When Lorri and Angela shared exhibit space as sculptor/artists in Fort Collins, Colorado, they knew right away they were kindred spirits.
Lorri Acott’s career has taken her into the classroom, to a Master’s degree in special education, to a psychiatric hospital as a teacher, to high school art instructor and now to world-class sculptor. Her work is on display all over the country and beyond – The Netherlands, South Africa and Japan.
It all began working with special needs children and their families. With focused attention and integration of art into her curricula, she saw real results. Her conviction grew: we must resist those voices that drive us into isolation, cynicism and victimhood. Instead, we must learn to hear those who lift us up, encouraging our best selves.
Creativity in all kinds of art stimulate those good outcomes. No matter what the challenge might be, we all have the capacity to influence the noble, the beautiful and the true. She brought that perspective to her high schoolers.
A Conversation with Myself
Those lessons accompanied Lorri into her studio. Her signature feature is the human form – with long, extended legs. “It’s a symbol of our higher selves,” she told me. As you can see from her award winning piece, “A Conversation with Myself,” knowing the title, you’re not quite sure which is which.
“If I project myself into the image, am I the tall person, or the short one?” I asked.
Lorri laughed. “Good for you,” she said. “You could be either one.” Lorri cherishes those
moments when she can hear people share what this piece means. Everyone has their own
interpretation. For some, it’s my face pointing upward, listening. Others see themselves gazing down – maybe scolding, maybe inspiring.
“You tell me.”
Lori encourages those of us drawn to her work to tell our own stories. “Which is you? What’s being said?”
“For me as the artist,” Lorri discloses, “I’m the smaller character, head held toward the sky, listening with eagerness to a higher voice, one who encourages me to become all that I can be.”
Lorri’s newly emerging passion is a project she initiated inspired by the great author and poet, Robert Bly (who wrote the classic, Iron John). An image she found in his essay, The Long Bag We Drag Behind Us, stayed with her. It’s the picture of humanity – each dragging a heavy sack – in which we have collected all our hopes, our failures, our shame, our imagined identity, our disappointments and our dreams. Bly believed that every person pulls such a weighty encumbrance though life. It hinders progress; a kind of chained imprisonment that makes freedom almost impossible. It defers self-actualization.
In Bly’s essay, Acott saw a clear application to women. It inspired her landmark sculpture she calls Unpacking the Shadow. It began as she realized something powerful: art had given voice to the things she had over the years tucked away into her own sack – some disturbing, others dreams and plans put on the back shelf, hidden from view. Her art enabled her to come to terms with those events and relationships and deferred choices just as Bly predicted. She found healing, hope and inspiration – and the freedom to be.
In response, she invited others into the process. She put out the challenge to a large group of women: find something that symbolizes those hidden, sometimes awful, sometimes restorative - forgotten things in your shadow bag. For the purpose of display, the object or painting or sculpture or photo should fit in a 3x3 inch frame. Then, she said, write a 150 word essay explaining your symbol – and how identifying that formerly hidden part of your life, lost there in the shadows, brought freedom and independence. The response stunned Lorri. As she viewed each piece and read the essays, she was often moved to tears. Those works of art were gathered and put on display at a public art gallery. You can see many of the symbols here – each an original creation made in response to Lorri’s challenge. A well- produced video brings the event to life: participants tell their compelling stories.
Now, Lorri Acott is working to bring the exhibit to a major gallery. She hopes it will motivate women everywhere to enter in to this process of community, openness and wholeness. Lorri’s experience and vision bring Flite’s mission to clear focus:
Empowerment. Liberation. Confidence. Hope.