Lansing woman turns pain into paintings; wins an award from MSU

Sarah's Sunday Spotlight

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Ever since she can remember, Autumn Hopkins said she’s been artistic.

“Even though I didn’t always say how I felt, I drew how I felt. My mom could tell if I drew a droopy big flower then I was kind of sad. Then if I drew a happy flower I was in a good head space,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said her and her mother have always been close. This is them together when Hopkins was a baby.

Hopkins said art was something her parents, especially her grandmother, encouraged growing up.

“We’d come up with story lines. We’d come up with comic strips,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins’ grandmother, Oralie, lived out in the country side near Dewitt.

“She kind of secluded electronics and she tried to focus us just creatively,” Hopkins said.

That was something Hopkins said she didn’t like in the moment.

“I used to hate it. She would be like, ‘We’re not watching tv. We’re not doing this. We’re gonna sit down,’ ” Hopkins said.

Hopkins said her grandmother wanted to be an artist as well.

However, Hopkins said now, she appreciates it.

“It made me sit with myself and really think about what I’m gonna make,” Hopkins said.

Hopkins was born and raised in Lansing. For college, she decided to stay close to home and attend Michigan State University for a Bachelor of Fine Arts.

She was met with some challenges.

“My grandma passed away during my freshmen year like half way through and so that kinda threw a wrench in things with like how I was feeling,” Hopkins said.

On top of losing her grandmother, Hopkins said she was dealing with ADHD, anxiety, depression and family traumas.

When it came time for her senior exhibition at MSU, she said she wanted to create something that could help her process her emotions.

So, she created a senior showcase titled, “Disfigured Memories.”

“It’s kind of capturing things that happened in the past and mixing it with how its treating me now or what’s going on now,” Hopkins said.

It focused on childhood memories, she said she’s still healing from to this day.

“It was a little controversial, because again it kind of calls out some of the family issues… to be able to physically get it out on something is like very therapeutic,” Hopkins said.

Her showcase was not typical. COVID happened, so she wasn’t able to show her work to others as an exhibit.

However, that recently changed.

“I was very excited to have a second chance to show it because obviously its 5 and a half years worth of work,” Hopkins said.

She showed her work at the Artitorium in Lansing. One of her pieces even won an award from MSU.

“I got the Ralph Hendrickson award which was for top painter of my senior year,” Hopkins said.

She said art is her form of healing, and encourages others to find what heals them as well.

“There’s so many ways you can like refocus that energy into creating a new narrative for yourself,” Hopkins said.

She graduated from MSU one week ago. Hopkins has a business named Aura Lee Gallery after her grandmother.

She said her next steps are to focus more on her business and perhaps another showcase.

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