An Interview with Laura Waller: “Bright Lights, Big City”

Last week we hosted the opening reception for Laura Waller: Bright Lights, Big City. It was a great evening and it is always a pleasure showing the work of Laura Waller. If you weren’t able to make it to the reception, we hope you will be able to make it into the gallery to see her paintings before the show closes on October 5th. We were able to present Laura with some questions about her work and the exhibit and we are happy to be able to share her answers with you today.

Your upcoming exhibit at the gallery is entitled Bright Lights, Big City. Can you tell us a bit about the show and what inspired you to create these pieces?

New York City Abstracted No. 2, 2019,
Oil on linen,
48 x 36 inches

All art is autobiographical. I have been painting bright lights and big city places that are part of my DNA from NYC where I was born, to Tampa where I have lived the longest, to New Orleans where I got my undergraduate and graduate degrees to Rockland where I feel I flourish.

I have returned to NYC almost every year of my life and feel it is the quintessential city of America. Probably the 9/11 terrorists recognized this when they chose their target. At night, the city is aglow with neon and headlights through which the people dash. But, as in my painting titled NYC Abstracted No. 2, it can be the loneliest place in the midst of the crowds. In this painting, there is only one person in the window.

Some of the paintings in the show depict the interiors of the theaters. What was your process for creating these paintings? 

I am fascinated by places that are worlds unto themselves. There is that encapsulated warm feeling one gets when you enter a brightly lit theater on a cold night. Shubert Theater No. 2 evokes that mood. 

Lately, I have been focusing on the 1920s-1930s built theaters that dot our country and miraculously have been preserved and restored. The Strand in Rockland and the Tampa Theatre are examples of these classic architectural gems. I am lucky to live near both. They are a direct contrast to the cookie-cutter nature of our neighborhood multiplex cinemas. They welcome you by their elaborate settings from a slower time. Tampa Theatre brings you into a small Mediterranean village at night with stars above your head and white doves resting on ornately carved walls of muses and patterned plaster. After the event, you walk by a brightly lit concession stand in the lobby surrounded by tapestries, majestic stairs and Spanish tiles below your feet. You linger. Tampa Theatre: Concession Stand and The Strand Theater.

Tampa Theatre No. 5: Concessions, 2018,
Oil on linen,
60 x 84 inches
Strand Theatre No. 1, 2018,
Oil on linen,
24 x 20 inches

What about the I am Woman pieces? Can you give some background on these paintings?

I Am Woman No. 3: Celebrating Women in an Era of Misogyny, 2019,
Oil on linen,
40 x 40 inches

I paint what I can’t say. For the recent past, I have been speechless as I watch what has been happening in how we as a country treat our citizens. I am very concerned about the return of misogyny in this era— from denigrating women and their looks to the somewhat misogynistic question even my female friends are repeating about the upcoming election — but is she electable?

And so I began celebrating women by painting them close up and uncontained by the canvas — perhaps a metaphor for how women should not be bound by outdated restraints.

You divide your time between studios here in Maine and in Florida.  Does your work differ much from studio to studio?

This year for the first time I have a studio outside my home at Lincoln Street Center in Rockland. Bottom line, I am more productive. There are no distractions, and I’m on a schedule to work (as I was as a businesswoman for 35 years). I have a dedicated space to work, to explore, and to reach. I can also share thoughts with other artists by opening my door.

Thank you so much to the artist, Laura Waller, for sharing some insight into her life and work. Please visit our website for more information about the exhibit and her available paintings.  

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