It has been said that if you love something, you should let it go; and if it comes back to you, you’ll know it was meant to be. Such was the case with Birmingham-based Laura Clark and art. Despite the fact that she has identified as an artist since early childhood, during her senior year in high school, she decided that she didn’t want to pursue art as a profession. “I did the thing that seniors do, where you ditch AP art — (which) would have gotten me into art school on a scholarship — and was a teacher’s aide (instead). So, that was great,” she recalls with a sarcastic laugh.
Laura had an interest in anatomy, so she thought she’d focus her studies on preparing for a career in physical therapy. “But (in my second year),” she says, “I completely switched my major to art, and graduated from Auburn (University) with a fine arts degree. (I’m) kicking myself a little for not having the art school experience and probably spending a lot more of my parents’ money. But, you know, things have a way of coming full circle.”
She adds that there are two things in life she has always wanted: to be a mom, and to be an artist. Thankfully, she says, she has been blessed with the ability to do both. Though creating certain kinds of art was put on the back burner for a bit when her children were younger, Laura never stopped being an artist.
“Even though there were times when my kids were young that I couldn’t do this type of creating,” she says, “I would always be decorating (or) designing … filling my mind with whatever I could and creating beauty — whether it (was in) the garden in the backyard or setting the table.” Now that the kiddos are almost 15 and 11 years old, she’s committing to her craft at full force.
“I channel what I would like to feel into my work,” she says. “I’m always thinking as I’m creating, and it’s not always that I have this concept worked out in detail before I start … I’m sometimes less conceptual, and it’s more revelatory in the sense that I’ll create something just because of the way I want to shape it or form it.”
RELATED: Carrie Pittman: An Artist Evolving
Though Laura creates a variety of paintings — from abstracts and figures, to florals and landscapes — she is, of course, referring to her clay work, the creations that she has been spending most of her time on recently. “I’ve just really found a new love for this type of work,” she gushes. “Sculptural artwork has been so refreshing to me to kind of get me thinking on another dimension and, quite literally, digging my hands into it and making something that can appear graceful or very elegant out of what was just a big lump of dirt.”
A prime example, she adds, are her artifact pieces. “They’re just kind of bits of porcelain, and I make them so they look like broken remnants or fragments.” Her idea for these pieces came about when she was constructing large vessels with clay. She’d end up with large scrap pieces that were discards but had already been prepped and rolled out to a certain, ideal thickness. Though clay can be reconstituted, that’s a whole separate process in itself. So Laura decided instead to use the so-called scraps to create something new, drawing on her main inspiration: the emotional and spiritual connection she feels to the created world.
“I just began forming with my hands,” she recalls. “Just different shapes and textures, using what I had around me and not really knowing what or why I was doing it; (it was) just more about the process of playing and exploring.” This process led to the creation of multiple freestanding sculptures and wall installations — but not before the vessels themselves landed Laura representation at Quogue Gallery in the Hamptons.
“I got a DM (on Instagram), and I knew it was a great opportunity,” she says. Thanks to social media, Zoom, and FedEx, Laura was able to virtually communicate and meet with the gallery owners and transport several of her vessels to New York in time for an art fair. In addition to Quogue Gallery, her work can also be found at Buckhead Art & Company in Atlanta. “Those are the two I refer to as my home galleries,” she explains. “I just feel at home there whenever I go in. It’s primarily because of the relationship with the owners, and their enthusiasm for their artists.”
Of course, collectors and clients can also contact Laura via her website or Instagram profile. In addition to working with individuals and interior designers, she enjoys using her talents to make a difference, such as when she was asked to participate in A-Team Ministries’ Heart 2 Heart fundraiser by working with a child who was undergoing cancer treatment to create a work of art.
“As a professional artist,” she says, “I was paired with a child who I would get to know over a period of a few weeks and then create a work of art with to be sold at a silent auction fundraiser. I did a painting for the live auction, but after getting to know Madison — (who was) 7 years old at the time — and hearing her describe with joy the experience she’d had swimming with dolphins over the summer, I felt we should sculpt the dolphin from clay instead.”
Laura is happy to report that Madison, now 13, is cancer-free, and she says that participating in that fundraiser was one of the most rewarding experiences she has had in her professional career. “In hindsight,” she adds, “I believe that was a pivotal point in my artistic journey. I can look back and see how God’s hand was loosening my grip on my brushes and guiding my fingers into clay where I’ve found that same childlike joy and excitement in creating art again.”
Subscribe to StyleBlueprint for a Life of Style + Substance.