Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty-one Years of Service to the Student


Beauty is Underrated

The Recital Hall is silent aside from the hum of the projector and the students murmuring in their seats.  The screen above the stage glows with the vibrant hues of a red, potted plant; swathed in sunlight, the image presents a stark contrast from the bleak winter landscape outside of the Fine Arts Building.

“I always like to start a presentation with beauty, because beauty is underrated,” said Sharon Louden as she rose from her seated position on the stage steps.

Louden wears many hats: artist, advocate, educator, and book editor. Her new book The Artist as Culture Producer: Living and Sustaining a Creative Life, is a compilation of essays from current artists on how art extends beyond the studio. Louden’s previous book tours have taken her around the country, spurring engaged conversation and discussion in the art community.

Louden’s focus is on sustainability in the art world. This means artists helping other artists to create connections in their community. She networks within her personal sphere to aid her fellow artists, and spends time each day writing “Thank You” notes to those who have aided her, both personally and professionally.

In addition to this connectivity, Louden stressed the necessity of personal initiative for aspiring artists. “Eighty percent of the things I’ve done in my life have been cold calls,” she said, citing persistence and bravery as the key ingredients for getting one’s foot in the door of art galleries and museums.

During her presentation, Louden shared samples from her life’s work with the audience. “I’m an artist not beholden to media,” said Louden. “The media serves me.”

Louden utilizes a variety of media in her work, including painting, drawing, sculpture, and animation. She moves in and out of different media within a single piece to capture movement and light.

She began her work in painting, but at the Yale University School of Art, Louden grew bored with the constraints of canvas. “I wanted to paint the inside of figures and dissect them. I would think of them as architecture,” she said. This evolved into Louden’s later work with 3D form and sculpture.

Louden’s “Windows” aluminum installation (Courtesy of Sharon Louden) Caption: Artist and educator Sharon Louden (Courtesy of Sharon Louden).

Louden’s “Windows” aluminum installation (Courtesy of Sharon Louden)
Caption: Artist and educator Sharon Louden (Courtesy of Sharon Louden).

Louden’s sculptures take a variety of forms.

“I’ve had a big romance with aluminum for the past seventeen years,” she said with a laugh, showing the audience her reflective aluminum sculptures that capture light and harmonize with the space in which she constructs them.

Louden also enjoys working with phosphorescent paint in her sculptures. This glow-in-the-dark material charges when the lights are on, and then hums electrical blues and greens with the flick of a light switch. A few times a year, Louden leads workshops called “Glow Towns” where children get to use the phosphorescent paint to create glowing mini-towns of their own.

Being an artist means many things to Sharon Louden, but above all, she emphasized that regardless of profession “don’t be a taker. Be as giving as you can. Don’t hold on too tight.”

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Beauty is Underrated