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Archive for Thursday, August 6, 1998

LAURA JOST USES HER ART TO MAKE A CONNECTION WITH THE COMMUNITY.

August 6, 1998

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Lora Jost doesn't really have an answer to explain why she asked her friends to tell her stories about some period of perseverance in their lives.

But like most things in her world, those stories eventually showed up in her mixed-media collages and scratchboard drawings and led to ``Weathering the Storm,'' an exhibit of about 20 works opening Monday at the Lawrence Arts Center, 200 W. Ninth.

``What I hope to get at in this artwork,'' Jost said in a recent Arts in Action interview, ``is to reveal perseverance as a process, to honor individuals' stories by making drawings that capture moments in the stories, to reveal perseverance as a multifaceted theme, to try to create an installation of drawings which encourages a sense of empathy and interconnection between people, and to reveal perseverance as involving everyday drudgery as well as courage and strength.''

Jost has arranged the works in her exhibition into groups based on stories with similar themes of perseverance. The groupings include:

  • Bad jobs. ``The Dog Bather, a mixed-media collage with cutouts of different breeds of dogs, images of rubber gloves and song lyrics, is based on a job Jost had at a dog grooming business where the music of the Indigo Girls played day after day.

Also in this category are the mixed-media collages ``The Devil Went Down to Putt-A-Round'' and ``Urban Cowboy at Putt-A-Round,'' based on stories told by her brother, Scott, about a job he had during a hot summer at a miniature golf course. Business was slow and the ``Urban Cowboy'' soundtrack played over and over on the radio as well as the P.A. system at the golf course.

  • Physical endurance. ``Volcano,'' a scratchboard drawing, was inspired by a friend's tale about scaling a volcano in Guatemala after almost giving up when she grew tired and winded.
  • Illness. ``M.S.,'' a mixed-media collage and scratchboard drawing, is based on a woman's story about how she perseveres multiple schlerosis by reaching out to others to help alleviate their burdens.

This grouping also includes the ``She Knows She's Alive'' series, three scratchboards inspired by the story of a friend who endures the physical and emotional roller coaster of endometriosis, and ``Sometimes I Write Poetry,'' based on a story by a woman living with brain cancer.

  • Learning by mistakes. ``The Old New Computer'' is based on her mother's attempt to learn how to operate a computer, and ``The Leaky Roof'' is about a man's repeated attempts to fix a roof.
  • Protest and social change. After finishing graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, Jost moved to Bloomington, Ind., where she became involved in a campaign to get the city council to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to help low-income and homeless citizens. Her mixed-media collage, ``Picket,'' reflects the perseverance that it takes to effect social change.

Jost also will display a group of miscellaneous works, including ``Touch TV,'' a mixed-media collage and scratchboard about how she coped with moving to a town where she knew no one, and ``How Can I Keep From Singing,'' a scratchboard drawing that shows a Mennonite woman singing to the heavens.

Recurring images in Jost's works are hands; distorted, expressive bodies; people making eye contact; and people wearing miner's hats with candles that illuminate the darkness.

Sense of community

In keeping with her belief that the community can help individuals persevere in difficult times, she will be painting an image of a person in a rainstorm in each corner of the arts center's Raymond Eastwood Gallery. Positioned around the image with be gloves, hats, socks and other clothing items.

``I want to ask people to bring used but usable mittens, gloves, hats, socks, boots and shoes,'' she said, explaining that the clothing will be donated to the needy to help them ``weather the storm.''

``It's a metaphor for bringing together the community ... and in rough times to promote that people are not alone. ... It's not about giving a handout, but how as a community we might assist individuals and the community as a whole to make perseverance possible.''

Future projects

Jost grew up in Newton, a small city in central Kansas, and understands the struggle small-town residents have when they see stores close and the population dwindle.

In September she will begin a residency at Glasco, a town of 500 people between Concordia and Salina.

``Glasco is a dying community and there's lots of closed shops,'' she said.

Still, the town recently established an arts council, which began looking for ways to use the arts to build a community-wide sense of perseverance. So who better to tap for help but Jost?

``I will have conversations with the townsfolk, from young to old,'' she said, adding that those conversations would then lead to some form of artwork that will be displayed alongside her ``Weathering the Storm'' exhibit.

Also, she hopes to ``repopulate the town'' with body tracings on the town's buildings.

Jost's other plans include teaching a class this fall at Washburn University in Topeka; writing project proposals with another Lawrence artist; and applying for a residency in a Minnesota farming community.

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is jbiles@ljworld.com.

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