The Daily Gamecock

USC graduate's exhibit 'Tapp's' into free-spirited femininity

Entitled “Wild in Wonderland,” Tapp’s Arts Center’s newest exhibition contrasts the innocence of a childhood story with the maturity of feminine identity. 

Tapp’s October show displays the work of Lauren Chapman, a USC fine arts graduate, in a way that immerses the viewer into a wonderland of strong, capable women. 

“Basically, my work is about empowering women ... to be whoever they want to be and being as wild as they would like,” Chapman said.

The wild animal motifs include images of rabbits and felines. Chapman explained that she shifted the traditional role of the rabbit from prey to predator in order to communicate the idea of empowerment through her artwork. The felines, on the other hand, express a feeling of control and calmness in a wild setting. 

The exhibition’s "Alice in Wonderland" imagery is derived from Chapman’s whimsical mind. 

“I’ve always been a big pretender, like, I was pretending until it was uncool,” Chapman said.

After graduating from USC in May 2017, she wasn’t ready to let her or anyone else’s childhood days be forgotten. Disney movies with elements of fantasy or magic, such as "Alice in Wonderland" and "Peter Pan," were integral pieces of her youth and still seep into her artwork as an adult. 

“It was important for me to create a space where people could feel like they could just release all the stress of being an adult and feel like a child again.”

Despite the exhibition’s obvious allusion to the childhood story, Chapman says the relationship happened more by chance than purpose. 

“I do a lot of paintings that people could see 'Alice in Wonderland' in, but really, it’s just vibrant colors, it’s wild things, it’s, like, Lisa Frank,” she said.

Chapman says one of the biggest takeaways from her time at USC is basic skill, including how to use materials to the best of her ability. Beyond her university years, Chapman has grown from stepping out of the comfort zone of studying art in a contained, formal setting. 

 “It's about being able to break out of that box of the basics and just go wild and do whatever you want.”

Chapman's advice to USC students coming out of the art programs is be confident and unique. 

 “Do what you want to do, and don’t worry about anyone’s criticisms, no matter what,” she said.

Acknowledging the triteness of her advice, Chapman emphasized her unwavering commitment to it.

“I remember, in school, people were saying, 'don’t use so many colors, don’t do the fantasy thing' …  [professors will] tell you this,” she said. “You have to do what you want to do, and if it’s different from what everyone else is doing, that’s good … that’s what makes your work loud and noticeable."

Chapman also makes a point to disregard the price tags on her art or the criticisms she receives. She views her success on a more personal level. 

“Success for me is just being able to paint and keep creating what I want to paint,” she said. “It’s not about winning a show, or having a show, or what awards.”

Chapman's works are broadly-themed around feminism, and she has won numerous awards over the past year. Her exhibition is on display at Tapp’s until Oct. 28.