Monday, April 14, 2008

Laura Sharp Wilson, artiste extraordinaire

Laura Sharp Wilson has been very busy these days. She exhibited these two paintings at Friesen Gallery in Seattle in February 2008, in a one-woman show entitled "Twenty-Five Answers to One Question." The artist now lives in Olympia, Washington, with her husband and son, but she used to live in Columbia, Missouri, which is how we became friends. Her son is one month older than mine, and Laura started a small playgroup when they were just 2 or 3 months old. Laura and family left Columbia in December 2005, and I still really miss them a lot!

I've always loved Laura's paintings. Delicate, complex and detailed, they suggest some kind of alternative biological reality; they make me think of the kinds of organisms that you can't tell whether they are plant or animal. Is it an acquatic world? a primordial one? While the paintings are richly suggestive, they walk a fine line between the abstract and the representational. Laura's sense of color is striking, and the images are beautiful and poetic. Laura also creates sculptures. She describes her work this way:

"Moving to the Pacific Northwest has added a new vocabulary to my work. Trunk forms are in a number of paintings in this body of work. They represent trees that once grew in the wooded areas I now hike. The log, pole and trunk images speak to the history and foundation of the place I now live. My images are not likenesses of existing plant forms, instead, human culture has intervened, like the art of Japanese Ikebana, twisting, isolating and manipulating flora and stems into rare hybrids."

Laura has also been collaborating with other artists to call attention to issues they hold dear. She and fellow artist elin o'hara slavick co-curated an exhibit at Lump Gallery in Raleigh, North Carolina, which opened on April 4. The exhibition is called "Heroes," it brings together the work of 47 artists who each contribute "poetic, spontaneous, simple and honest tributes to those who inspire us; who refuse to fight the rich man’s war; who sing truth to power; who write manifestoes of hope; who lead and fight and refuse to let power corrupt; who help the hungry and sick and maimed and poor; visionaries; poets; artists; historians; doctors; activists; Rachel Corrie; Josh White; Frida Kahlo; Mother Jones; Paul Farmer; Ina May Gaskin." The idea behind the show, as explained in the Raleigh, N.C., Independent Weekly (April 4, 2008), was to focus attention on "heroes of all sorts," and hence to provide "glimmers of hope and resistance."

Laura currently has a mini-retrospective at the Black Front Gallery in Olympia entitled "Busy (a retrospective)." An interview with Laura is posted on a blog called "Olyblog." (Oly is shorthand for Olympia for those in the know!)

In addition to Lump Gallery in Raleigh, the Friesen Gallery in Seattle, and the Black Front Gallery in Olympia, Laura is represented by McKenzie Gallery in New York and the Byron C. Cohen Gallery in Kansas City.

AND, check this out! Her art was used for the cover of a scholarly scientific book called Emergence of Genetic Rationality: Space, Time, & Information in American Biological Science, 1870-1920, by Phillip Thurtle, from the University of Washington Press, published in January 2008.

One of her paintings was also selected to illustrate The Fables of La Fontaine, compiled by Koren G. Christofides, University of Washington Press, 2006.


Anonymous said...

I rely on Elizabeth to highlight moving and (to me) new artists and films. Laura Wilson sounds v. cool - glad to see she is settling in the PNW...xa

one chic mama said...

Wonderful write up! Laura is a dear friend from years ago and it's nice to keep up with the multitude of projects she has going on. A book cover - who knew? Thank you!