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Quilter Lauren Austin has been designing and making quilts for more than 30 years, completing her first quilt at age 7. An exhibit of her work, “Natural Black: The Nature Quilts of Lauren Austin,” will run Jan. 16-April 13 at the African American Museum of the Arts in DeLand. The opening reception will be 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, at the museum.

Prior to being a full-time artist, Austin worked for the U.S. Foreign Service, went to law school, and practiced law.

“Art has always been an important part of my life. I took the plunge in 2004 to make art full time. My work is about my experiences, including a series about nature — images of leaves and fish surrounding figures and faces,” Austin said.

Austin was an artist-in-residence at Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach. She then lived in China for five years, working on quilts, learning Chinese, and providing art demonstrations and workshops to area community groups and school programs.

She returned to the Houston area and then Michigan, and is happy to be back in sunny Orlando.

“Art contains the stories of both the artist and the viewer. I hear many personal stories sparked by my work. These interactions give me an understanding and an appreciation of the complexity of our lives,” Austin explained.

“I use my family photos and hand-dyed textiles to make fabric portraits and scenes. I try out different art methods to add distinct self-made designs, including raku and traditionally fired ceramic masks, stone lithography, photochemical processes, dye removal and etching,” she continued.

Austin’s art has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and in China.

The African American Museum of the Arts is at 325 S. Clara Ave. in DeLand, and admission is free. For more information, call 386-736-4004.

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