For this profile, GCAC invited Ken Aschliman, our Columbus Arts Festival intern and recent Columbus College of Art & Design graduate, to interview a local artist for a peek into their studio and to find out more about their work. Aschliman chose to speak with Laura Alexander, a mixed media artist who primarily etches drawings into layered glass and hand cuts paper. Alexander received her BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) and her MFA from the University of Washington. She has a studio at Junctionview Studios in Grandview Heights. She is a member of CAW: Creative Arts of Women and the Ohio Art League. She was formerly a member of the Couchfire Collective and a former board member for the Franklinton Arts District.
By Ken Aschliman
As a recent graduate of Columbus College of Art & Design, I decided to interview Laura Alexander for advice on starting an artistic career. I was familiar with Laura's work and had recently met her at Agora. I interviewed Laura in her studio at Junctionview as she was beginning to gear up for ArtPrize - an event that "matches" artists from around the world to venues in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and then awards the world's largest art prize ($250,000) based solely on a public vote.
Ken Aschliman: How did you end up back in Columbus?
Laura Alexander: I went off to Seattle, Washington, for graduate school. My parents had some health problems while I was out there. It would take me a minimum of eight hours to get back, so it just made sense for me to come back home.
I thought it would be just another pit stop, but I got a studio at Junctionview about two years after I got back. When I moved in here, I got really involved with volunteering with Couchfire Collective. I started throwing my own art shows here at Junctionview. They were called Spark!, and they were hang-it-yourself shows. I would just go on ColumbusUnderground and say, “I’m going to open the doors at 10 o’clock.” People amazingly showed up. Every time the show got bigger, and every time the work got better.
KA: How important is volunteering?
LA: I always volunteered for my friends if they were having a show. If anyone was having a show, I would ask, “What do you need help with? What can I do?” I always tell people who are starting out to do this, because you meet people. You find out how to throw your own events. You find out what goes into throwing an art show. It’s a lot of work.
KA: In addition to volunteering, what other advice would you give to an emerging artist?
LA: Take advantage of any opportunity to show your work. I will still show anywhere people ask me to show. Because of that, my work is recognized. It helps me get more shows. I inadvertently do a lot of networking. I try to go to as many art openings as I can. That’s the most important part of the art community here: we support each other. The more people you meet, the more you hear about different opportunities. Every hour you put into something, pays back twofold.
Also, the Ohio Art League has done great things for me. They have two juried shows each year. I had my first solo show at the Ohio Art League gallery right after it moved to the gateway.
KA: How does your job affect your art?
LA: I found a job that works really well for me. It’s a production floor. We’re running machines, and I’m making sure the work gets done and multitasking, which works for me as an artist. I do a lot of monotonous work. It’s the same thing every day. It’s nice because it doesn’t take my creative energy. There have been times where I think, “I really wish I had a creative job.” But, ultimately I want to save all my creativity for myself. I don’t exhaust that on someone else. When I was teaching, it was really hard to make my own work.
KA: If you make enough money from your job, do you find that you can do whatever you want with your artwork? Or are you actually making enough money off your artwork?
LA: No, I don’t make enough money off my artwork. With my artwork I can make what I want and when I want. I don’t have to worry about paying the rent. My goal with my artwork is for it to pay for itself, but it doesn’t always do that. Of course I’m honored when someone wants to buy my work, but that’s not why I make it.
KA: What is your next step as an artist.
LA: I’ve been trying to get better at researching shows and opportunities in other cities. I’ve shown in a lot of places in Columbus, so I want to start looking regionally.
KA: What pushes you to make your artwork?
LA: It honestly keeps me sane. I have a really disorganized mind, I guess. I’m messy, so things that are white don’t stay white. But, my work is all white on white. I can’t mess it up. My artwork is taking all the OCD energy I have and putting it in that one place.
What inspires your artwork?
LA: When I was at MICA, I had a sculpture teacher who changed the way I thought about art. The class was completely material based, and that’s how I see my work now. You can push your materials so far and think that you’re done, but it’s not until you push it over the edge that you can do what the material wants you to do. I’m still exploring paper. I try to take a plain sheet of paper and push it to something you wouldn’t expect. My work is all about layering and shadows. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of it.
To learn more about Laura Alexander and her art, visit her site at www.studiosweetstudio.com. To read more about Columbus College of Art & Design graduate, Ken Aschliman, visit ccad.digication.com/kash.
Photo of Alexander in her studio by Ken Aschliman.