Neoteric Art: You graduated from The Columbus College of Art and Design and twenty years later still work and live in Columbus. Please discuss the Columbus art scene currently and over the years.
Laura Sanders: There has been tremendous growth in the art scene since I arrived here in Columbus, particularly with the galleries. The short north gallery district has expanded and supports a popular art walk. We now have the Wexner Center which brings great contemporary art exhibits to Columbus, and we have lots of non-profit organizations that offer support with grants and opportunities for artist’s to exhibit. I know many business’s and non-profits are struggling currently with the economy. Hopefully this is short lived and many will be able to weather it. In general Columbus is rich with a large diverse population of artists. I think with the convergence of CCAD, OSU and several other colleges in the area, we attract a lot of artists. With the teaching opportunities and low cost of living many artists end up making Columbus home.
NA: Discuss your work/thought processes when starting a new piece or series.
LS: I generally start out with an image in my mind, maybe of a pose for the figure or location, then try to “stage” it. I work very closely with my photography and that is where the random or unexpected enters my work. During a photo session, sometimes something I may have planned as my focus ends up looking different than in my minds eye and the moment leads me in another direction. Afterward I spend hours pouring through images I have taken to find ones that capture the feeling or idea I had. Often I will use photoshop to patch together images for the composition of the painting. I used to work from life but after a while I found that very constraining. My work is almost always figurative, occasionally animal, and I am very interested in the elements and movement. I finally concluded that with my interests I was going to have to fully embrace photography to make the paintings I wanted to. One paradox of my work is that it looks very observational, yet it is observed or should I say re-observed, after the fact, from a photo. While I am in the act of painting I imagine that I really am observing it in life. I feel like the examined photo becomes its own reality in paint that is part memory and part, well, paint. My painting technique is visceral and thick and the image is subject to that physicality. While it is observational the image ultimately serves the paint.
NA: Tell us about your “Heads Above Water” series.
LS: I have been obsessed with painting the head just above the water for some time now. While my most recent paintings have more to do with artificiality than the previous Heads Above Water Series, I am still making my figures neck high in the water. There is probably some unconscious reason for this preference but on a more left brain conscious level, it is the specificity of the face against the anonymous elemental forces that intrigue me. When I first began the series I was also thinking about ways to objectify the figure and relate to it more as an animal, to see it as if it had a natural habitat.
NA: You recently gave an Artist Talk at Syracuse University. How was that experience?
LS: This was the first visiting artist trip I had ever done and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turned out to be a really enjoyable experience. I have been working really hard lately and not getting out as much as I should with my artist friends, and my trip to Syracuse reinforced how much I love to think about and discuss art. The questions student and faculty asked during my presentation were very insightful and gave me lots to think about afterward.
NA: Who are some of your favorite painters working today that most of us would not be familiar with?
LS: A few of my favorite Ohio painters are Linda Gall, Debbie Griffing and Paul Emory. I love Linda’s scenes of destruction cradling fragile images of porcelain pomp. Debbie Griffing is an under the radar artist who does beautifully layered paintings, sometimes in wax with colored pigments and oils. Paul Emory depicts rural scenes in rich colorful and often humorous paintings. You can find Linda’s work at lindagall.com, Paul at paulemory.com and Debbie’s painting in her myspace pictures at www.myspace.com/dagriffing.
NA: What are some of your short and long term goals concerning your art career?
LS: Two of my short term goals are to exhibit in cities outside of Columbus and to participate in more artist residencies. Practically speaking, I would love to make a blue collar living as an artist. If I can make the same amount as an electrician or a plumber, and do that by painting, well I think that will be heaven. As for long term, my goal is to create a body of work that I am really proud of and one which leads me to new discoveries that continue to fuel my passion for painting.