Laura Sallade

Tell us about your background. Do you remember your first interaction with art?

Since childhood, I’ve always had a deep love and connection to visual art and stimulation. As my personality emerged, almost nothing shaped me so profoundly as the way I quietly observed my surroundings. I remember at a young age, making portraits of my friends and realizing that drawing was something that I loved and that set me apart. So in becoming an artist, it was a simple motive in trying to be a part of this world that had already touched me so deeply. I think this reason for my career path is magnified by the fact that I never made a fall-back plan. I don't know how to do anything else. I've seen a lot of artists, writers, and musicians pursue their passion for a few years and if it doesn't work out, they go do something else. But I honestly don't think I'm qualified to do anything else.  In a way, I think that helps me to just hold onto the love for my work because I have no other options. That “sink or swim” mentality, I think, can lead people to have success, more so than if you don't love what you're doing.

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What is a typical day like in your studio?  Do you have a specific routine?

When I get to my studio in the morning, I walk in, lock my door, turn on the air, and leave the lights off. I give myself a minute to take in the multiple things that are going on in my process. I observe different unfinished threads and think about how they speak to each other. Stillness is a huge part of my process. If I move too quickly, I miss the subtleties. Once I've taken some initial thinking time, I make a plan, listing all the things I need to do, and prioritize them.  Not every minute of art making is romantic. It's hard and frustrating and I always need to have a game plan or I start to feel like I'm drowning. With that being said, no one day is ever the same, and I love that aspect. I could be going one clear direction, full-steam ahead, but any moment I might realize that something else is happening with the material and I need to pay attention to that instead. Approaching the work with a plan is vital, but the most important part is the perpetual willingness to give it [the plan] up - that's the only way the work will ever truly evolve and have a life of its own. It can be humbling and thrilling and exasperating all at once, but in the end it's always worth it, because it feels bigger than me.

How has your art changed over the years?

When I first went to art school, I thought I would be an oil painter, making realistic portraits. But by the end of my first year, I realized that I love material and I wanted it to drive my work. I was more drawn to manifesting my love for pattern, shape, and line, in a literal and hands-on way. I made installations often on a large scale with cheap materials. In my third year of college, I found 4 or 5 huge slabs of architectural glass in a dumpster. I knew I needed to have this glass, but I didn't know why. Following my gut, I got a team of friends together to haul this massive treasure into my studio in the middle of the night. For months I labored over these surfaces, and failed multiple times at using the glass effectively. Herein is the frustration of so many artists: knowing what we what to make, that thing that sits in our gut, but unable to manifest the monster inside us. At the time I didn't realize it, but what I wanted was to work with the material in a way that was intrinsic to its properties. And one day I found it: the silvering process. I saw an Art21 interview in which Josiah McElheny made a huge collection of glass vessels with silver nitrate. I knew right away this was what I needed in order to bring out what I loved about the glass: the light. I did some research, ordered some obscure materials, and got to work. I quickly realized that it wouldn't be as easy as Josiah made it look, but I experimented with the process miserably for about 6 months, until I stumbled on a few ways to engineer techniques around a chemical process that would give some control over the imagery and archival properties. I've now been working with glass for 5 years and have constantly been surprised by this wild and exciting process. I am always learning and still wanting more.

What is your inspiration?

Light, in its appearance and behavior, is an important inspiration for me. These days, I often find myself staring for long periods of time at a sunset, and later calling it research. I'm in love with Einstein's work that proved light to be a constant, and I'm interested in the way the light, in its constancy, filters though the clouds and air. Striving to mimic the way it glows subtly behind the clouds one minute, and bursts through with blinding vengeance the next, I cut, form, and arrange shapes and patterns, perpetually overlaying one occurrence onto another. In my mind, I collect these strings of contrasting moments. They fuel my work as I use mylar, glass, and silver to embody transient formations.

What does your work say about you?

It's hard to say how my work is perceived or how it speaks because I rarely am able to remove myself from it. There's a longing for emotional connection through the arts.  Ideally, all art is capable of expressing the joy, confusion, and sadness of the human condition. I am acutely aware of the turmoil far below the surface, and hopefully, one way or another, that comes across. If I had to say one thing that would feel genuine to my personal voice, it would be that there is more below the surface - more behind the graphite marks, under the mylar, beyond the glass, and on the other side of the silver.  And this is extended in the perhaps self-evident fact that there is more below the surface of every person.  Furthermore, I know I can't expect people to pay as much attention to my more obscure stuff, so if I make something that has more of a populist appeal, I have nothing to complain about. I'm still kind of amazed that I've been able to make a life of being an artist and that sometimes people have been willing to look at it, and at the end of the day it somehow comes down to making work that I love,and that someone else might love it, too.