OURAY – Ouray native Zina Nicole Lahr touched the hearts and imaginations of many in her brief lifetime. But the reach of the 23-year-old artist and inventor has grown exponentially since her death last month, thanks to a video on Facebook, shot last August by her childhood friend, Stormy Pyeatte.
“I’m pretty blown away,” Pyeatte said. “It’s posted all over the internet now. I am getting so many cool emails from people all around the world. So many people are talking about how much Zina inspired them. I get to witness this first hand, to see how Zina lives on.”
Lahr died in an apparent hiking accident on Nov. 20 near Ouray. The following weekend, Pyeatte, a film student at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design), held an open house at the Wright Opera House showcasing Lahr’s work as an artist. In addition to Lahr creations, ranging from whimsical solar-powered robots to tiny intricate figurines to puppets with LED lights for eyes, Pyeatte re-edited her video footage of Lahr.
“Getting Zina to talk in front of the camera was so funny,” Pyeatte said, of the video shoot. “She would lose track of her thoughts, and I had to ask her the same question again. She was so quirky, cute and funny.”
In the video, Lahr comes to life on the screen, aviator goggles on her head, discussing her “creative compulsive disorder,” her art and her inimitable sense of style.
Everyone loved it. “People asked at the event if I would be willing to post the video on the Internet,” Pyeatte said. So when she returned to school in Santa Fe, she posted “The Work of Zina Nicole Lahr” online, tagging a handful of friends.
Almost immediately, like Lahr’s whimsical robotic inventions, the video took on a life of its own. By the end of its first day online, it had 4,000 views. On Friday, Dec. 6, Aspen Public Radio aired a story about the video, leading to an email from Christopher Jobson, founder and editor of Colossal, the popular blog exploring art and visual culture. “He wanted to thank me for sharing the video,” Pyeatte recalled. “He said, ‘I find myself brimming with happiness that she [Zina] existed.’” The video was soon at the top of Colossal’s home page, under the headline, “Creative Compulsive Disorder: Remembering Zina Nicole Lahr.”
The video spread like wildfire. This Monday, Vimeo featured it as an editor’s pick; by Tuesday, Dec. 10, it had well over 245,000 views.
“It is so bittersweet,” Pyeatte said. “At first I didn’t know how to feel about it. It was really awesome that people were watching my video, but once Colossal posted it on their website on the front page and it started getting so many views, I got really upset. It made me so sad I couldn’t share all this with Zina. This is her, her work; this is why we made it in the first place.”
At the same time, it’s comforting because “everyone is so inspired by her and grows to love her when they see her on the screen. Zina was so full of life and so much promise and so excited about everything she did. The message is, ‘Don’t take your life for granted; remember this is only temporary.’”
But for now, Pyeatte said, “We will see how much further Zina goes.”