Studio Visit

In 2018, I gave up having a "home studio" after a couple of decades of making paintings where I lived. It was a big step to go off-premises, but an important move I have come to both value and embrace.

When I worked at home and could be “in the studio” by accident, it meant never really drawing a line between work and, well, more work. Having a separate location means considering what would most benefit from my attention and not letting the studio be a default position when there isn’t an immediate answer for that.

Don’t get me wrong - my boss is still one tough broad. Big expectations and not a lot of patience for slacking.

However, by acknowledging that art is a vocation before it is a profession and therefore a dominating force in how an artist makes decisions about time well spent, there must also must be a protective mechanism to prevent the avoidance of everything else. Art does involve experience, after all, and does not benefit in the long term from isolation and self-reference.

My current workspace is in the east Crossroads of Kansas City at the Bunker Center for the Arts. The building currently houses eight artists and three galleries. I welcome studio visits and am cheered by drop-ins and appointments alike. The Bunker galleries are open during Kansas City’s First Friday, with new exhibitions each month. My studio is usually open too, during these events. I’d like to see you here if you haven’t made it over yet.

Next blog, I'll be talking about my recent “filling thy cup” adventure. I was most definitely NOT in the studio for that. Stay tuned!

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September Exhibitions

It has been a typically busy summer @lauranugentpaintings. I have kept up a daily painting routine in my Kansas City studio and am showing new works in several venues:

The Arts Company in Nashville did their usual fantastic job installing the “Color and Balance” show and making welcome hundreds of folks during the opening. Here is a quick peek of my pre-show artwork delivery and discussion with gallery assistant Aaron Head.

The Kansas City Flatfiles show is a biennial exhibition that invites the public to browse unframed works from emerging and established artists. Curators from around the US are brought to Kansas City to select individual works to be exhibited in salon style arrangements.

Artist Sonie Ruffin has put together “Cultural Legacy,” a large group exhibition that, in her words “is being utilized to show us who we are and what we are doing in relation to the current cultural landscape.” It is a powerful show, displaying a broad talent base of regional artists.

It’s hard for me to fathom that this upcoming Plaza Art Fair will mean my tenth consecutive appearance at the show. I have endeavored to have a booth of entirely fresh works, not yet shown in Kansas City. My new series of paintings is meant to delight with its curved lines and unexpected color relationships. I hope to catch up with many of you there.

If you find yourself in Kansas City, do come by my studio sometime at The Bunker Center for the Arts. There is always a compelling display in the galleries and many artists making a daily practice out of their work.

Enjoy Your Stay

I am pleased to announce the completion of a project that began with an inquiry to this website in 2016. The curator of the Hallmark Art Collection asked if I would be interested in talking about a planned renovation at one of the company's properties. After months of discussion, we had an agreement wherein I would paint 13 original works for each of the hotel's residential floors at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City. 

Working within the same parameters as my current practice, along with the added encouragement of the curator who memorably said "make paintings that excite you," I embarked on the paintings. JGA Fine Arts custom built and delivered each of the pristine 60"x40" wood panels. My studio and exhibition schedule allowed me to work on three at any one time. 

About halfway through, an obvious shift in color palette and form occurred. Visiting the site several times during the process, I could see that these paintings would be the focus, the only object greeting guests as they exit the elevators and eagerly head to their rooms. Each painting became a little more bold in color and form with the striking inclusion of curved lines. Titles such as "Somnolent Charm" and "Interior of Dreams" reflect my own experience traveling the country to show my work and staying in hotels, always relieved to put down somewhere for three of four days at a time. 

These lobbies are accessible by the public so when in Kansas City, take the street car to Union Station and enjoy some time riding the elevators of the Westin, floors 6 - 18.  If you can't make it to KC, you may view the works on my Instagram

In the Making

The new year delivered a great thrill when Weinberger Fine Art opened "Building Blocks" on a very cold January night in Kansas City. Featuring work by Michael C. Driggs, Jeremy Rockwell and myself, the curated exhibition is meant to emphasize each artist's unique components in their individualist compositions. The January 8th reception brought an even warmer glow to WFA, Kansas City's most elegant and hospitable gallery, and gave me an opportunity to make remarks about my new and recent works to an affectionate audience. For those who missed it, I thought I would share my comments below:

"Each painting is the story of its creation and in the narrative of these works, color is protagonist and patterned blocking is structure. Having these stalwart guides allows my work to find me. In the studio, I choose intuition over agenda and aesthetics over ideology. Sometimes easily coaxed in arrival, other times deeply flawed and messy, my works are the pure expression of my experience.

When I make a painting, I feel as though I am walking a line between a romantic ideal and total disaster. When the state of a painting makes me restless, I begin again, using a wash of flat color over the entire surface. This superficially obliterates the work I’ve done, but it also leaves a history that I can reach back into if I desire. I challenge myself not to be precious, or, better stated, not to be precious too early on in the process.

The surface of a painting is the most personal element. Persistent layering of paint over time ultimately delivers one that is rhythmic and richly textured. How I leave the surface makes a painting identifiably mine. I use a free hand when painting. The resulting “soft geometry” means the only straight edge you will see is the canvas itself. The imprecision of my hand’s work is meant to engage you as a viewer, to interest you in finding the “flaws” - the bowed lines, colliding fields of color, drips of paint allowed to remain where they fell. 

For 25 years painting has been my chosen medium. What inspires and motivates me to begin is the excitement of not knowing the ending. Each work’s resolution can be a nail biting thriller or a tedious drawn out soap opera. I am the first viewer of my work and my standard is high for a level of optical excitement that also has longevity.  Until I am satisfied that that a painting will remain interesting to the eye in the long term, it is not finished.

Each new painting is a chance to start over, to use the new and the old, to combine art history and my experience. The goal of each work is finding a balance between the great sense of urgency to accomplish something beyond what I have before and a need to patiently explore its individual direction. Some paintings will boldly shout for attention from across a room, others will modestly whisper for notice. 

The meaning is in their making."

"Building Blocks" is open through February 24, 2018 at Weinberger Fine Art in Kansas City. 

Pluck that Chicken

In September, I presented as part of the “Strategies for Artists” series at the Kansas City Artists Coalition. It was a rewarding exercise that required reaching back into my archive and presenting my work and efforts to exhibit and sell it over the past 20 years. When the Q & A opened, an artist sitting in the front row asked me “what has made you so confident?”

The answer? Failures. Or at least, what seemed like failures at the time. How many “I regret to inform you” letters have I received? If I had to count accurately, we’d be here until next Thanksgiving. And those are the private shoot-downs, enjoyed within the walls of my in-box.

Public events, where I watched what seemed like the whole world move past, without a glance at my work, much less an actual sale, were painful economically and, in the early days, had the power to create crisis and confusion within my own mind. What I admitted to the artist in the front row, as well as to everyone in the room was “I knew I’d turned a corner when I had sat at an art fair for three days without a sale, and my response was to not change my work but, instead, to embrace it even more fully.” Let the audience and other conditions share in the responsibility while I go back to painting.

My friend, the artist Garry Noland, once said to me that you must be the best advocate for your work. The folks you invite in to your studio “will know if you are not behind it.” Filmmaker Walter Hill told my favorite podcaster Bret Easton Ellis “You need to have an almost unshakable belief in yourself” as an artist. Painter Laura Owens recently commented on the importance of trusting one's own efforts as an artist: “You are not trying to make good art.” Artists who avoid risk-taking “because they really want to be sure they are doing good art...History tells us that is not the way to make art.”

When a turn-down is a relief, it means we’ve crossed over into considering that the next opportunity we seek is a better one. Even an incurable romantic like me can get with that.

Laura presenting at Kansas City Artists Coalition, September 28, 2017

Laura presenting at Kansas City Artists Coalition, September 28, 2017