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Jane Marie Lauren welcomes me into her studio and I am enchanted–by the artwork to be sure, but also by the overwhelming grace of the willowy creature that creates these paintings. Like her art, Lauren is a juxtaposition: of beauty tinged with memories of pain; of the contemporary anchored in the historical. Perhaps most notable is the strength of spirit that emanates from both the artist and her subjects, whether the gilded, haloed face of a Lakota maiden or a sacred white buffalo nuzzling her newborn calf.

Lauren holds that we are unified by our common humanity, irrespective of race, culture or creed and has identified with the plight of North America’s indigenous people since childhood. Inspired by the iconic photographic portraits of Native Americans by Edward S. Curtis and touched by the personal hardship and loss Curtis endured to capture these images, Lauren was inspired to honor his work and his subjects through her own creative vision.

Utilizing a degree in Fine Art from Augustana College, Lauren has transformed many of Curtis’ ethnologic sepia-toned studies to larger-than-life canvases resplendent with vibrant color and shimmering effects. In doing so, Lauren seeks to reanimate these individuals with their spiritual natures. Often employing mixed media, she embellishes her traditional oil paintings with decoupage, gold leaf, dripping paint and other techniques to achieve her signature style. Lauren’s portfolio also includes earlier works reinterpreting authentic historical photographs of Japanese Geishas, introducing us to these individual women in a way that feels both intimate and honorable.

Lakota Maiden, by Jane Lauren. The original is in a private collection. A limited number of unique fine art prints on metallic “canvases” are available from the artist.

Lauren’s empathy for her subjects is powerful, born in part of her own personal hardships, including an illness that brought her to the brink of death, as well as surviving domestic violence.  Healed, healthy and joyful today, Lauren’s creativity is flourishing. In many ways, Lauren has transformed herself as she has the subjects of her artwork, with no less inspiring results.

Demand for Lauren’s work has inspired her to offer high quality fine art prints reproduced on aluminum plates (which invoke a stunning, almost holographic effect). Like a giclée, these prints faithfully reproduce an original work, but on metal rather than canvas or paper. This presentation feels über-contemporary and a trio of Lauren’s metal prints would be equally compelling in a modern Manhattan loft or as a perfect foil to the stone and wood of a Grand Teton lodge. Often limited in number and offered for specific works of art, high quality prints such as giclées or aluminum plates are affordable alternatives to an original oil painting.  A 12″ by 18″ aluminum print of Lauren’s Lakota Maiden, for example, sells for $250. Lauren also offers select works as traditional giclées on canvas (please contact the artist for availability).

Jane Lauren’s paintings of sacred white buffalo (also known as American Bison) elicit an emotional response wherever they are shown and provide an opportunity for Lauren and her collectors to support the conservation and care of these majestic creatures. This past December, Lauren’s work was shown in Sedona, Arizona in a “Celebration & Benefit for Conservation” which raised funds for the white bison and also the white lions of Timbavati Africa, an event organizers hope to recreate annually. Cynthia Hart-Button, Keeper of the White Bison, explains, “White bison are recognized by indigenous elders as sacred animals who carry a high spiritual essence.” Hart-Button was entrusted with the stewardship and daily care of a herd of fifteen white (and three brown) bison, which seem to defy statistics by producing a disproportionate number of snowy white calves, despite careful husbandry to avoid inbreeding (Hart-Button and the white bison were introduced to our readers in the July/August 2012 issue of COWGIRL Magazine, The Return of the White Buffalo).

Hart-Button, President of the nonprofit Sacred World Peace Alliance (SWPA), believes the white bison can serve as ambassadors of understanding and peace. Conservation biologists, artists and spiritual leaders worldwide have visited the SWPA White Bison Sanctuary, presently in a temporary home in Bend, Oregon.

By any measure, the white bison are spectacular animals, in part because they retain the temperament of their wild counterparts. Bison are not domesticated and require husbandry commensurate with their size and spirit, with enclosures more reminiscent of a zoo than a ranch. The Sanctuary’s largest white bison tips the scale at 3,000 pounds, about the weight of a large black rhino, and can run at 40 miles per hour (the largest buffalo known from the 1930s was 5,000 pounds found in Pendleton, Oregon). Consuming a bale of hay per meal, the bison drink from water buckets the size of small swimming pools. Massive tractor tires serve as durable play toys for enrichment. Hart-Button maintains the bison as a sacred duty and her non-profit organization relies on donations for the animals’ considerable needs.

A portion of the proceeds from Lauren’s artwork of the white buffalo will go toward the Sanctuary animals’ care and upkeep.

(Originally published in the January/February 2013 issue of Cowgirl Magazine).