reverie, memory and memorabilia, storage and stories.

River Finds - oil, pastel & charcoal on panel - 2019

Can you discuss the formal and conceptual use of texture and body within your paintings?

I typically begin each painting with a loose drawing or glaze. As I continue to build the surface, thick swaths of paint obfuscate and reduce imagery. I am always working between the parameters of how much to reveal through representation and how much to conceal and thinking about how this relates to memory. Texture is inspired by observation and ties back to source material. What does the ground feel like, did a heaviness hang in the air, and how can I convey this through paint and mark. Different textures also create spatial differences. Drips sink back on the picture plane where paint applied with the palette knife rests on top. The push and pull on the 2-dimensional surface is similar to the push and pull of the triggering of an episodic memory. An example: I was walking my dog a few days ago and smelled smoke and dirt and the faint sweetness of flowers in bloom. This combination immediately recalled a memory of walking down a hill along olive groves and an abandoned school to Greve in the Chianti in June 2018. Tactility in my painting is another attempt at recalling the sensory of a memory.

Beach Walkers I - oil on panel - 2019

How are themes of longing, solitude, and transience communicated through your work?

Anonymity is a through-line in my work. I reduce and abstract the images as much as possible while still leaving enough detail to convey a feeling and atmosphere. Figures are obscured, often appearing as drips and a single brushstroke—their surrounding environments more vibrant. In Beach Walkers I, three figures move imperceptibly along the shore, passers-by in the plush and saturated landscape.

For me, solitude is always grappling with the necessary solitude needed to meditate to make my work and with the solitude felt from the transience of moving regularly for most of my life. In many ways, these works are glimpses as I walk through and pass by. The gathered objects and paintings are tangible ways that I attempt to cling to the liminal and to rely on the landscape as a source of comfort and resilience.

Yearning - oil, pastel & charcoal on paper on panel - 2019

Can you tell us about your use of both legible and illegible text within some of the paintings? What value have you found in the conflation of image and script?

I studied studio art and writing during my undergraduate studies, where I initially considered these two mediums as separate creative processes, parallel tracks that didn’t intersect. But with time, I discovered similarities between the subject matter of my fiction writing and my painting practice, how the use of metaphor and reduced language was present in both. Two years ago, I began combining the written space with the visual space.

In my work, text becomes image and texture, embedding into the dense paint. Words sink into layers or rest above, dripping down the surface. Poetry has the ability to capture simultaneities—it can convey sound, rhythm, narrative, sight. Words can express duality, two places, two feelings, at the same time. In my paintings, the words sometimes become indistinguishable from brushwork blending into the imagery; other times carrying the meaning themselves. Text occupies physical space and also contributes to meaning. Words are suspended in bell jars, similar to the objects hovering in vitrines, the layering of paint, charcoal, and pastel on the two-dimensional surface.

And, writing is just personal. The marks and text you see in the work are my handwriting. The words are taken from my original writings and poetry that I scrawl into my sketchbook or small journal—using cursive to jot down a particular experience, noting my current environment and sights, sounds, smells, and feelings. Fragments of these words on the painted surface add a layer of intimacy to the works that merge spaces and memories that sometimes become overwhelming for me as I work through a piece. I’m fascinated with how the dense texture of repeated sounds in a poem, or heard in nature or daily life, can contribute to the rhythmic harmonies in an abstract painting.

Huddling - oil, pastel & charcoal on paper - 2019

Your color palettes are quite energetic and attractive, but the work itself addresses serious and personal concepts. Can you elaborate on the complementary nature of formal elements and meaning?

Where my work highlights daily experience, I use color to imitate the way that memory imprints or “stamps” on the brain. The more sharp or vivid a color, the more vivid the experience in retrospect. The drawings carved into the paint signify the indelibility; the softness of washes suggest the floating, fleeting, and disjoining that occurs with distance.

Color and composition emote. Personal concepts filter on the surface through mixing palettes that are appealing while adding a texture, mark, or unexpected color to disrupt the reverie. I use placement to personify inanimate objects and let figures drift into their environments. A wiry, feeble, pink plant stretches above two buckets left behind that sink into the soil; bottles become stand-ins for living in close quarters with strangers. I pair what I observe with what I feel and use formal elements to process and expand the story.

No one was home - oil on panel, found objects & moss on shelves - detail image - 2019/20

Tell us more about the staging of 2D and 3D components within your installed bodies of work, in particular, the relationships built among different media within a single exhibition.

I’m a collector. I am always on the lookout for inspiration for potential paintings as I walk, hike, or travel. Latent and tentative finds such as discarded items along the road or noticing the posture of a weed as it wavers in the wind, become catalysts for narratives to revisit in the studio. I am intrigued by placement and proximity. The way glass bottles huddle together in an old cardboard box, how a cigarette butt nestles and hides underneath plants along the river, a chunk of an orange traffic cone buried under sand. These are moments that cause me to pause, stand still, and linger. And so I take a photo, or pick up the object to bring back to my studio.

No one was home - oil on panel, found objects & moss on shelves - detail image - 2019/20

In the exhibition space, the 2-D and 3-D components complement one another and contribute to the overall narrative. Shelves filled with jars, moss, small paintings, and personal and found objects act as physical remnants of the past. Uncovered, gathered and collected from particular locations and experiences, the objects now act as reminders. These often aged and weather-worn finds, like a crinkled and painted can, broken piece of pottery, tell a partial story. Though fragments, they remain particular and intrinsically tied to a place. Plants kept under vitrines evolve when enclosed, shrivel when exposed. Cast-offs and detritus are protected and placed prominently.

My paintings are similarly an act of unearthing—the works revisit landscapes, relationships, and emotions. The density of the paint is similar to the dust and dirt on some of the objects; color palettes echoing the tints and tones of river glass on a tray. My process is a negotiation of adding and taking away and the physicality of painting with the projection of emotion to reflect the essential experience of the memories meditated upon. I leave clear poignant moments and blur other details. Just like the objects I discover on the road, I hope the viewer pauses and reflects on my paintings, responds to what is present, and notices what is absent or unclear.

These two bodies of work convey the combining, disjoining, and specificity of memories in an attempt to hold on and to remember.