Lauren O'Neill is bringing new styles and perspectives to the Scenic City's art scene
Until four years ago, Lauren O’Neill had never referred to herself as an artist, though she has been involved with the arts for the entirety of her life. She finds that the term “artist” does not seem to feel like a true profession, however, she is becoming more comfortable using the word to describe her since art is a subject that many are beginning to appreciate.
O’Neill is a self-taught artist with a degree in Theatrical Design and Technology from Louisiana State University. She has taught art history to both children and adults, creating projects with them to further their understanding of the material they were learning.
She states, “Teaching allowed me to really deep dive more into art and I was able to spend a lot of time practicing at home.” It was then that she decided to take what she had practiced and made it available to the world.
Originally from Southern Louisiana, O’Neill finds joy in the colors, rhythms, and stories that surround her. Illustration is one of her favorite ways of creating and has recently begun a series that stars Cajun, African, and Caribbean myths and legends. Photography is another facet of art that catches her eye. After viewing photos from a book or even from an antique store, she loves to imagine the individuals within them in a situation, allowing her to feel as though she is part of their story. Also drawn to patterns, she finds interest in the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements, frequently referring to Gustav Klimt’s works as inspiration because of the softness of his portraits and his incredible textures.
In separating herself from other artists within the Chattanooga area, she is sure to make texture the main focus of her creations. When she started painting, she was intent on making her canvas color with high intensity then adding a piece of colored tissue paper to it.
Recalling that her high school art teacher once told her that her work needed more texture, she thought she would “be sassy and go full-on obnoxious texture.” Although her teacher meant that she incorporates the elements of art (line, shape, form, etc.), she liked what she had created and began to further experiment with layers of textures and colors.
“I have stacks of paper that I’ve created with nothing but odd textures, colors, and marks on it because these are all my starter pieces for something I’ll put a story on.”
Having lived in Chattanooga for a year and a half, O’Neill is beginning to understand and figure out the flow of the arts community. She volunteers at Scenic City Clay Arts and is in the docent training at the Hunter Museum of American Art. Finding greater joy in creating and helping arts programming, she hopes to do just that while also working with individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities, much like she did in Louisiana. Aside from that, she is excited by the bold murals painted on various buildings across town and hopes to take part in the creation of one eventually.