LORI SCHAPPE-YOUENS
contemporary American painter 

For the first thirty years of my life I lived, breathed and worked in America, my country of birth. I grew up in the Midwest, went to school and began in earnest as an artist from the age of twenty-two.  I painted and did mixed-media work for a few years and then opened a contemporary art gallery in a small northern Michigan town.  My time there forged many beautiful friendships and yet I knew that the time had come to move on. After seven years of running the gallery, I had the opportunity through Rotary International to tour Southern Africa for six weeks. We began in South Africa and visited Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland and finally, Malawi- I fell in love with the continent and in particular with South Africa.  

In 1993 I moved to South Africa, around the same time that Mandela was released from Robben Island and South Africa began it's journey to democracy.  I too, began the journey into my other home, my adopted country- the one of my choosing.  There is a saying there, that "Africa gets under your skin."  What I experienced, was no exception. I fell completely in love with it's people and the land; the scent; the very energy of the place. Once South Africa grew under the new democracy, with the wise Madiba at it's helm, the country opened up in every way.  However fraught with hardship- it blossomed quickly.  The art and design field in particular, in my opinion grew immensely.  It irrupted - it gurgled and danced and sang and tested it's wings. South Africa was the darling of the world- people were paying attention to the beauty of what was being produced there.  It was a heady time to be alive and working in the creative industry.

I got married and we lived in Johannesburg. We had two children, Lily and Holden who were five years apart.  After Holden was born I began dreaming of painting full time. I had been dabbling in collage and mixed-media, however the need to express myself through painting was strong.  Visuals played in my head as I slept and roared through me onto the canvas.  It was as if I had finally woken up and  found my calling.  Painting for me, was as necessary as breathing or eating or experiencing love. 

 I began to produce very large paintings out of a small upstairs hallway studio and after a year, we built a large, whitewashed airy wooden studio in the back of our garden.  It was a sacred space which held many exhibitions; early morning coffee's and late afternoon glasses of wine.  It was my place of refuge; of self-discovery and I became me again.  Once I had established a large enough collection of work to show, I found representation with a number of reputable contemporary galleries and art dealers, both in S.A. and back in the U.S.A.  It was a good ten year period of establishing myself both personally as well as professionally. 

In 2012 my world dramatically shifted again.  I went through a difficult divorce and found the children and myself almost incredulously landing back in Madison, Wisconsin- where I had been born. Many of my family still lived there and it was a safe place to lick our wounds.  My entire world had tilted on it's axis and at times I felt as if it had just thrown us aside, I felt displaced and disoriented and incredibly sad. Family and friends rallied around us though, helping us through that very dark period.  I began to write and paint again and listen to music and realized that the soft landing in the sweetness of the Midwest, was exactly what the three of us had needed for a time. The children blossomed and grew more confident and we adapted to our new life. 

 Time has a way of healing things.  When I am in America, Africa calls me back and when I am in Africa America calls me. Instead of feeling torn, as I have for many years,  I have finally accepted that I will always be a woman of two homes.  I feel fortunate and grateful and more at peace with my world these days. 

I continue to travel back and forth between my two countries, showing my work on both continents. For a complete list of galleries, dealers and where I am currently exhibiting, visit my 'Links' or 'exhibits' pages.