For Hispanic-Latinx Heritage Month, we’re highlighting the practice of Spanish-American artist Laura Berman. In discussing how heritage impacts her work, Laura reflects on her “puzzle piece printmaking” and the unique ways her shapes both link to and separate from the past.
Where are you from and where are you currently based?
My name is Laura Crehuet Berman, and I'm a Spanish-American artist. I was born in Barcelona and I live and work in Kansas City. I'm a dual citizen of Spain and the United States.
Can you describe the kind of work you create? How is it made and what inspires you?
I create works on paper that are made through hands-on techniques using printmaking, collage and painting. I'm inspired by vast landscapes and slow movements within time and space. My work seeks connections and evolution both through the processes I use and the content that I'm working with. The simultaneous experiences related to being a mother and also a daughter influence my work as well.
How long have you been working in printmaking? How did you first begin working with prints?
I've made prints for 30 years now, and I've been an artist for my entire life. Printmaking is a medium that I first learned in college. I was almost a math major instead of an art major! Making prints became the perfect way for me to bridge my love of abstract problem solving and the process of discovery through a visual language.
How would you describe your style of printmaking?
I intentionally keep my processes open and experimental so that I stay alive in my work. Though I was trained as a traditional printmaker, and the materials I use typically are very traditional, my way of working with printmaking is non-traditional by design. I call what I do puzzle piece printmaking. Each step I take in my work is a chance to make a choice. For instance, I might add a new color or move my plates around in unexpected ways, always responding to what the work is already doing on its own. There's a very strong call-and-response dance to what I do.
What drives your work and how is your studio organized?
Process and discovery drive my work. There's a strong momentum in my studio through the materials I use and the different stages of creation that my work is at during a given time. I always have some things that are beginning, while others are finishing. My studio has different stations for collage, printing and painting, and I frequently travel between these.
I call what I do puzzle piece printmaking. Each step I take in my work is a chance to make a choice.
What role does color play in your work?
As a colorist, I could spend days just mixing inks. Instead of thinking of color as an individual aspects of my work, I think about color in familial terms. The relationships of each color to the next is important to me, and this is part of my spark as an artist.
How do you choose what materials you use?
For many years, I have compiled the by-product offprints of my main printmaking process, and these materials are what I use in my collage works. I enjoy creating challenges for myself to see and build things in new ways.
What does 'heritage' mean to you?
To me, heritage provides a link from our past to our future cultures. Like many Americans, I'm a mixed-race person, so being part of the current and future culture of heritage is a complex idea with multiple sides to consider.
How do you think about culture and identity in relation to your work?
There can be a simultaneous freedom and also division in the process of creating new heritages. Some of my collage works especially touch on these ideas. The visual abstraction of my collages depict shapes that both grow together and also divide apart. Patterns are disrupted or evolve into new patterns and woven parts fray apart and then rebuild back into new worlds of discovery. For me, thinking through heritage and my role in this idea is also a way to think about building future cultures that are inspiring and full of wonder.