This week we talk to artist Lauren Kate who uses art as a way to outlet her physical health issues and to express vulnerabilities in a way that surpasses other modes of communication.
Image description: a landscape image depicting a a detail of an expressive painting of hands in bright yellow tones. On the right surrounded by a black frame is a rectangular painting of 2 distorted hands with curved fingers. In bold white and black on the right side reads Clara Bolle. The bottom right reads @laurenkatefineartist.
Can you tell us yourself and the artwork you make?
I am a multidisciplinary artist whom uses art as an outlet for my health issues as well as document the ongoing journey that these issues bring. My practice is a journey in many ways. Not only am I documenting the health issues and the good and bad days that they bring, I am also sharing a journey that, I think, many others can relate to in some way. My aim is to bring to attention these “invisible” illnesses and conditions.
What themes and concepts do you try and present in your work?
In my work, talk about the truth of life with chronic illnesses, including the good and bad days. There’s still a stigma around chronic illnesses and I want others to be able to feel like they aren’t alone in the world. We all experience things differently but there is still some way that connects us when talking about these issues. Just being able to express my own frustrations and experiences with these issues.
You describe your work as being a way to express vulnerabilities. How do you go about achieving this?
Sharing bad days, whether that is physically, mentally or both. We are used to hiding away when things are difficult but I share moments of pain, like post surgery and filled up with gas making my abdomen completely bloated, crying in pain on the bathroom floor, images of myself without any retouching or makeup. Sharing reality, things that people may go through. There was a moment, after my first surgery in 2019, that I didn’t want to share (even though I had documented it) because, in that moment, I felt like another woman being completely ignored and dismissed. I felt like it was all in my head and I just gave up on everything. It took some time for me to grasp that this is what, women in particular, go through. You are just ignored to the point of wanting to give up. It’s painful and I want others to know that there are people who will take you seriously and help you find the answers.
Lauren Kate, Hormone Treatment, Screenshot, 2020
Image description: a screenshot of a phone alarm showing 3 times for hormone treatment repeated everyday.
Within your artwork you use a variety of mediums. Why do you choose to work in this way?
I find that the use of multiple mediums helps me to communicate certain topics. There isn’t just one way in which can help communicate this, some things are that “n the moment” where I end up using my phone to capture it or a polaroid to really capture a raw moment which is usually filled with pain and/or emotions. There’s also an overwhelming amount of letters that I collect and scan to show the amount of appointments and reminders that get sent to me (especially after the COVID pandemic started). I find it difficult to express what I’m feeling sometimes, I write in a journal a lot and all share those entries as part of my practice or sometimes put them together in blog posts if I want to share certain experiences with the world.
Would you agree that your work is very biographical in nature?
Yes, my work is very biographical in nature. After all, it is a documentation journey of certain aspects of my life. However, there’s also a lot about my life I do not include. Really, my work is a small snippet into my life but hopefully something that will help others, even if it’s just helping others feel less alone in their own health journeys.
Do any artists or areas of research inspire your work?
Artists Mary Kelly and Jo Spence have played a big role in inspiring my work, and how it’s developed, over the past couple of years. Kelly’s work, Post Party Document, pushed me forward into taking and collecting more documentation of my health journey, which helped me on a personal level also, and get a better understanding of what I was/am going through as it can be difficult to grasp these changes. Looking at Spence’s photography work has allowed me to understand how and when I can use photography to capture and document aspects of my life. This has mainly been used as part of my health journey in moments of time when I’m unable to use any other form of medium - capturing moments after surgery, for example.
Lauren Kate, Post Op, Photograph, 2020
Image description: a phone photograph depicting the artist standing in a bathroom wearing a hospital gown. The gown is raised above the stomach displaying post operation scars.
What one thing would you like to change about the art industry today?
With the sudden impact of COVID-19 has your practice had to adapt or change to the new circumstances?
My practice hasn’t necessarily changed because of the impact of COVID-19, other than not being able to use the university studios, but there’s been an impact on me personally which I have expressed within my work. There’s been an increase in hospital letters and information leaflets. I had an overwhelming amount of letters in my pre-op package so most of my documents from 2020 mentioned COVID-19 in some way.
Your work often involves methods of documentation. Is this way of working an integral part of your practice?
Documentation is a key aspect of my practice because it helps to communicate the everyday aspects of life with chronic illnesses and conditions. There’s good and bad days to chronic conditions but it can be very difficult to communicate how the bad days really go. For instance, when someone with a chronic condition says that they cannot get out of bed, it means that they cannot get out of bed but those who do not have conditions interpret it as a “lazy day.” The documentation helps to show how overwhelming having chronic conditions is in an already overwhelming world.
Lauren Kate, Laparoscopy Healing, Polaroid, 2020
Image description: a polaroid depicting the artists body front on, cropped to remove the head and lower legs. She's wearing a cropped top sowing her stomach showing the healing of post operation scars.
What projects have you recently been working on and what will you be making next?
I’m currently in the middle of completing my Master’s degree in Fine Art, which is what most of my work is going towards. There are some projects that I am currently planning but they currently can’t be disclosed but there are multiple possibilities of projects I am already thinking about.
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.