Meet

Laura Berman

Where are you from and where do you reside?
I was born in Barcelona. I am a dual citizen of Spain and the U.S., and I grew up in the U.S. I’ve lived in 10 states, moving around a lot in my childhood and early adulthood. I’ve settled in Kansas City, where I’ve lived since 2002.
What necessities do you require when making your art?
I have a one-person printmaking studio which includes a press. I use oil-based inks, cotton paper, and I need a water bath to soak my paper while printing. I like to use bits of every color available to mix my own wide-ranging palette of ink colors. My palette is a huge part of how I make my work; I could spend days just mixing inks and preparing to print. Music is a necessity in the studio.
Describe a typical day in the studio for you.
My printing projects take formation in stages– there is planning and prep work to do, mixing colors, then printing in layers over many sessions. Sometimes a print will take a week to dry between layers, depending on how much ink is already printed. I always have multiple things going on at once– some prep work to do, some printing to do, some final decisions to make regarding a series of prints, and curating of the prints after they are dry and complete. While printing, I work with an assistant in a fast and furious manner. This allows me to move fluidly and with maximum improvisation through many layers in a series of prints, keeping my process playful and fresh as I go.
What is the most difficult part of the artistic process for you?
It varies! Time is often a challenge, as an artist who is also a professor and a mother of two small children, I have economized my working process over the years so my production time is maximized. Another challenge is having too many ideas to work through. The printing process itself mediates the making of the work and necessitates a slowing-down. I love making prints but I sometimes crave a more direct way of working through my ideas.
How do you incorporate chance in your creative process?
Chance is a huge element in my work. There is only minimal pre-planning to my work, and I purposefully embrace possibility in how my images come together. Colors, compositions, and number of layers are all decided in the printing process itself, which maximizes chance happenings in my work.
How important is spontaneity in your art?
Yes, spontaneity is very important in my process of making work. I enjoy comparing my process of working to that of making improvisational music or of cooking without a recipe; I gather all the ingredients, bring my own expertise and affinities, and let it all simmer, boil and bake until I have a tasty finished something. I often describe my colors as delicious and every day I try to create colors I’d like to eat.
How do you choose your materials?
Archival quality is very important to me. I use inks and papers that are tried and true, the best quality available.
How has your work developed in the past few years, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
I have focused on the monoprint medium since 2007. This focus has enabled me to find expertise in the medium, and I am very comfortable with the technical aspects of my work. My ideas have developed from an inward-looking personal documentation to an expansive outward-looking at space.
Are you formally trained? Did you go to art school? Who trained you? Did you have a mentor?
I went to art school: BFA (1995) Alfred University, Alfred, NY. MFA (2001) Tulane University, New Orleans, LA. My closest mentor was Teresa Cole, the printmaker I studied with in graduate school.
When did you begin your current practice?
I have been making prints since 1993; over 20 years. I fell in love with printmaking in college and pursued learning as much as I could about it ever since. I have focused on making monoprints since 2007, so for about 8 years now.
Do you remember the first work of art that captured your attention?
The very first work of art I can remember loving was a painting by Matisse. I took in a lot of Antoni Gaudí’s architecture when I was young in Barcelona– I had family that lived in the Casa Milá. Early favorite artists are Hundertwasser, Georgia O’Keefe, Mark Rothko, Agnes Martin, Robert Irwin and Helen Frankenthaler.
What are some themes you find recurring in your pieces, intentional or not?, or: What themes or motifs are you consistently drawn to?
Relationships and spaces between things. Color and light. Micro / macro. Asymmetrical patterns. Abstract images that mesmerize. Space itself– and distance. Nature / human-made. Strength and beauty. Unexpected irregularities, blips, skips, surprises.
How do the different elements of color come together in your works?
I could spend weeks on developing my palette of colors! I start with a wide-ranging array of blues, yellows, reds, and neutrals. I mix colors constantly while printing, often cannibalizing a just-printed color to mix the next color I use. My only criteria for the colors I use is that they are yummy to me in that moment. Everything I do with color is improvisational, and each image I make has its own personality of unique color combinations. Working with an endless array of colors is one of my very favorite parts of making prints.
Have you always worked in printmaking? Do you ever work in a completely different medium?
I’ve worked in printmaking for over 20 years. I sometimes paint on a small scale. I would love to try my hand at ceramics and fabric design.
Where do you find your day-to-day inspiration?
I am inspired by earth and space both– from sunsets to supernova. I have a great interest in tile and fabric design. Collections and iterations inspire me. My rock collection in particular has been a great muse to me in recent years.
Do you see your works as unique or as part of a series?
Both. Each print is truly an individual work of art. I do usually create my work as a series of prints, so they can tell a story together as well.
What tangible objects or intangible moments are you most interested in representing through your works?
Though my work is fairly abstract, it is inspired by tangible things. Namely, my fairly banal rock collection, which I have amassed for most of my life. This collection documents the places I’ve been and memories made– it is biographical. It also is a collection of a wide-ranging set of small rocks from all over the world, which highlights the differences between each rock. This collection has inspired me to work with ideas of iterations and variables within set groups. It has also inspired me to look at my environment, at our earth in new ways. My work explores the intimacy and the expansiveness of space– earthly and beyond.

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