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Bayou Artist | Lindsay Carraway

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Artist
Apr 1st, 2024

article by Starla Gatson
photography by Kelly Moore Clark

From an outsider’s perspective, Lindsay Carraway’s home workspace probably looks like a mess. Not that she necessarily cares. Life is too short to let others’ opinions hold so much weight, she declares. The Vicksburg native’s home on Bayou Bartholomew has two rooms dedicated to her art practice. She uses one for storage, letting her finished art, works in progress, and materials — “I have thousands and thousands of magazines I’ve been collecting for years,” she shares — occupy the space.

The second room is where Carraway goes when inspiration strikes. There are four desks in there, but she doesn’t sit at any of them to make art. Instead, she gets comfortable on the floor, surrounding herself with whatever materials she is using that day and leaving the desks to hold books and completed pieces.

“It looks like a wreck,” the artist says of her workspaces. But they are more than just messy studios to her. To her, they’re like church.

Making art is a spiritual practice for Carraway, and she wholeheartedly believes she encounters God during the hours she spends creating. He meets her on the floor of her workspace, showing up to give her new ideas for pieces or guiding her to the perfect image for a collage. 

“I don’t say, ‘Oh, I need this image,’ and go find it on the computer,” she says. “I just say a little prayer and hope I find it. Usually, I do, which is a miracle every single time.” 

As she creates, she talks to God, sharing whatever’s on her mind and extending gratitude to God that she gets to do the thing she has known she would do for as long as she can remember: make art.

“I’ve always been an artist; anybody will tell you,” Carraway declares. “When I was a little girl, people would ask me, ‘What do you want to be?’ and I’d say ‘an artist.’” Some conversations led to others giving young Carraway suggestions for other prospective careers, including following in her mother’s footsteps and entering the medical field. Each time, Carraway gave the same response: absolutely not. She was determined to create things.

Carraway’s resolve to be an artist led her to the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, after high school. She entered the private university’s industrial design program but soon realized that designing products and building furniture didn’t scratch her creative itch. She left Pratt and the Big Apple to head to Savannah, Georgia, to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design.

When she arrived at SCAD, Carraway began studying metals and jewelry. She remembers her time there as a “beautiful, beautiful experience,” but she reveals that she found herself feeling as unfulfilled as she had in Brooklyn. Making jewelry was fun, but she learned that, like industrial design, it wasn’t something she wanted to pour her creative energy into, explaining, “I realized I liked wearing and buying jewelry more than I liked making it.”

Knowing there was no use in continuing to pursue something she wasn’t passionate about, Carraway left SCAD and headed back home to Mississippi. That decision was probably for the best, she says, as she was also experiencing intense mental health issues at the time and needed to take a break to decide how to navigate them.

“I came home and met with some doctors,” Carraway says, “and, at first, they thought I was bipolar. We did some more therapy tests, and they realized I was, in fact, schizophrenic.” 

Fortunately, doctors helped Carraway find the right routine to cope with her new diagnosis, and both her mental health and outlook on life started to shift.

“It was wonderful,” she gushes. “It was like I was finally letting myself be a person. I think I had these blinders on for so long because I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Once I’d seen doctors and was on regular medication, it was like this veil was lifted, and someone put glasses on my face. It was wonderful to be who I was, to be a person, to actually feel motivated to do the things I wanted to do and to do them.”

Naturally, a new mindset led Carraway to create new art, this time with more positive undertones. 

“I think a lot of the art I created before I started taking medicine was depressing and sad,” she says. “I look back on a lot of that art, and I feel kind of bad for the girl who made it. I wonder how she managed to do that, and I wonder how she managed to keep all of that inside. I wonder how she managed to keep it all together.”

Like the pieces she made pre-diagnosis, Carraway’s art continued depicting things her schizophrenic mind caused her to see and hear, and it still does — “People think people with schizophrenia take medicine and all their issues and symptoms go away, but that’s not really the case,” she explains. “The medicine makes the symptoms easier to handle throughout the day.” However, the darkness that once showed up in her art was nowhere to be found.

“I look at the work I do now, and it’s more therapeutic,” she says. “It’s not a cry for help.”

Returning home changed the trajectory of Carraway’s life. There, she managed to get her mental health on an upward trek, found the courage and motivation to carve her own path to being a working artist, and met her husband, with whom she would eventually settle in north Louisiana. Now, she’s doing just what her younger self said she would: be an artist. 

Carraway’s pieces raise awareness of social, cultural, and political issues while bringing the images conjured up in her mind to life. Women’s empowerment is a key theme of much of her work, something you might pick up on while looking at the women in the fantastical worlds created through her collages. Admittedly, some of these pieces may be controversial, thanks to the inclusion of nudity or other suggestive images. But Carraway doesn’t let the fear of others rejecting or misinterpreting her art stop her from creating it. “I just don’t care,” she says. “Life’s too short. People are going to be happy or sad, mean or not mean, and you just have to keep living every day.”

And how does Carraway keep living every day? By making art, of course! In addition to making collages, she also paints and occasionally ventures into the sculpting world. However, of the mediums she works with, she says collaging brings her the most joy, and it has since one of her mentors, Nancy Mitchell, introduced her to it in high school.

“It’s because I make it tedious,” she tells BayouLife when asked what has kept her passionate about the art form for so many years. “It doesn’t have to be [that way]. I think a lot of people are really free with it. I like to put layer upon layer of the same image over and over again. To do that, it takes a really long time, and I like that.” 

It isn’t lost on Carraway that, to some, tedium and monotony would be seen as negative characteristics. They’re some of the aspects that turned her off to industrial design and jewelry-making. However, the slow process makes collaging such a rewarding medium for Carraway, and she takes that as a sign she’s doing exactly what she’s supposed to.

“This definitely feels like what I’m meant to do,” she states. “This feels right. I wake up every day excited to come in here and work.