Lauren “Lola” Hémard is a multi-craft artist, educator, and naturalist from New Orleans. Patterns in nature and energetic connections have been the main guiding curiosities behind her art-making.
Ben Usie is a musician, songwriter, and performance artists who performs as Bruisey Peets. Usie leaned into visual arts as mental health therapy during the pandemic lockdown, thanks largely to the influence and encouragement of Lauren Hémard. Usie explores the blending of sci-fi, fantasy and existential capitalist dread with a dose of clownish whimsy.
Lauren and Ben practice turn-by-turn collaborations and encourage everyone to create art.
Who makes up your art circle?
Ben: We live by the clown zen mantra that “everyone is my collaborator.”
Lola: Our close friends who inspire us in visual arts include but are not limited to: Olivia Perillo, Katie Kut, Summer White, Vanessa Degrassi and Julie Odell.
How do you expand your art circle?
Ben: Lola’s career as an arts educator allows her to constantly expand her art circle. My comitment to community-buidling thru music and arts events is my main avenue for expanding my art community.
Lola: At times I tend toward introverted ways of processing and making art, with bouts of energy for the outside world. Having a strong, inspiring circle, and a collaborator/muse in Ben, pushes me to expand and share and bring things forth. I am so grateful for the creativity catalysts. The seasons of life also make themselves apparent, and I try to embrace cyclical aspects of creativity, productivity, rest and gestation.
What value do you see in having a creative community?
Ben: Creative community keeps me alive! The world is so brutal, but creative community creates safe-spaces that must be protected as much as possible. I’ve seen different scenes come and go through the years, but a phoenix always rises from the ashes.
Lola: Just like nature needs a vibrant, diverse ecosystem to thrive, artists need creative community, and the community needs artists! The more visibility and infrastructure there is in place to support artists, the better.
How does your artistic approach contribute to your community?
Ben: No matter what medium i’m working with, I make sure that things arent too polished or hierarchical. We both promote and encourage a folk art mentality that anyone could and should create art. We like to encourage new and diverse voices.
Lola: I always feel compelled to preach an egalitarian, universal approach to art making. I work with kids and encourage a process-based, exploratory, no-judgement way of creating. Through this practice it has become clear that the same approach is necessary for adults. Many have had that outlet stifled early in life and really need and deserve that encouragement toward creative expression. Collaboration is a great way to break through the fear of creating because it alleviates the pressure and creates something the individual collaborators could never have created on their own, and that can be applied to so many aspects of life and society.