enpen: Science Fiction author Brian Aldis has said that for him writing a novel requires two ideas, "the familiar" (an everyday in his life) must come first and then be affected by "the exotic" (beyond experience). Looking at your work I'm struck time and again by how familiar the forms are despite the abstract whole. Do you find yourself working more often from a starting point of the tangible or the metaphysical?
Laura Sharp Wilson: My images are tangible to me though I'm never sure of their outcome. I hope they are metaphysical to everyone else. It is my world and I hope nobody else occupies it.
If you were given one physical subject and three materials with which to work in order to produce 1,000 art works, what would they be and why choose those?
Subject: A Monkey-puzzle tree. Materials: Unryu paper, graphite pencil and gouache. I had never seen a Monkey-puzzle tree until I moved to the PNW 2.5 years ago. A Monkey-puzzle tree looks primordial, plastic, and packs a textural shock; it grows in common places like people's yards. I like Unryu paper because it has the qualities of paper and fabric, I love its sturdiness, yet delicate look. Unryu isn't a consistent flat surface, it has these gorgeous fibrous threads running through it. Graphite is great because you can vary the value and color, you can erase it and graphite creates a color unlike that of paint. I started using gouache when I studied surface textile design. Gouache is an opaque watercolor that has traditionally been used on renderings of pattern designs for fabric, because it provides a flat clean "read." An opaque watercolor like gouache is also used in traditional Indian Miniature painting, which I love. The flatness of gouache can have a jewel-like effect.
Your upcoming show is a mini-retrospective linking your art to real world socio-political phenomena. In the last 10 years what has been your most prescient work? And what has been your most dated?
A painting I did in 2000 is eery in foretelling the events of September 11, 2001. The piece depicts a masked figure with the text "There Are Things to Know About This World." The figure is a Caucasian male, his mouth is covered by a burka like mask. Two palm trees frame the figure's face. He wears a shirt with a Russian Constructivist print and a woven straw hat. I think a lot of Americans in 2000 felt the rumblings of collectively not paying attention to U.S. government and world goings on. That luxury of ignorance was blown open on Sept. 11 and I think a lot of people are paying more attention these days. My most dated pieces are probably the "bad" drawings I did around 1999. They are hastily done, quirky figures, some with text, a la Karen Kilimnik. They were fun to do, but definitely not my best work.
I understand that you curated and were a co-conspirator behind the idea of last year's Heroes show at Bryce's Barber Shop and room 30. As somebody accustomed to bringing your ideas into reality, what was it like turning your idea over to other artists and seeing the resultant interpretations?
It is exciting asking other artists to respond to a particular subject, or idea. I would put artist"s responses in three categories: 1) they match what you are thinking 2) they present aspects and notions you never have or would consider 3) they just aren't inspired by the parameters of your project/exhibition. Some artists really don't work well outside of the realm they have created.
Laura Sharp Wilson's show "Busy (a retrospective)" can be seen throughout April at The Black Front Gallery. Opening reception is Friday, April 4th and begins at 5pm. Her co-curated show "Heroes" debuts the same night at LUMP in Raleigh, North Carolina and more examples of her work can be found online at McKenzie Gallery, Byron C. Cohen Gallery and Friesen Gallery.