Finding beauty in the circle of life

Inspired by her rural roots, Southside artist combines beauty of nature and social issues in her creations

By Sherri Coner

If you have never seen jewelry created with some of nature’s most delicate creatures, then you have not yet admired the artwork of Flannery Vaught.

This soft-spoken Southside artist occasionally uses bird bones to make jewelry.

“You can wear their breast bones as necklaces to honor the lightness of a sparrow,” she said.

It is no surprise that Vaught sees beauty in a cluster of moss, a handful of leaves or the fragility of weather-beaten tree branches.

“It’s hard to find anything that doesn’t speak to me,” said Vaught, who is completing her second master’s degree with plans to become an art therapist.

Flannery Vaught. (Submitted photos)

Born to a farmer and a fine artist, Vaught was named after American author Mary Flannery O’Connor. Her older brother was named after American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne.

While growing up in rural Franklin, she found beauty in the circle of life.

Appreciating the life as well as the death of a bird is an example of how Vaught embraces and honors nature. Farm life taught her to see and appreciate the details, artistically or not, in all life moments.

Country roads take her home

Farmers and anyone else who prefers rural life can be misunderstood by those within the city limits.

For example, when elementary school classmates learned that she lived on a farm, “They asked me why I didn’t stink,” Vaught said with a laugh.

Along with paying attention to her father’s farming legacy, Vaught appreciates the small, tight-knit community in the country where she grew up.

Definitely, a gathering of like-minded nature-loving people has a beautiful value all of its own.

There’s something magical about wearing a sparrow’s breastbone over your own. Be light of heart.

“Farmers and people who live in aggregate communities have so many different skills,” Vaught said. “So much of that life is replicated in my own experience. You are your own safety net.”

Allowing the environment to artistically inspire her is a process Vaught implicitly trusts.

“Most of my work is mixed media,” she said. “And some of it is self-expression.”

Her passion for color, texture, natural materials and the challenge of relaying social messages without the use of words often keeps Vaught happily submerged in projects.

Currently, she devotes many hours to creating portraits.

Tarot card designed self-portrait. Part of a larger series of tarot cards designed with portraits of people the artist knows personally

Art therapy

“I’m doing a series of women from the Midwest and fem-presenting women,” Vaught said.

Also living for years now with long-term health issues, Vaught explained that art became her salve of comfort, her escape from trying days.

Pursuing art therapy perfectly fits her passion for sharing the healing magic of art with those who need it most.

Vaught also utilizes art to express her personal beliefs about social issues.

One example is a project she titled Walled Horizons which addresses land use around warehouses “and the impact on people who work there and live around them,” Vaught said.

Does a picture hold a moment? A friend smiles.

A naturally curious young woman whose life is one ongoing art experience, Vaught delves into taxidermy every now and then. But she prefers osteoderm work, which involves processing animal bones and using them for artistic expression.

In the early summer months, samples of her osteoderm work were displayed in the third-floor art gallery of the Irvington Lodge in historic Irvington.

Also in April, her work was displayed in a show called Off Bird Arts in Bloomington.

Vaught is also a regular participant in the First Friday Art Walk in Beech Grove.

Her genuine love for all kinds of people, animals and nature “are inextricable,” Vaught said. “We are all from each other. My art might not impact the person next to me but then it might mean something to the person next to them.”