Interview with Artist-in-Residence Laura Marks
by Katie Himmelrick-Bruce
Over the 2014–2015 academic year, Fuller Northwest has had the privilege of displaying breathtaking paintings created by local artist Laura Marks. Recently I sat down with Marks, accompanied by one of her young children, to discuss how faith has impacted her artistic process.
Katie Himmelrick-Bruce: How did you get acquainted with Fuller?
Laura Marks: Fuller approached me! I had a friend use my artwork for the Transformation conference ( http://www.tformconference.com) last year, and they thought it was good.
KH: What role does your faith play in your art?
LM: It’s a strong role. I have always considered my process to be prayer, of a sort. I feel as if I am taking my emotions and my feelings and I am saying something more honestly than I would say with words to God. It’s neat that what comes out also tends to be beautiful.
[My art] always starts out from the basis of wanting to talk to God, having something to say, or having a really strong emotion. And it is bigger than me.
KH: Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
LM: It starts with a story and a color, I feel like I’m brimming over with stories I want to tell.
KH: You’ve talked about art as prayer, how do you see that play out in your daily life?
LM: If I have strong emotions I can’t deal with, some people might shout at God or go for a walk. But for me, from an early age, I was given a notebook and pen or paint, and it feels very natural for me to say things with color and with artwork.
KH: How do you instill that love into the lives of your children?
LM: Since they were born I have taken them into the studio with me, it’s very natural. I really believe that everybody’s an artist, that everyone is creative, but at a certain point if it’s not something that other people praise, we stop creating.
I had a really creative mother who encouraged me. She wanted me to be a children’s book author and illustrator; she was my preschool and kindergarten teacher; we made books and she still has them all. I’ll go home to visit and see them, and they are precious.
When I see something I’ve created, it takes me back to that emotion I was feeling at the time. Just like some people see the mountains and it takes them to a place of awe, I feel that way in the woods where I grew up [Alaska]—that was church, that was my cathedral. I can access some of that feeling of awe when I’m in the midst of my process. The creative process itself is almost like I’m talking to God, and—this may sound hokey—it makes me more receptive to a return answer. I feel connected [to God]. And if I go too long without creating, I feel disconnected and unbalanced.
KH: Which artists do you love, which artists would you count among your favorites?
LM: I love Kandinsky. I love Mark Rothko. Not just their work, but what they had to say about it. I want to go deeper. That’s always my desire in relationships, in my work. I want to go deeper. Mark Rothko had some deep emotional pain from things he witnessed in war, and you can see the difference in how he painted before and afterwards. And even he would say that he couldn’t make art the same way again—everything had changed. So, you see his work going from something almost folk and telling stories, to these color fields that are so rich. You stand in front of these paintings and you just feel. I think that artwork tells something, something gets communicated, and it is successful if you feel something or if it makes you think.
KH: You have spoken of your art as prayer. Do any of your pieces tell a story you would like to share?
LM: I painted the dove for church. It hangs at the church I attend. I saw an empty wall [at church], and felt something needed to go there. I was looking at the art of the church, there’s such a grand history of art created for the church, to beautify the church. Even at times when people did not read the Bible, you could look at the artwork and see the stories of the Bible. I was trying to think of a piece that would fit into any time—Pentecost, Advent. I was going through the stories of Jesus and went with this dove. I feel like it is hope, and I think of many stories from the Bible when I see it. I also think of the prayers of the people, I imagine [the prayers] going up to God. It’s a symbol for me, and since most of my work is not recognizable, mostly abstract, it’s special.
I’ll let my art speak for itself; it is what I have to say.
You can see more of Laura’s amazing art online at gildymarks.com.