As a young girl, Lorelei Beckstrom watched her grandparents' barn burn down in Minnesota. While the family cried over the loss, she says, she jumped up and down clapping because it was so beautiful.
Decades later, her favorite quote is: "The barn's burned down, now I can see the moon." And it describes very well how she feels today.
"I have shed everything so that I can move forward and do this," she says about her art. Everything, literally: her marriage, her self-designed and -made house, her publishing company, her yoga studio, her car, the idea of bearing children and her negative perception of her bipolar disorder.
Now the 41-year-old shares a small apartment in Manitou Springs with a roommate, works full-time at Meininger Art Supply (to which she buses), and paints at night. Her new show, SELLOUT, hanging at downtown's Rubbish Gallery through Sept. 5, centers thematically around the brain as a machine — why it works and sometimes doesn't work, and what is deep inside.
Beckstrom, who's read several books about the brain since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2006, says she doesn't think in a linear way. The patterns she incorporates into her artwork — lines, orbs, boxes, birds in flight — represent her disjointed thoughts.
That's "how I compartmentalize my life," she says. The boxes symbolize "all the little pieces of my life that flow into each other and are disconnected." The artist threads those incoherent thoughts into "little puzzles that I'm putting together for myself."
In "In the Hour of Long Shadows," men soaring in hot air balloons with propellers, intricately hand-etched on Plexiglas set roughly an inch from an acrylic-painted wood panel, cast shadows on an dreamlike sunset of orange, pink and iridescent blue tones. Those shadows are more than a coincidence of design: They symbolize "the ghost of what's there."
"The idea of what we see and what's really there is an interesting concept to me," she says, "especially after losing friends to suicide and not realizing that they were in that place."
Beckstrom weaned herself off medications starting April 1, the day friend and local artist Timber Kirwan killed himself. Since then, she's used her craft to sort through her emotions: "My art has definitely saved my life."
She's shown six times locally this past year, and weeks ago, she invested even deeper into her art by becoming a partner in Rubbish Gallery. With Caitlin Goebel and Jon Severson, she's joined one of the original owners, Jon Lindstrom, in revamping the gallery's mission. The new Rubbish, which will also house Severson's Colorado Springs Young Professionals office, will focus on developing artists' business acumen. The partners hope it will become something of a career resource, rather than just a wall space.
Buying a gallery stake is a bit of a risk, but risk-taking is a theme running through Beckstrom's life and work nowadays.
"Someone had to get in the first flying machine," she says, again referencing "In the Hour of Long Shadows." "Most of these new pieces are about doing something that no one has done before and seeing where it takes you.
"I've been thinking a lot about what makes people risk-takers. What lies below the surface, what makes us tick, what makes us take the risks that we need to take to make changes in the world."