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The Personal is Political

by Lauren Whipple
Holy Spirit, oil on canvas, 2022, 16″ x 20″
Holy Spirit and its corresponding poem was created in response to William Blake’s “Holy Thursday”poem from his 1789 book of poems titled Songs of Innocence. Visualizing my personal experience with religion as someone raised in the South, it appears to entice with beautiful undulating transitions of color: promises of hope and acceptance. While some may embrace this seemingly pristine landscape or run from it, others simply give up. They submit their autonomy to those above them. It is a lost battle for some, and it confuses and hurts both them and others.

Poem (Holy Spirit)
Since birth I have been
For perfection
To take the bright beam of light
shrouding me in white
until my eyes go dark
And continue the cycle
of peril
to save myself
I’ve been running from salvation
And now
Before the Fall, oil and pastel on canvas, 2022, 60″ x 72″
Before the Fall is a take on “what would you tell the younger version of yourself?” How do you possibly prepare them for the trials and tribulations of life? The landscape is scenic and idyllic, a representation of the future. Yet, the future sometimes holds horrible secrets that one does not want to uncover. It’s a delicate balance of protecting fragile naivety, yet knowing you cannot shield the innocent forever.
I Can’t See the Color Red, oil on canvas, 2022, 36″ x 48″
I Can’t See the Color Red is about getting trapped in a promising situation that seems impossible to get out of. This once alluring cave is now dangerous and suffocating; how do you get out of a place where you once thought you fit in? It’s a battle between you and the environment now, where only one will be triumphant. Yet, depicting such a situation is a victory in itself.
Holly Leaves, oil on canvas, 2022, 60″ x 72″
Holly Leaves explores the disconnective relationship many women have with their mothers. The saying of “you’re just like your mother” often prompts a response from women that they “don’t want to end up like their mother.” Our mother is the first feminine role model we have as a child; she is everything. She is the world. However, what happens when we learn that the world isn’t perfect? Grief is often what occupies us in this situation: the loss of a parent, a guardian, as well as the loss of a child, an extension of yourself. Both parties are affected by the dynamic, yet no solution can mend what has been broken.


Lauren Whipple is a painter based in Johnson City, Tennessee who is currently learning how to paint at East Tennessee State University. Focusing in figurative oil painting, she has a primary interest in exploring gender issues and sexuality in her work through her own personal, feminine experiences. In addition to having work shown around the East Tennessee area through group exhibitions and public art, she also has curated exhibitions within the region as well as conducted art-historical research dissecting contemporary pieces that explore the heavy subject matter of sexual trauma. She hopes that through her work, the difficult conversations regarding these issues are had with the ultimate goal of representing and helping those who are affected.


I explore issues of discrimination, abuse, and neglect as it relates to gender and sexuality through autobiographical experiences from growing up as a woman in Appalachia. With a mix between tight rendering and energetic brushstrokes, I create heavily emotional pieces that portray the unreal realities that many women face today, a space they occupy that feels as if it shouldn’t exist but does, frequently referencing places and objects that exist in the real world, yet not quite being it fully. They are psychological as well as physical spaces for women, including myself, to exist in. I also use the figure heavily in my work since the body is a device that all can relate to. It’s what makes us human, and it allows for those who have not occupied these spaces before to empathize with those who have. I use vivid colors to portray the different feelings that consume me and other women concerning these issues of gender and sexuality, and I aim to give a voice to the voiceless within our region.