Every week, we'll be sitting down with one of our gallery artists to discuss their work, process, inspiration, and stories. This week we're speaking with Laura Fayer.
Laura Fayer's studio is nestled in her classic apartment in Jackson Heights, Queens. It's clear from the moment you step inside that one of the driving forces of her work is color. Bright paints, palettes, and mixed pigments cover the work tables, an index of colors stands at the ready to be sorted through, and ideas for inspiration are tacked on the wall. Printmaking tools sit next to Japanese rice paper, and stacks of sketches lay in wait. We sit down to discuss how all of these elements come together in her deceptively complex work.
How did you first become interested in art?
I lived in Japan when I was a child for a couple of years, and a lot of the memories that I have about art are related to Japan somehow. Even when we were living in the States, our house was filled with art from Japan because my parents had already lived there a few years before I was born, and they had collected all these objects and artwork. When we got to Japan, I was homeschooled with my siblings and half the day, every day, my mother would take us out on these trips. We went to tons of museums. She was interested in very unusual things, like factory tours. We went to a Noritake china factory to see how everything was made. We'd also go to these unique festivals. There was one that really stuck out to me. It was a broken needle festival where women would bring their used needles, thank them for their service, and ask for help gaining better skills in the next year. Those are the kinds of things which might not specifically be about painting or artwork, but they still made a powerful impression on me and my interest in creating.
In your statement, you talk about how the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi has influenced your work. Do you know what attracts you to that idea, or how it reflects in your work?
Wabi-sabi is about asymmetry, economy of means, modesty, intimacy, and appreciation of integrity of natural objects. I actually found out about the concept after I was already painting, and I felt like I was somehow making these paintings that were rooted in something I had experienced in Japan. I did some research and realized that, of course, that's where it was coming from. The paintings are a lot about discovery and exploration, and going with the flow if you come across some kind of obstacle. It's all about just putting the paint down, seeing what happens, reacting to it, and not worrying about if there's, say, a wrinkle in the paper or the paint might not flow quite how you were expecting.
Your work is a little bit of painting, a little bit of collage. Is there one that you started out with first? How did you come to the exploration of the intersection of those two mediums?
I actually started out as a printmaker. I was much better at printmaking then at painting, and it took me a while to get more comfortable with painting. I had one teacher who knew I also liked to draw and she told me to bring the drawing into the painting. The idea developed from there. I would translate drawings onto a printmaking tool. Then I'd make prints from those stamps and collage those elements back into the painting. Now I always combine the three into one piece.
What are the most important elements of your work and your process?
I think a lot about color, movement, and form. I also concentrate on how the images relate to the landscape I'm inspired by. That sense of discovery is also really important to me when it comes to process.
Do you have an idea of the finished product in your mind when you're starting out, or do you always just let it carry you?
No, I don't really have any idea of how it's going to turn out. But lately I have been starting out with a more intentional palette. I'll select a couple of colors, mix them up, pour them onto the canvas, and then go from there.
What's typically the next step once you have that base down?
The next step would be either printing directly onto the canvas with one of my stamps, or printing onto the Japanese rice paper that I work with and collaging it down. Once I see something there I'll put another layer of transparent paint down and start this back and forth of the mark making with the printing and the transparent layers of color.
The paint that I use is Guerra paint, where you basically have to make your own paint. You buy pigment dispersions and then you mix them with a flat or shiny binder. So, I make the containers of the paint, and every time I mix anything I keep track of how I made it on note cards. That reference really helps me a lot. I'll go through the cards when I'm getting into the next step of the painting to help me generate an idea for the next color.
Is there anything that inspires you in particular to start working?
I go for a lot of walks. I've been going to Central Park regularly and taking photographs. It's not necessarily like I'm picking images to work off of, but what I end up being drawn to always seems to reflect my work. I'll post the photos to Instagram and people will comment saying how much they look like my paintings! Since nature is very important to me, I'll take that inspiration from being out in the park and use it to start working.
Are you someone with a routine, or do you just work whenever inspiration strikes?
I try not to wait until inspiration strikes because then I might be waiting too long! But I'm not a 9-5 artist, I work at any time of day or night.
Have you been noticing any evolution in your work lately?
A few years ago I started experimenting with putting the canvas flat so I could get more fluidity with the paint. I'll try spraying water to move the paint around, then waiting for it to dry and building another layer on top of that. It creates a lot more movement to the painting.
Explore Laura Fayer's work here.