Bare witness: Look Up fireworks by Lauren McKinley Renzetti

Collages with a Message

Last year the Art Gallery of Ontario had an amazing show of Jean- Michael Basquet. His work was amazing, frenetic and packed with ideas and messages. Paintings that Urk and make you think.

My work is about seeing and often the message is quite simple- LOOK MORE- PAY ATTENTION!

So I decided to put myself in Basquet’s shoes and try making work in his style. This is harder than you think. This is what I came up with. I took my simple idea a bit further and decided to start a seriesn fo works that have a witness in the image, a lone often hatted person -paying attention much like what the Quakers do. -January 2016



Spoons with Attitudeby Lauren McKinley Renzetti

Unlikely Spoon Collection

Over Christmas  and especially due to all of the news about Syrian Refugees I came to the realization even though I am a a somewhat unknown and medium income artist, I am part of the Group classified as the 1% or the people of the haves. I have shelter, food ,clothes, family, a job, health and wealth in the bank . I even, have the ability to spend my extra money on a Christmas tree and ornaments and presents . This led me to thinking about the  two main classes of the HAVES and the HAVENOTS. Spoon Collections reside in many homes across middle America collecting dust. This is a testament to being a Haves. If this is a spoon collection that never gets used then why not make it out of very unlikely materials; hair, nails, volcanos, the moon, concrete etc.  This is the thought process for these works. They are conceptual, silly and commenting on what us Capitalist Haves spend our hard earned money on. Feel Free to SPend you rmoney on  my Unlikely Spoon Collection.- January 2016

Factory Scape III-by Lauren McKinley Renzetti

Landscapes a la Turner

I work at the Art Gallery of Ontario and this past winter Turner has been our main show. His work is all about sky and the long view towards a horizon. I was inspired by this and by finding a whole bunch of plastic on the road. Putting the two together to create this series.

I have always been intrigued with the Australian Aboriginal Dot Painting. As a teacher I set different projects for adults and children and this project was always a favourite. There is a tangible meditative quality to painting in this manner with the limitations of only using thin round dowels or sticks. I enjoyed it so much last june in an adult abstract painting class that I continued my own series. This is what I have so far .

Call to the Elements – Art Installation in Neighbourhood’s Sacred Space

Call of the Elements at NUUC by Lauren McKinley Renzetti
Call of the Elements at NUUC by Lauren McKinley Renzetti

The Tree of Stewardship , installed on the left, is made from cut, glued, screwed , gouged dremmelled and carved plywood with acrylic paint  stained on top and is six feet wide and seven feet tall. The tree is a representation of The Earth Element, and how we as Unitarian Universalists care for our world: we are the stewards of the planet, we must care for all living things. That is why it has the look of a manicured Bonsai. Lauren’s tree design is influenced by Canadian artist Patterson Ewan, the Group of Seven, and has the intention of whimsy much like Dr. Seuss.

tree of stewardship at NUUC by Lauren Renzetti
tree of stewardship

The Solar Egg is the  second piece, hanging to the right. It is painted in acrylic on plexiglass and is six feet wide  by four feet tall, and is hung above the Wiggle Room. It represents the element of Fire, the Sun in the form of an egg. The Sun nurtures us and gives us light, warmth and also energy. We harness the sun with our solar panels on our roof.  The spirals coming out of the sun are shaped from the Golden Section* radiating out as our seven guiding principals. The way this was painted was by starting with all of the smallest detail elements painted first and then working towards larger and larger components, finishing with the rich blue cosmos in the background.

* The Golden Section is a ratio (roughly 1.618) found in the design and beauty of nature, which can be used to achieve aesthetic beauty and balance in art, architecture and design of any kind.

The Blue Elementals: Air & Water  is the third component. This middle piece, is the  largest piece in the installation measuring, 10 feet wide and 21 feet tall at the peak. This hanging quilt project, was community oriented created by most of the congregation through donation of fabrics, and  small groups from Neighbourhood led by Lauren from March to June of 2014 . The Blue Elementals consists of over 50 panels. One of the first stages was dying cloth to have a series of green, blues and purples for background pieces and to cut up for smaller quilted elements.  Several small groups were involved in making parts. The choir, youth group and all ages of children took part in workshops to create group and individual panels along with smaller elements that represented different aspects of water or air. A dedicated few also helped with the initial cutting out and arranging of background panels. Some of the panels are the choir singing, a kite flying, musical instruments playing, a hot air balloon in transit, spirals, and windmills  which all represent air. Other panels are snowflakes, clouds, waterfall, rain drops, fish in the sea, growing plants, trees, crops, waves, river systems, and silhouettes of people represent water. The biggest challenge with this undertaking was not only its size but having more than forty people contributing different parts of a whole, and trying to piece all of these parts together mindfully.   The seven columns of images are not all the same size and thusly the piece in its entirety is not symmetrical. The most time consuming part was figuring out the placement of each piece within that column and to the columns on either side, staggering the colours and images evenly and then sewing it all together and backing it to be all one piece. The look was to have some recurring themes jumping from column to column. This was to reflect not only, the interconnectedness of our seven guiding principals but also to help acknowledge the interwoven nature of our ecosystem. It had to make sense, with some logic in the placement of celestial bodies far up in our outer stratosphere and move down to the actual surface of the earth at the bottom. After all the air  and water does start at our feet.

~Lauren McKinley Renzetti March 2015.


Hegelian Seed Collections by Lauren McKinley Renzetti

Hegelian Seed Collection- conceptual art

Hegelian Seed Collection Statement by Lauren McKinley Renzetti

The Hegelian Seed Collections: Seeds of a Future and Seeds of Extinction are a commentary on choices.


The collection so named after G.W.F. Hegel1 because of his belief in absolute idealism. If we follow his three steps – study the nature of our society and acknowledge what should be removed and become extinct and what should remain and be encouraged to Nurture and Flourish we will not only be looking at Society but taking necessary steps to Change  Our Society.

The collection and nature with which it is presented is indicative of the cabinets of curiosities so popular at the turn of the 19th century. The artist is looking down on society, is passing judgment, and hoping that these collections through time become a curiosity that our children and future generations can say “How quant remember when there was genocide, malnutrition, war… we were such heathens… So glad we stopped that .”


Ironically no seed can grow in an air  tight box with no sun, water, nutrients and a pin through it. This is a perfect environment for seeds of extinction to wither and petrify. This does not hold true for the seeds of the future but hopefully they are plentiful and so common that they never move to the endangered list.  The categorizing, presenting and intimate viewing through a looking glass invites the viewer to ponder

Why these words?

Why not  Boredom? Hunger? Death?

The artist asks this question of you.

Can you come up with a reason?

It should be simple and if it is not then please ponder further.


Hegelian Seed Collection: Seeds of a Future

Bravery, Caring , Creativity, Ecotopia, Equality, Innovation, Justice , Love,

Safety , Sharing, Sustainability, Universalism, Virtue, Wisdom, Wonder

Hegelian Seed Collection: Seeds of the Future by Lauren McKinley Renzetti
2 shadow boxes , 8×8″, pins, words,magnifiers, thread $300 for pair


Hegelian Seed Collection: Seeds of Extinction

Apathy, Disillusionment,  Dystopia, Extinction , Fear, Genocide , Hate, Ignorance,

Malnutrition, Mediocrity, Prejudice, Selfishness, Stagnation , Terror, War

Hegelian Seed Collection:Seeds of Extinction by Lauren McKinley Renzetti
2 shadow boxes , 8×8″, pins, words,magnifiers, thread $300 for pair

-Lauren McKinley Renzetti  created circa 2014            statement written March 2015



1Hegelianism is the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel which can be summed up by the dictum that “the rational alone is real”, which means that all reality is capable of being expressed in rational categories. His goal was to reduce reality to a more synthetic unity within the system of absolute idealism. The first and most wide-reaching consideration of the process of spirit, God, or the idea, reveals to us the truth that the idea must be studied (1) in itself; this is the subject of logic or metaphysics; (2) out of itself, in nature; this is the subject of the philosophy of nature; and (3) in and for itself, as mind; this is the subject of the philosophy of mind (Geistesphilosophie).  – from Wikipedia

Say A Prayer to Process, by Lauren McKinley Renzetti

Greener Art Practices for a More Beautiful World

Greener Art Practices for a More Beautiful World by Lauren McKinley Renzetti  published in NUUC Newsletter  November 2013

I am an artist and an environmentalist who is constantly juggling the need to create with the need to reduce my carbon footprint. These two notions are constantly in struggle with each other so I have come up with some art practices that are light on the land and inexpensive or free.

Markers that don’t work: Crayola Brand or water based markers. Soak them tip down in super hot tap water for 1-2 minutes, after, dry off and shake down ink to tip and see if there is anything left, if not try it again just in case. If they are no good you can always keep the lids for crafts: vases for small interior dioramas, legs for a chair, frippery for masks.

500 ml Sour Cream or Yogurt containers with a reseal-able lid:  

Lids can be used  as a paint palette , bucket  to hold water, this is great a for on location painting

Palettes for acrylic paint: When using the lid- left over paint does not need to be wasted, simply spray with water and put the body of the container on as a lid. This will keep for weeks, if the seal is tight. When the paint is used up let left over dry and they peel off easily. This means no paint down the sink, no use of water for that part of clean up. The left overs could even be peeled off and transferred into a thick painting or collage.

Old hard cover text books or encyclopedias:  What do you do with old books? You turn them into art . Using folding techniques, paint, yarn  etc. you can make this antiquated book into a great wall hanging.

This Way: Index of Religion , altered book by Lauren McKinley Renzetti
This Way: Index of Religion
Altered book, acrylic ,xerox copies, collage, 2012
15 x 21 $150


Greenest ART imaginable: I have recently moved into digital art using an iPad and a program called Art Rage. This offers the best of all worlds. It is portable and has every range of colour and media from drawing with crayon, pencil and pen to watercolour brush to the look of heavy acrylic or oil. There is no clean up and no additional materials. I teach a multi week workshop  at the AGO using this program.

Works of art on paper and Magazines: I create far more than I keep as a finished product.  I save failed art attempts to use for collage in future works. I also reuse magazines for collage.

Collage by Lauren McKinley Renzetti
Collage, acrylic paint, leaves, magazines $45 unframed $60 framed


Broken toys, broken rulers, keys, buttons & Detritus from the road : These can be used as inclusions in art. Modeling paste or plaster is a great binder for thicker things in a painting. It does not go to landfill and could add great texture. (DCR: Church eye is  picture for this )

say a prayer to process by Lauren McKinley Renzetti
Say a Prayer to Process, acrylic with detritus on board, 15 x 7 triptych $200

The Many Faces of Mary, Service – October 7 2012 by Lauren McKinley Renzetti


 Equality The Virgin Mary is a heady topic. I spent a long time trying to ensure I accommodated all of the listeners in this room.  I am sure Mary would be an easy topic in say a Roman Catholic church but here in a UU congregation, I am sure no matter what I say She may push some buttons for some. To be true to myself and to speak truly from my heart I may say things which you will not agree with, I may offend. I remind you that we draw inspiration from many sources. Part of being up here is to engage you in thought and spirituality and I think that needs to challenge you. In no way am I trying to offend, I apologize now if I do. Please be as open as your personal Mary Baggage will allow and maybe today will open some doorways to your spiritual growth.


 Be Fearless As an artist I could not create an image specifically of God.  God was too esoteric and unreachable. I could not decide was God male female or the planet itself. I did want to create some work with a religious context of an icon of importance. I wanted to create messages that would be listened to and thought about. The Virgin Mary was possible, tangible, and real for me. One artist I have a real affinity for is Andy Warhol. He made Pop culture in the 1950 ‘s and 60’s. He created iconic images of Marilyn Monroe, Chairman Mao, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis and the Campbell soup can. Warhol was a devout catholic so he never portrayed Mary because he thought this was sacrilegious.  I am not Roman Catholic and I thought- what could I do with Mary’s image? She deserves my time and energy- she is important. So I created a series of prints of Mary. The false colours and strange background colours are all my homage to Mary the Universal Mother and to Andy Warhol.

Belonging Fifteen years ago I became a mother for the first time and many of the worlds puzzles became Chrystal clear to me. Why my parents seemed always tired, sometimes exasperated, sometimes in awe and why they said silly things like “ Because I said so…“ and “You will understand when you are older” I have had many ahha moments as a parent and still do daily. I am sure many parents in this room know what I am talking about.

Mary has many incarnations or faces. The first face of Mary is rooted in her existence as a living breathing mother. Like mothers of that and other eras, she would have breast-fed her child, would have taught her son to walk, to talk, to pray, and to do many other things. This is the face of Mary that speaks to me personally. Mary is a Mother first. Mary had to deal with the death of her son. Mary survived this ordeal and carry on.  Because of her life after his death she had the ability to understand suffering and to give comfort through listening and through being open to others suffering. Mary was present and still is, unlike any God that may or may not exist. Her presence has been felt for over 2000 years with sightings, with miracles in her name. Her image has been portrayed  as portraits on plaster, canvas, and wood, in tile work as mosaics, as well as statues in gilded wood, painted plaster, and stone.

Respect Mary is present all over the world, she is the most depicted being ever to have walked the earth. Mary has over 152 names and titles. There are more than 42 holidays in her name through out the year. The entire Month of May is dedicated to Mary the Mother of God. Since the 9th century all Saturdays are traditionally the day to have a memorial for the Blessed Virgin Mary. As this was the day she sat and prayed by her son in the crypt.  I think She is qualified for my reverence.


Slide 5. Heed The second face of Mary is rooted in her roll as one of the first disciples, Mary the Listening Disciple, an active listener of God’s word. For the Scriptures, Mary is the ideal disciple, the model listener. She hears God’s word and acts on it. This theme, Mary as the Listening Disciple, has often been overshadowed by other more exalted Marian titles. But it is an extremely important one. In fact, it lies at the core of New Testament spirituality: all disciples, like Mary, are called to listen to the word of God attentively and act on it.

 Love Mary’s third face was declared in 431 AD as the  “Mother of God”. This is surely the most glorious of her titles. This is different than being “just a Mother” Mary is not just someone who gave birth to a deeply spiritual, human, Jesus; rather, Mary gave birth to the one who is God in the flesh. Mary was Jesus’s mother. He is flesh of her flesh. Mary’s unique relationship with God, in her son, flows not from her physical relationship with Jesus, but from her first conceiving him in faith by God. In fact Mary possesses a unique relationship with all three Persons of the Trinity, thereby giving her a claim to the title of Queenship. She was chosen by God the Father to be the Mother of his Son; God the Holy Spirit chose her to be his virginal spouse for the Incarnation of the Son; and God the Son accepted her to be his mother. This Queen is also our Mother. While she is not our Mother in the physical sense, she is called a spiritual mother, for she conceives, gives birth, and nurtures the spiritual lives of grace for each person.

Go Deeper The fourth face of Mary is as an Apparition or Saint. She appeared as an apparition as early as 40 AD to the Apostle James in Spain. In most of the appearances, she is a white light holding out her hands with her feet surrounded by a mist or cloud. Some appearances are preceded by lightning and thunder from a clear sky, and sometimes there are angelic beings or clouds of unusual shapes as well.

 In France alone, Mary was sited in over  20 locations in the 1800’s . From the 1920’s on there were over 210 claims of apparitions at various places throughout the world. One of The most famous sightings is Our Lady of Lourdes in France in 1858. Mary appeared to a girl by the name of Bernadette. She encountered Mary in a grotto, and made many visitations to her over a 6-month period. During this time, Mary instructed Bernadette to dig a hole in the ground, drink, and bathe in it, and later this became a spring of healing. Lourdes soon became known as one of the world’s major pilgrimage site where thousands have been cured from a variety of illnesses, both physical and spiritual.

 Faith The appearance of Mary as an apparition dramatically helps to encourage us to: be converted, seek peace, love thy neighbour, and pray faithfully and mightily. Her miracles remind us that Mary is free from sin, the most perfectly redeemed of God’s creatures. She is the first among the saints. Mary the Saint encourages us, to unite our prayer with hers in our need, trusting deeply in her love for us.

 Think The last face of Mary is one I will call Mother of Universality. She has been depicted as a woman of many races. As early as 1382 in Czestochowa there was  a Black Madonna. Ironically, the blackened face of the Virgin in that icon was the result of smoke, not of skin colour, but its darkness has symbolized for Polish people the suffering that Mary bore heroically, hoping against hope.  The Christian faith is malleable and the Christian imagination is very creative ; consequently, Marian devotion has been inculturated countless times in countless ways.

In actuality Mary’s features were probably very much like those of Jewish or Palestinian women living in the middle east today. Her clothes were those of the poor. But popular imagination has always wanted to bring Mary closer and closer to us, and so it has shaped her to fit the features of the believing community. She is our mother. Because of Mary’s universal appeal, she has become a powerful force for liturgical and artistic inculturation, taking on local dress and skin-color effortlessly. The essential thing is not that Mary lived in the territory of ancient Palestine and that her skin colour was like that of middle-easterners. The essential thing is that she was one of us (whether us means European or African or Chinese, rich or poor , educated or uneducated).Mary  responded affirmatively and wholeheartedly to God’s call, God took hold of her life by being born of her flesh, and that she remained steadfast in faith through her joys and sorrows. The Black Madonna and many other similar Madonna’s make it easier for many to see Mary’s story as applicable to any time, any place, or any culture.

 Peace This fifth face of Mary is the one I think I chose to depict visually. She is every mother; the Universal Mother. My colour choices may be festive or deemed flippant by the viewer but there was always reverence present in making them.  The words she speaks in my text and titles speak of all 5 of her faces. Mary was a poor human mother, the first listening disciple, the Mother of God, the First Saint, and one of the few icons that was depicted as a Mother of all Races. Mary is speaking through me, through my art. The phrases and words she speaks are not new, not specific to any one religion. The words are the voice of the continuation of Growth of the human race. Thank you for listening.

by Lauren McKinley Renzetti

Todays Most Private Space for Daily Reflection – The Bathroom By Lauren McKinley Renzetti


I am in my forties with two teen children, a husband, and a very busy career. I find very little time   for my spiritual self.  Any personal centering I do, seems to be in my morning and evening rituals in my favourite solitary place; the bathroom.  In our house this space is actually a very large room, 14 feet by 8 feet with a vaulted eleven foot high ceiling with a large window full of tropical plants and hanging vines. This room is also filled with many religious icons; Shiva, many versions of Buddha, several Mary ‘s with her baby Jesus, the head of the Green Man, and Various Fertility Goddesses. We renovated this room because it was actually the smallest bathroom in the world with only 2 square feet of floor space, a low drop ceiling and the ugliest busiest tile from the 1970’s everywhere.

In this day and age many of my friends do not have religion or even spirituality. They are too caught up in the practical daily grind of their children’s schedules, making money and spending money. I get caught in this cycle myself. It is not a bad life but it does feel, at times like there is not too much meaning in it.

So the bathroom is a few minutes of peace and quiet, where I gather up my thoughts and strength for another busy day. Ritual whether it is sacred or not consists of repeated actions done in a very specific way. The brushing of my teeth and hair, the washing of my face and hands are a ritual. My husband does not think this is at all spiritual and frowns at the idea of an article about the bathroom being a room for spirituality.  I counter with “ the Pope washes the feet of the poor on Friday; I see this as being very similar. I am releasing the dirt and uncleanness of the day in my daily absolutions. I am starting afresh.”

I took my idea of the bathroom being a spiritual place one step further. I am the artist in residence up at a Unitarian Universalist church camp; Unicamp. I took on the task of beautifying areas; specifically the buildings. There are many outhouses since it is 60 acres of forest, meadow, stream and pond. These buildings are few and far between. In the past, traditional  outhouses would have a crescent moon cut out of the door so sun light or moonlight could filter in so one could see where everything was. The out houses at Unicamp did not have this luxury and that got me thinking about my view on our bathroom at home. The divine is present in nature but was definitely not present in these small shacks. I wanted to change that. I started making moon paintings for these buildings in 2004 and I am still creating moons for the doors of outhouses and have now moved on to bathrooms in dorms, cottages and even the doors of shower houses. I took it one step further and elicited the help of my fellow art makers and got many people to make Meditation Mandala’s for the insides of these rooms and outhouses. There are some examples of my own work below .

The point of this diatribe, I think in our busy lives we need to make Time – however small- to acknowledge  the worth of our own Spirituality ; even if it is to simply twice daily in the two minutes our electric toothbrush gives us  solace  before it beeps to say  we  are done with that Ritual and can move back into our hectic lives.

~ Lauren McKinley Renzetti

September 18, 2012

click  here to view Lauren’s studio

Compass Fire Pit at Unicamp

The Power of the Circle By Lauren Renzetti June 6, 2012


I   have been an artist all my life. I usually work on paper and canvas. When I was in college I was exposed to art that was created on a massive scale. The wrapped works of contemporary artists Christo Javachef who wraps whole islands and architecture, the large spiral earth work in Utah by Robert Smithson, the mound builders in Ohio and the ancient works of the Incas; Nazca lines created in the desert using only the land. These creations using land as the canvas intrigued me. How many people does it take to move the earth in a noticeable way? How permanent will it be?

I proposed an idea for a landscaping beautification project for Unicamp; a place I hold dear as the artist in residence. The fire pit in question was an important place of gathering but, it was ugly and at night even dangerous. It had uneven ground around it, nasty wobbly benches and usually all kinds of wood debris to burn. Yet, it was a very important place of ritual, drumming, dancing and singing. I wanted it to be better than it was.  I wanted it to reflect its roll in this Unitarian Universalist Community.

I had some obvious criteria. I wanted it to be level so when walking to the fire with no night vision you were safe from pitfalls and tripping hazards. I wanted it to seem welcoming not just because of a friendly crackling fire and laughter but the land would- invite you with paths of smooth white sand drawing you into the embrace of a circle. I wanted seating that was natural and smooth that called you to sit. This dream was discussed with many people with enthusiasm over the course of two years.

It finally came to fruition this Spring. My ideas on paper seemed easy, it only took me a few hours to draw it all out; but the magnitude hit when I ordered the wood, for benches and trim. It was amplified further with the cost, and it really hit home when we calculated we would need 2 tons of sand to fill just the paths in the space. This would require some serious digging, raking, shoveling and moving of earth.

We advertised this project as an “art earthwork and community-building project”. Over 50 people came out to help build 16 – 5 foot cedar benches, and move over 200 wheel barrels full of grass, rocks and earth. We elicited the help of a tractor with a frontend loader and large shovel attachment and its owner Ron. He dug and scraped and moved 4 inches of earth in a circle that was 40 feet across.

I had worked with group projects before involving over 200 people, but moving earth in the hot sun was a very different story. Everybody gave me his or her two cents worth of ideas. I invited the dialogue because the space was to be used by so many and in so many different ways. I wanted the work done to be efficient, lasting, low maintenance  and not in vain but I also knew almost nothing about landscaping and the physical geometry it would take to build the wooden structure that I had carefully drawn on paper to hold the sand in place.

I wanted to do the work and be physically in the dirt. But I realized that although I needed to do that and set the example for others I also needed to direct those willing to help so they would stay keen and involved. I became the foreman, overseeing the work but also ensuring people had gloves, buckets, shovels, water, cut lists, plans ideas and instructions so the work would not falter.

When the circle was complete and bare we measured and drew out the designs for the paths, the circle for the centre fire pit and seating area. I stood in the centre and felt – something. It was not subtle or a slight nudge it was a full whack of power.  This project had the good intentions of over 50 people and all easily witnessed the beauty of the curve, but the power was truly in the centre. It was a rush. I got others to stand there and some did -not even realizing it, but their resolve and energy was renewed by me and by the power I felt in that circle.

The people involved had willing hands, and needed almost no skill to move earth, we also had quite a few who were great with math and geometry, we had people with tools and know how and people with no tools and no know how but willing to learn. Many gained backaches and blisters and several learned how to use table saws, chop saws, drills and palm sanders.  There was a wealth of knowledge and it was all freely shared. We had children as young as two helping move sand one small bucket full at a time and many hands to help move rocks and dirt to the right location. We had the smallest along side the tallest with feet dancing in place tamping down the sand to make it even and firm.

When looking upon these giant earth works I have a new found appreciation and reverence for what was involved.  The word Community takes on a whole new meaning when looking at miles of pink silk or tones of moved earth in a Nazca line to create a six mile long spider, monkey or hummingbird.

When visiting Unicamp I invite you to visit the centre of the circle, join in the ritual of drumming, dancing and singing this space offers you.  May you find reverence and wonder.

June  2012

click here to view art at Unicamp