by Sherry BonDurant, writer for The Artery
Alaura Megan Seidl is one fascinating and busy creator and community activist. Alaura is an artist, founder of ArtWrite Collective, and teaches at the University. She even found time to hike the Appalachian Trail. Alaura has a lot to share, so let’s get right to it!
The ArtWrite Collective is an emerging organization of LGBTQ folks, folks of color, and womyn who are cultivating a resilient community through art.
This initiative is already doing so much–ArtWrite can’t be fully captured in one sentence! Our strategies for cultivating a resilient community include: creative youth development, activist artist development, and public aesthetic diversification. We support artists who support our community through anti-oppression work; we collaborate with local organizations in order to celebrate our community and catalyze change. Keep an eye out for summer art shows and projects around Dane County, WI!
So one of your pleasures in life is finding objects. What are some of your favorite “keepers”?
I believe that art, writing, and creative expression should be accessible for everyone in our community. This means that everyone has access to creative education and materials for creation. Often, people assume that means we need expensive gouache or fancy easels, and that absolutely is not the case. Creativity surfaces when we move, in conversations with friends, or through experimentation with the everyday objects around us. Lately, I’ve been obsessed with finding traditionally domestic objects, objects that have been discarded, or objects with visible history—ultimately, I project my own identity and experiences onto those found objects by drawing self-portraits directly onto their surfaces with inexpensive permanent markers. Paper or canvas, for me, can be costly, intimidating, and truly boring—I prefer cardboard fresh out of the dumpster, cups no longer needed by friends, and plates that have been eaten off of by a stranger.
My favorite “keepers” have been antique or vintage mirrors. I don’t own a car, so, locating and hauling these heavy mirrors back to my studio entails a certain kind of physical labor; I once walked two miles with a mirror bigger than I am in order to get it to a private space for toiling. The physicality of the projects continue through the self-portrait-drawing process. I place myself in mundane or precarious positions and repeatedly trace the lines of my body that I see in the reflection. In this sense, I consider the mirror portraits to be performance pieces that explore ability, gender expression, and the boundaries between art/craft while implicating onlookers in my story.
I read that you will be teaching a new course at the UW entitled “Art + Social Justice.” Can you share a brief synopsis of what this class will be about?
Art 448 Lab 009: Art + Social Justice is a UW-Madison Art Department course in creative grassroots activism. Art + Social Justice is open to undergraduate or graduate students of any discipline and will explore counter storytelling as a tool for social change, develop students’ narrative aesthetic for anti-oppression work, and engage in community-based projects.
What piques your interest outside of the art world and finding objects?
I care about what type of society that young people are growing up in today. Dane County, WI has profound racial disparities that the public needs to critically and innovatively address with persistence—there are local groups who have taken leadership roles in shifting the culture of institutions and policies around us, and we need a larger wave of allies to acknowledge and immediately join that movement in order to see big change today and for the generations who will follow us. Research and personal experience also show that queer and trans* folks disproportionately experience food and housing insecurity, trauma, and other health disparities in our community and across the country. These experiences can’t be overlooked. My role in all of this starts with introspective reflection but manifests in community through youth partnerships. Through projects with the ArtWrite Collective, I’ve had the joy of collaborating with youth groups in order to celebrate the unique talents, experiences, and voices that make up our community but who may not always be heard. Individual voice and autonomy pique my interest. Waves of impassioned voices really get me going.
I’ve wanted to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail since high school but have had chronic back pain stemming from a wrestling injury that made me believe I could never do it. A series of fortunate upswings in my health and some serious financial planning ultimately allowed me to walk 1,019 miles of trail, see nearly twenty bears up close, and pee (a lot) in the woods for five months last year. Although a new injury ultimately took me off trail, the journey really allowed me to grow into my body. The body can be an especially funny thing for folks with chronic pain, for queer folks, and for womyn. For me, being inundated with feelings other than back pain (exhaustion, chafing, thirst, blisters) actually helped me refocus my emotional energy on my relationships and not on how much I may hurt—because in a lot of ways, we always hurt. I still struggle with chronic pain, but now I know that I can be sore at home on the couch or be sore at the foot of a stream, laughing with friends, checking out red spotted newts, and feeling ready for whatever may come. There’s a lot of privilege that comes along with that awakening, but I am forever grateful that the hike gave me the capacity to feel and exist beyond the physical limitations of myself.
Anything else you would like us to know about you or your work?
There is no way I could do anything of value without reciprocal and mutually beneficial partnerships. So many folks in our community are doing creative, thoughtful, and necessary work that I wouldn’t be able to name them all. Thank you to all of you doing the hard work in your intimate circles and out in public spaces. We need all of you.
You may contact Alaura by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Or visit her website: