Shellee: Artist, Mother, Free-Thinker
by Oscar Perez
Shellee Laurent, a Laredo artist, approaches the creation of art with no limits. She’s one mentally strong artist who knows what she wants to create and is not afraid to use any mediums that will bring her inspiration to life. I got a chance to meet up with her over a cup of coffee to talk about her journey in this art world, the obstacles she faces, the inspiration behind the work and her view on the art community.
Oscar: Shellee, so what are you up to right now as far as Art goes?
Shellee: I’m always working on growing as an artist, daily. Right now, I’m challenging myself to work on anatomy. I’m slowly trying different things and moving into installation/performance art. After 18 years of being an artist, I still learn every day.
When did art become a ‘thing’ for you? What’s your earliest memory?
When I was 8 or 9, I got introduced to David Bowie. Even though he was a musician, his creativity with makeup, music, and costumes made me want to question my own identity. Nature also played a big part. I used to spend a lot of time sketching trees and birds while growing up in Iowa. I even sketched dead animals.
Did you pursue art in school?
I did, it started in middle school, then high school and college. However, I don’t want to say school wasn’t for me but I don’t think I love learning in a structured way. I learn more organically. I’m always collecting hobbies. If I’m interested in something I pick up a book and learn about it.
What’s your style? What defines you as an artist?
I don’t think I can ever look in the mirror and say “I’m an Artist”. That takes balls. This is a hard one, however, I think if you create daily you are an artist. My style right now is more expressive, more thinking, more mindful.
How do you challenge yourself to continue developing your style? What’s your advice on that?
I think you should take at least 5 to 10 minutes a day to create something even when you don’t have the time. Work every day. It keeps your mind fresh.
What’s your preferred medium?
I can work with any medium; I really don’t follow the rules. I’m not tethered. I’m tethered in physical form but not tethered in mind, so I see opportunity with any medium. Whatever medium is around, will work. I’ve used everything from toilet paper to cardboard, even lipsticks.
What’s the biggest obstacle you have faced when it comes to creating?
Space. There could be times where you live in a shitty apartment and not have a studio. Some artists can’t afford a studio so you have to work from your kitchen table or bed. The obstacle has always been finding space. I overcome it by painting outside. The other obstacle is LIFE happening, you know, distractions happen.
Let’s spend some time on distraction. What’s the biggest distraction that keeps you from creating?
The biggest distraction has been me questioning my responsibility as an artist with all the things going on in the world. I ask myself if I should sacrifice my personal desire for the art I want to create and instead create something to address what is going on in the world. Being a feminist I feel responsible to speak up for women.
How do you move past the distraction?
Disconnecting from phone or TV has helped. I love being informed so I do watch TV but sometimes turning it off and disconnecting from that is more impactful. I have a responsibility to look and not look away, so staying up to date is important.
Do you have a routine for creating?
I usually have things organized for easy access. I separate everything by medium. I can say there is structure as much as there is chaos. I put my headphones on, play music and I’ll just focus on the work. Being a mom it’s hard sometimes to disconnect from my kids but they have learned to respect that time. I’m raising them in a way where they know that I respect their creativity time as well.
Where does your inspiration come from?
It’s going to get a little “Adult” right now. My sexuality. Tuning into my own sexuality inspires me. It derives from passion. I think passion is very important. If I’m admiring something, I’m invoking all my senses. I try to do that as much as possible. I think it’s important to talk about sexuality. It’s part of who we are as humans. Some of my abstract work is very sexual but someone may not understand it.
What’s the one art piece you created that has challenged you the most?
The very first art piece I created after a horrible heart break. I had not painted for two years at the time and I remember I was in my bedroom reading. I then looked at my closet, the clothes and lighting looked very ‘sketchable’ at that moment. I didn’t have anything to create since I had stopped creating art at that time. I looked for paper and I remember grabbing an eyeliner pencil and I started to sketch. That was the first art piece after those two years. I was afraid that I had lost the creativity. That piece came out very lovely. It made those two years feel like it was only one day.
Why did you stop creating for two years?
I got consumed with how I was going to live without him. I feel that ‘not creating’ was a penance for myself. I was young and took the gift [of creativity] for granted. I was consumed with the idea of flesh. I was about living life and doing whatever I wanted. It was hard. This made me grow the f*&* up.
Thanks for sharing that with us! What advice would you give a young artist who is just getting started?
For them to do their research. To understand what work they are producing and understand the demographic of people that are willing to buy that work. Get involved on social media. I would recommend starting there. Research and learn. Take risks. Life can be long and boring if you don’t.
Let me ask you about the art community here in Laredo, did it exist when you got to Laredo?
It was here but it was small and now it’s growing; there is a mixture of everything. You know, egos can get in the way as a community but as an artist you have to push past that. We have to realize we are all made out of the same material, we are all connected, so we have to respect that. I think right now the community is blossoming artistically. We’re all trying to help it grow.
That’s awesome! Tell me what’s your dream with art?
Just the capacity to be able to do it when I’m 80. For me it’s not about being famous or known. At the end of the day, the art is for me really. It’s for my sanity and my existence. I love to share it and love when people appreciate it; it is heart-warming. That’s it… To still be creating when I’m 80.
Shellee, thank you for taking time to meet with me today! I know your story will inspire others. Where can people connect with you and see your art?
Facebook: The Art of Shellee Laurent
Go follow Shellee on Instagram @leelaurent22 to keep up with her on this journey! She has big plans for 2018!