Our Annual Young Women to Watch
Secrets of success from inside the minds of Austin’s most ambitious, focused and creative young spirits.
By Joanna Wheeler, Photos by Evan Prince, Bruno photo by Sheeanna Singer
Austin is fertile ground for the blossoming artist. From countless performance venues available for the aspiring musician, to DIY art galleries in the spare bedroom, Austin has an enthusiasm for growth, supporting great ideas, keeping it weird, keeping it local and giving opportunity to those with passion and drive. There truly is no greater city to merge creativity and entrepreneurship, especially for young people today. Follow these four young ladies as they bloom in their fields.
With a great devotion to seriousness in her work, 25-year-old Caitlin McCollom gives experimental art new meaning. McCollom’s work fuses different forms of art, such as photography, video, paint, sculpture and performance, creating something completely unique to Austin. Her latest project, The Lustration, is an examination based on the existential theory of solipsism, or the idea that the only verifiable truth is the self. A portion of The Lustration was recently featured at Big Medium Gallery in East Austin, and included nine paintings, three sculptures and four videos. The most striking aspects of the project are the slow-motion videos featuring McCollom standing in a constructed white environment with soap, water, paint, light or dirt being poured over her nude body. The Lustration not only fits in to McCollom’s passion for using a variety of mediums, but also the mission for her gallery, Red Space. Red Space is meant to diversify the Austin art scene by supporting young or emerging artists making experimental work, giving them exposure and the opportunity to showcase their art. An alternative space and gallery run by McCollom and her partner, Carlos Acevedo, Red Space is housed in McCollom’s apartment, exemplifying the innovative and trailblazing spirit this young woman brings to Austin.
Austin Woman: How did you come up with the idea for Red Space?
Caitlin McCollom: There’s a tradition within art history of this idea of the salon. This idea that there’s this clubhouse where artists, art collectors and all different kinds of people who are interested in art go. They can come to this comfortable place where they can look at art, talk about art and it’s all focused on creating dialogue, making new friendships and business connections.
AW: How is Red Space unique from other galleries?
CM: I have a very specific curatorial vision for Red Space. I try to show work that is underrepresented here in Austin. I don’t show traditional paintings or photography or traditional sculpture. It has to have a non-commercial quality. I curate shows with the artists. We require them to make entirely new work for the space. All the work that’s made has to respond specifically to the space, which is an apartment gallery. It’s a mix of having a lot of boundaries and then forcing a lot of creativity within these boundaries.
AW: What is your creative process?
CM: It’s heavily informed by reading and experiencing, going to see art. I always go back to looking at these artists that I really admire. It’s almost like a mentorship. Art comes from experiences in life and research as an academic.
AW: What can we expect from you in the next five to 10 years?
CM: Great things, I hope [laughs]. My role in the arts community is expanding every day with how I interact with young artists and how I interact with the larger scene. The art that I’m making right now is extremely unique to the Austin community. I will be attending grad school [in New York] next year, getting my MFA in art. Eventually, I’d love to run a commercial space. I’m still really interested in being a gallerist, but recently I’ve been interested in focusing on my own work. It’s hard to find a balance and I’m certainly working on that. I want to take back what I learn in New York to Austin. I grew up in rural Texas. I’ve lived my whole life in this area and I’m ready to take some risks.
Sophistication and self-possession are not words usually associated with tweens, but Isabella Rose is an exception to the rule. At 11 years old, she has showcased her art in Austin and Dallas, is a certified member of Mensa, an editor for Amazing Kids! online magazine and serves as an advisory board member for Creative Kids magazine. Rose’s workspace is an expansive room filled with paintings and color everywhere. She explains her inspiration through travel—the face of a woman Rose met while in Istanbul jumps off the canvas. In August, she wowed Austin fashionistas with a collection of smart, elegant clothing for the thinking tween. From the haunting depth of emotion in the self-portrait adorning her line’s signature T-shirt, to the tidy, girlish print she created at age six (now reimagined as a scarf tied Jackie Onassis-style in the hair), Rose is no stranger to blending passions.
Austin Woman: When did you start to take your work seriously?
Isabella Rose: I had my first show maybe three years ago, and it was at a restaurant, very small. When I saw how people were reacting to it, I realized people really liked what I was doing.
AW: What inspires you?
IR: Everything! Fashion comes from inspiration. It’s colors or maybe a stroke that has really cool texture. Maybe it reminds me of a fabric I could use in my designs.
AW: How do you get out of creative slumps?
IR: I have to work through it. I’ve had quite a few. For example, I won’t know what to do to make a painting work. If I just work through it, I’m up again and working through to the next problem.
AW: How do you like to relax?
IR: Reading. I’ll read anything. I read A Passage to India. I also like to find inspiration online at different blogs and Pinterest. I love to travel. I get so much inspiration, influence for art, fashion, poetry.
AW: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
IR: Hopefully, for my art, I’d like to be in some large gallery and have more people know about me. For fashion, I’d love to get in to big retail stores. One day, I’d like to go to Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. There are so many great designers in London. I love it and the fashion there.
Rose’s most recent work is a gallery showing at the Kristy Stubbs Gallery in Dallas. Follow her blog at isabellart.wordpress.com to keep an eye out for this creative chameleon as she moves forward with her career and education. isabellart.wordpress.com
Lauren Bruno wants you to take action. Brilliant, effervescent and radiating kindness, Bruno takes a meeting at Cherrywood Coffeehouse one afternoon wearing a small crown and leather wings on her tank top. She quotes spiritual activist Marianne Williamson, “As we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” For 23-year-old Bruno, music is a way to turn on the light. She has been in four bands since the age of 16 and is currently immersed in her work as lead singer of the up-and-coming band Les RAV, which means “do not refuse abundant peace.” Bruno also works with the nonprofit Two Dollar Shows, an organization that holds monthly concerts (at $2 a ticket) and whose proceeds benefit a charitable cause. Crohn’s disease and colitis are causes very close to Bruno’s heart, as she was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 11, a stomach disease she has continually battled.
Austin Woman: When did you decide to make singing a career?
Lauren Bruno: I had my first band in high school when I was 16. I had a cello, drums, bass and guitar. It was an amazing experience because it was my first time, but all of them were complete jackasses. All they wanted to do was drink and smoke pot and waste time. At 16, I got this deep feeling in my stomach that I wanted to take it seriously. I want to start that connection with multiple people. I didn’t want to waste my time doing useless stuff like drinking and smoking. It hit me hard and made me feel like I needed to be doing this. It felt like this is my path.
AW: Talk about performing.
LB: It’s like when two lights meet and combine to become a bigger light. When someone is able to understand what you’re saying without saying it, and what’s actually going on. I think that says a lot about language and about music. Music is a language, a universal language that everyone can understand.
AW: What is your vision for your music?
LB: It goes back to the name, Les RAV, which means abundant peace. When people see you doing what inspires you, it gives you permission to do it yourself. The vision is to connect with those people on a large scale and be able to open up their minds to creation and passion, to help them accept what that passion is about. It’s monumental when you’re able to cause action and not just inspiration.
AW: How important is goal setting to you?
LB: Goal setting is really important. I like the element of surprise, but when you’re trying to affect a multiple amount of people, they need consistency, so you need consistency. It’s important to always have something to work toward. Everyone has a path, but you have to put yourself on it.
AW: How do you define peace?
LB: Peace is figuring out how to maintain a healthy path.
Catch the light with Lauren Bruno at twodollarshows.com. Find Les RAV on Facebook or at lesravpress.tumblr.com.
A conversation with composer Jocelyn Chambers is a dazzling whirl of wit and wisdom. She is as comfortable discussing the nuance of Loki from summer blockbuster The Avengers as she is singing the praises of her “best friend,” Beethoven. Chambers radiates the focused, intense energy you’d expect from the teen so talented to compose the lush My Heart for the Texas Young Composers Concert and see it come to life at The Long Center. At 15, the virtuoso possesses the sweet exuberance and joie de vivre of many her age, tempered with a thoughtful perspective far beyond her years.
Austin Woman: When was your first music lesson?
Jocelyn Chambers: Piano at age 7. Miss Kristin was a high-school student who taught me once a week. We played Chutes and Ladders. I’m influenced by my composition teacher, Dr. Rachel McInturff. I studied with her for about a year at the Armstrong Community Music School. Such a sweet soul. She always asks how I’m doing. When I’m in a slump, she offers inspiration. She never runs out of ideas.
AW: What’s a typical day like for you?
JC: I wake up. I go downstairs, get on the computer. I prepare for the day, so I have my lunch made the night before, clothes laid out. I take one or two classes, study, sit around, relax, blog. I try to blog every day.
AW: How do you get out of creative slumps?
JC: I have absolutely no idea. Mr. Inspiration and I generally get along for the most part. But occasionally, he decides to go on vacation without notice. I am left by myself, trying to do what I can with what I have. I want him to get a summerhouse and stay with me in Texas. The rest of the year, he can do what he wants.
AW: How do you define success?
JC: A lot of people say the American dream is going to college, getting your dream job, a nice car, a great house. With the world today, the American dream has been lost somewhere in the deficit. I figure your success is what you want it to be. If you want to be a cupcake-shop owner and you get your shop, you’re happy. I don’t know if success is what people say it is; it’s what you make it.
AW: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
JC: I see myself with an Oscar. Why not start early? I want to have a library, a music library, reading library, writing library. I want to go to Narnia, London. I want to meet the queen. I want to go to Oxford, wear oxfords at Oxford, collect dust.
Catch Jocelyn Chambers affecting a very convincing British accent while guiding guests to their seats as a volunteer usher at The Long Center, and stay in touch by visiting her blog, thecupcakedictionary.blogspot.com. Chambers is currently working on a project to benefit victims of the Aurora Tragedy. Follow her progress at songsofthesuperhero.org.