LAURA GUENIN

BIO:: I grew up in Marion, Indiana and currently reside in Indianapolis, Indiana where I live in a communal church house in Fountain Square. 

From the time that I was young, I can't remember wanting to be anything other than an architect. I studied architecture at Ball State University, but eventually switched my major to Graphic Design. Honestly, I don't know that I would have ever enjoyed trying to figure out how to make the structures that I designed stand, but I still lean toward tedious drawing/cutting and thinking about how people will engage a space. Now the landscapes that I work with are predominantly enlarged photographs.

Making the collages have specifically become a place of worship, meditation, and prayer for me. I believe in an infinite God who continuously reveals truth and I enjoy the hide and seek aspect of it. As a whole, I have always believed in a spiritual realm even when I wasn't actively pursuing Christ. Though at different times I have treated church with indifference and anger, it has become a place that I value and where I enjoy being (more on my faith)

My current art studio is in an old office, above the church sanctuary where I attend. It's next to a 100+ year old stained glass window of a giant angel and a few floors above the Know No Stranger clubhouse. 

I've worked as an art director, taught in the Fine Arts Departments at Ball State University and Taylor University, dabbled in fashion design, attended the Indianapolis School of Supernatural Ministry, and currently work at a public library where I have done grant writing and public relations work part-time since 2005. I design/paint/take photographs in my free time.


RANDOM FACTS:: I'm not sure that any of this is necessary but I hate how 'bios' and 'descriptions' can strip out all of the daily stuff that makes you human. 

  • I often listen to somewhat obnoxious cinematic music when I'm writing or painting/collaging. Most of the time, I'll switch the station or turn it off and act like it was never playing if I hear someone within listening distance of my studio.
     
  • I have a pair of turquoise '90s sweatpants that I wear at some point almost every day.
     
  • My bedroom, car, studio, and office are disastrously messy most of the time no matter how hard I try.
     
  • Most people make comments about the food that I eat because I like meals with lots of small portions of different things. I also will occasionally eat weird things like frozen peas and for the past several months have eaten the same breakfast almost every morning which my housemates want to Instagram daily (1 piece of bacon/ 1 egg/ 1 handful of frozen blueberries/ 1 piece of frozen very dark chocolate/ and whole milk). 
     
  • I have moved multiple times within Indiana and lived with close to 50 housemates from the time that I graduated from college.
     
  • I'm the younger sister of two awesome older brothers and the granddaughter of two farming families.
     
  • 'Guenin' is a German name that is pronounced like the 'Gui' in Guinness or [gin-in] or yes, Guenin Pig.
     
  • I'm a 'Marguerite'. It's my mom's name, her mother's middle name, her grandma's name, and my dad's mom's name. It's my middle name. 
     
  • I love to make friends weird cards out of recycled materials. Recently, on a whim, I decided to draw my friend a 29-legged squirrel for his 29th birthday. This led to a 38-legged hamster for a good friend's 38th birthday the following week and to dreaming about drawing other animals with multiple legs (I shouldn't admit this??). More than anything, I realized how much I love to draw and how much I feel at home at a kitchen table with some markers, pencils, and leftover junk mail that someone forgot to trash.
     
  • I read "People" Magazine almost every week. I'm not ashamed.
     
  • I don't attend or watch many sport events anymore, but I like them. My brothers are good athletes and I spent much of my childhood at baseball, basketball, and football games. I hated competing in front of people or otherwise I probably would have played as well. The gym is an extremely restful place for me. I like lifting weights and running (to a certain extent). 
     
  • Swimming is one of my favorite things on earth to do.
     
  • I would love to go back to Israel, especially the Sea of Galilee. I've never felt as much at rest as I did by that shore. 
     
  • When I'm thinking about a project or writing in my dream journal, I often write in tiny all-caps handwriting that I can barely read. 
     
  • I like the letters that mom sends me via snail mail because they almost always include one random newspaper clipping and a handwritten note on the envelope that was an afterthought.
     
  • I like to write (if you can't tell by some of the long-winded descriptions). I do a lot of administrative and grant writing for the library. I also have been working on a novel for close to seven years. I'm learning that I write creatively like I collage. I have several sections written that need sequenced. I'm praying for the time to finish it. I love days when I can write in the morning and collage in the afternoon. It helps me to be able to bounce back and forth between the projects.

FAITH + ART (HOW DOES MY FAITH AFFECT MY ART?) ::


Good Lord. That's how I feel about writing about my faith.

I just spilled hot tea all over my bed. I had balanced a hardcover book between a pillow and a pile of blankets; precariously set the tea on top of it and it survived an hour an a half before I deemed everything that I was writing as stupid and accidentally moved the blankets.

I'm not sure how many times that I have quit trying to write about my faith-- both as I was finishing up this site and at other times in my life. Mostly, I convince myself that it's unnecessary, that I'm making it too hard, and throw it in a folder. Recently, I realized it's simply what I do. I wrestle with my faith and I paint and I write through it.

I feel equally passionate and vulnerable about art and Jesus Christ. I manage to wad both up like thin gold necklaces and then work to untangle them. The time that I spend with either normally does one to three things for me: it quiets me; distracts me; or shows me something new so I keep doing it even when I don't feel instant gratification.

Sometime late last summer --maybe close to my birthday?, I drove out to the woods by myself because everything and everyone (including Jesus) felt closed off and I felt insane. It had been months since I had slept well; since I had dreamed consistently. The unrest drove me crazy. I drove all around the outskirts of Indianapolis one Sunday afternoon looking for a quiet field, a lake, trees --anyplace where I might be able to scream and not freak anyone out and found none.

The next Sunday, I was at the point where I just didn't care and stopped the car next to a woods outside of a Northern Indy suburb. All the boldness that I had initially felt left as soon as I got out of the car. I felt like I might be on private property, like I might be abducted, like my car might be hit or stolen, like I might I have gotten poison ivy climbing down to the creek. I was completely distracted. I was begging for something to break-- my voice or to see something or hear something, but despite a little bit of wind, the only thing that I felt was humidity and heat and I left.

That night, I happened to sleep well and dreamt that I was on a friend's shoulders. He was close to 8' tall in my dream. I told him, "No wonder you are so relaxed. You can see things from a completely different perspective up here." I realized that I was being asked, "Are you viewing things through a lens of hope?"

Then, not too long ago, I dreamed that a group came into evaluate a team. One of the guys took a girl named Hope to the ridge of the rooftop for dinner where it was quiet. The sky was a muted blue; the moon was full and looked close. He kept on bringing her to the edge of the roof which was extremely high to show her something new. This scared her, so he brought her down somewhat annoyed and told others she was a boring date.

I indeed feel like a boring date for hope. I love epic story lines; I love hearing people's stories; I love encouraging people to try new things. I don't think of myself as someone who always plays it safe, as someone who quits easily at things where I feel passionate, or as someone who is pessimistic but I'm realizing that I put up some large walls at times when it comes to trust.

There's something about the first chapter of Genesis where I can't always find a grip. "Then God said, 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.'" Genesis 1:8 (I collaged through this verse in my journal). I imagine heaven - the firmament - like an inflatable couch, a cushion or floatation device that is able to stay between. I want to arrange creation, heaven into little comfortable spaces like I used to arrange the inflatable furniture inside my friend's Barbie dollhouse but heaven is described as the "city of the living God" Hebrews 12:22-23.

There's freedom -- no end to it. That's what's uncomfortable. It's not a flat plane. So then I go back to writing and spilling tea on my bed and collaging with tidbits that I want to remember or look at more closely. The rainbows that I painted into several of my recent collages (--though I don't know that I was fully conscious of it when I was painting--) remind me of my first experiences with Jesus.

At age four, Jesus was very real to me. Whenever I was scared at night, I would go to bed repeating, "I love you, Jesus," to myself until I could see a rainbow. I'd climb it until I could fall asleep. Around the same age, I vividly remember running in the middle of the night by myself from our home to the Methodist Church that our family attended. I'm not sure if I had a dream to go there or if I was 'sleep walking' in some form, but I was looking for my dad. I ran across the field, looked in a window for him, and ran back home where my mom met me at the door in her nightgown and hugged me.

These stories make me feel weird. I don't think think that I've ever told my family about the rainbows. My parents don't fully remember me running in the middle of the night, but it haunts me because I can't remember leaving the house. I only remember running through the field and hurriedly touching the church. However, it's been the church where I have found breathing room to seek God and it was in that building where I got closer spiritually to my father in my late 20s, so whether or not I was being shown at a young age to look for my father there... I don't know?

I don't have any of it figured out and I don't ever want to ever come across as if I do. One of my biggest fears is somehow making dreams (both those that I dream in the night and hopes for the future) bigger than they should be. However, as a whole, I believe in a God that speaks. I believe in the Holy Spirit. I believe in His son, Jesus. I get more and more perplexed by His power and the health that is offered to us. It blows my mind to the point that I can't accept any of it at times. 

Then I'm brought back to the fact that I'm in a home that someone was able to figure out how to build, in skin that you can tug, scratch and that covers veins that look like the roots of tree branches, and I can see with eyes that also have rings like the growth rings of trees. This also blows my mind. Touching someone and them being healed never used to seem like an option but when I see lightning and I can see veins there as well and I read all of the promises made to us through Jesus' resurrection, I don't see much purpose in not asking for power from the Holy Spirit to bring life to others as well.

I also sometimes ask Jesus specific things before I go to sleep-- all day for that matter. Sometimes I feel like I'm answered; often not. I joke that my relationship with Jesus continues to be several conversations in the car. I accepted Christ by myself when I was 26 as I was driving to NYC. I often pray and talk to God when I'm driving alone. Sometimes, I'm not confidant enough to speak aloud or I question if I'm even being heard. I feel like I'm speaking in a vacuum or that I'm so small in a world that is so big under heavens that are even larger that I just shut up.

It's a ballgame... learning to believe that help is available; that I have a choice to stick my hands in muddy puddles where I see the faintest reflections of something beyond. Often, I feel like I swing and I miss, but I at least want to step up to the plate. 

For me, that means, sometimes literally begging for a pitch-- for help for myself or another or for some reminder of His presence. It means learning to take risks, getting over myself and learning that when I say, 'Good Lord,' even in exasperation and even when I'm or others are hurting, that it's truth. God is good. 

THE CHURCH HOUSE -- LIVING COMMUNALLY (OR TRYING TO...):: 

The idea of living in this home would have been awful to me a few years ago. 1). I can be a loner if I'm not careful 2). I didn't know --or want-- to learn how to use a cast iron skillet or how to garden or feed chickens 3). At the time I was mad at our church. 

I wasn't sure if I trusted the leadership, if I was valued, or if there was any purpose to organized church community anymore. I eventually left. A year later-- despite the fact that I was still mad and attending other churches, I felt like I was supposed to go back.

I was met with complete grace but I was scared to return and it was humbling. It was even more humbling a year later when I was offered a room in the communal church house next door. I literally feel like I came into the house crawling. I had been sick off and on for about a year and the idea of another move exhausted me.

I've been here for a full year now and most often, when asked about the house, I say, "It's healing."

There's currently three of us who live here and we help clean the church, host Monday night potlucks in the home, and often open the home to guests.

It's not a free ride and it's not always easy to want to be engaged in other people's lives or to wade through decisions together or to know how to best do simple things like share food or how to feel comfortable when there are people in the home who you don't know OR how to not feel some sort of obligation or weight as a representative of the church, but I feel completely spoiled. 

Overall, it's taught me that I'm not meant to be an artist who spends most of my free time alone. The neighborhood kids who are constantly running in the alley between the church and the house, leaving stuff on our porch, or talking to us through our kitchen windows don't let me. They and my housemates have become another family to me. 

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Indy Alliance Church is a Christian Missionary Alliance Church in Fountain Square. It started as a Bible Study in a coffee house in downtown Indianapolis in 2004. The former Methodist Church and the parsonage next door were given to our church for $1 in 2009. A married couple and three guys who attended the church originally lived in the parsonage (what we call 'the church house') and did a significant amount of work to renovate it.