My mother was an art teacher. Sometimes she would take me with her sketching. We would go to Prospect Park and draw trees. Her brother was also a professional artist, and my cousin and I used to play in his studio. I was always exposed to a lot of different materials and from an early age I was always doing artwork. I just remember liking to explore different mediums. My mother was a smoker and I remember when I was really young I used to steal her matches and melt my crayons. I would just sit there and hold the match and melt the crayon so the drips would go on top of each other. I was just fascinated with the color, and with what materials can do. It is interesting to think that my paintings now remind me of themelted crayons from my youth.
My parents took me to museums all the time, and they had a nice art book collection. There was a Picasso book that I always liked to look at, and I think that’s the influence on the masks I made – they look a little Picasso-y.
The summer I was sixteen I went to a sleep away camp that was an art camp -- I was able to stay in the art studio all day if I wanted to. I was able to try many different things. I remember there was a woman who was a weaver who came to the camp and gave a demonstration of her work. I was totally amazed. I had never realized that cloth was made by weaving threads. The weaving that you can see was my first weaving that I created after the demonstration. It’s not much to look at, but I was very impressed that I was able to create it. I got into weaving and loved it.
The self-portrait was a homework assignment, and I remember being very proud that I had acrylic paints. I don’t think that others in the class did. I had probably just learned about Fauvism. It looked like me, and I remember being happy with it.
For my first year of college, I went away I went to Philadelphia College of Art, and then I decided to transfer back to the city and went to the School of Visual Arts. I remember getting into printmaking. At the time I had learned etching which allowed me to experiment with various textures, lines and crosshatching. I was always experimenting. The first year of college, I took painting and drawing.
There were a lot of assignments. I remember working with Josef Albers exercises, taking colored aide paper and creating colored squares and seeing how one color could look completely different placed on different background colors. I remember really enjoying experimenting and thinking about color.
I hadn’t really thought about doing artwork that was not representational. My printmaking was abstract but after that – I didn’t know how to paint abstractly. I remember seeing people just putting paint on a canvas and moving it around and I didn’t know how to do that. I did portraits and landscapes, but I didn’t really know how to paint in a way that was like my printmaking until later on.
For years I always said I did not want to teach art. My mother was an art teacher and she used to come home so tired, so exhausted. She stopped doing her own artwork so I was hesitant to become an art teacher. Most artists have to figure out how to support themselves and still do their work. I did become a teacher and found that I loving to teach! I was in this department that had nine art teachers. It was the biggest art department in Brooklyn. The other art teachers had their specialties and I had to figure out how to enhance the art department. I concentrated on creating a global arts curriculum. I worked with the social studies teacher, and came up with art projects based on what my students were learning in the ninth grade social studies curriculum. It was a very successful program. My students worked with various mediums for each project. I had them working with weaving, printmaking, mosaics, mask making and also included the basics of drawing, painting and sculpture.
There were times when I was not successful as an artist. I was unsure as a painter in college. I didn’t really know what I was doing. I did feel successful in printmaking, but there were times when teachers were very critical and not kind. Art school can be very rough as is the art world. It is very competitive. Instructors are unaware of how bad they can make their students feel. I have learned that many get rejected and they still succeed as artists. As an art teacher I was very aware of my students being insecure. I told them that if they were trying to do something, no matter what the end product was like, if they felt like they moved forward in some way, then it was successful. I am lucky that I did not quit when things got difficult and I became more secure over time. I don’t get into every show but I now know and appreciate all the success I have had.
Laura Gurton, born into a family of artists, has always been working in one medium or another. After studying Fine Arts at the School of Visual Arts, she exhibited and sold her glass art in galleries in New York City and New Hope, Pennsylvania. Later she returned to school to study Art Education and became the Art Specialist at the Brooklyn Children's Museum and then taught high school at a specialized program for the arts. She rose to become Assistant Principal of Fine Arts, Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, NY. Although Laura loved her students, and found Art Education a worthwhile pursuit, she missed concentrating on her own work. In 2004 Laura was determined to get back to her painting. She left her supervisory position to focus on her own development. Moving to the Hudson Valley, inspired by its natural beauty and artist communities, her art has flourished. Within this time she has developed her own style and shows her paintings regularly in a variety of different venues throughout the Hudson Valley, New England, New York City, New Jersey and California. Laura has been recognized on the worldwide stage by being chosen to participate in Personal Structures, an official part of the 55th Venice Biennale di Venezia 2013, Art Southampton, The LA Art Fair, and Miami Context