Briefly describe the work you do.
I draw and I paint with a number of different mediums, but at heart I am an oil painter. I love the smell, the viscosity, the colors, and the whole process of oil painting – it challenges my patience and allows for impulsiveness at the same time. In terms of subject matter I tend to have a varied practice, trying to utilize the appropriate visual metaphor and painting style for that which I seek to convey. My style evolves with the subject that I am painting, though I do tend to work in series, trying to fully consider ideas through repetition and investigating different vantage points. Topics that I continually explore include, meditative, atmospheric landscapes, the human body as landscape, and the banal and imperfect topographies of everyday life. In my practice I honor overlooked spaces and moments by exploring the humanity embedded within their flaws, and the ruin resulting from the passage of time, attempting to create a moment of pause, of contemplation and even of confusion. Most recently, I have been painting quite a few gutters, pipes and downspouts; though commonplace, they seem so human, bodily and abject.
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
I came to art after a career in marketing/public relations in the Internet start up world. I started taking night classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (SMFA) and couldn’t believe how much I loved drawing and painting. I ended up getting totally hooked on the constant challenge of art making and the opportunity it affords for searching for and expressing the authentic. Ultimately, I left my previous career and pursued an MFA from Tufts University/SMFA. I was a history major in college and have always been interested in looking back and discovering patterns. Art is an amazing lens for this type of inquiry.
The concept of the “artist studio” has a broad range of meanings, especially in contemporary practice. The idea of the artist toiling away alone in a room may not necessarily reflect what many artists do from day to day anymore. Describe your studio practice and how it differs from (or is the same as) traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
It is interesting to think about the contemporary “studio.” My own practice seems to land somewhere between a traditional studio practice and a more expansive, less traditional idea of the studio. Although I paint in my studio just about every day, what I paint is very much inspired by what I see and photograph (almost never in my studio), what I read and think about, and conversations that I have with colleagues, friends, and even strangers. Though the painting happens in the studio much of the thinking, inspiration and struggle that happens outside of it drives my studio practice. I like having a quiet place to think and to paint, but I also value the questioning, conversation and company of trusted colleagues and friends.
What unique roles do you see yourself as the artist playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
I guess the first one that comes to mind is “witness;” someone who really pays attention and looks closely and questions; as well as someone who is willing to fail publicly. I never thought about this aspect of art making prior to really diving into art, but to make art that has meaning and resonates, I have found that I have to put a lot of myself into it and this can be very scary at times.
When do you find is the best time of day to make art? Do you have time set aside every day, every week or do you just work whenever you can?
In graduate school I liked to work early in the morning, before others arrived and before life got loud and busy. Now, I find that I paint at all different times, still early in the morning, but often late at night when I return from teaching. Teaching painting always makes me want to paint. One of the great joys of being an artist is that you are never bored – but it also means little free time, because all of that time that used to be “free” is now spent in the studio.
How has your work changed in the last five years? How is it the same?
When I look at earlier work I am always surprised by the continuity of my ideas. I often think that I am doing something totally new and different, but then I look through the entirety of work and there are real consistencies in subject matter; ideas like human connection, the temporal, memory, and the banal. What have changed over time are my technical ability and my willingness to take risks – two areas that I think I will always struggle to improve. I think that this is a matter of time served. There is so much more to learn!
Are there people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers or even pop icons that have had an impact on the work you do?
Absolutely. Colleagues, friends and family are essential to my practice – they are my reality check, my honest critics and my supporters. Philosophy and literature have had, and continue to have, a huge impact on me – from Plato, to Hegel and Kant, to critical theory and fiction – like Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Artists I can’t stop looking at include Antonio Lopez Garcia, Turner, Richter, Giacometti, Adrian Ghenie, Chris Marker, and so many more! When I am not listening to NPR or audiobooks, I tend to listen to the The Smiths and Neil Young over and over again in the studio.
If you had an occupation outside of being an artist, what would that be and why?
I love teaching, so certainly I could imagine that. Otherwise, perhaps I would open a gallery – there is so much artwork that would be great to show; or maybe have a flower shop. I would like to say that I would be a writer, but I wouldn’t be a very good one.
A Boston-based painter, Laura Fischman’s work was recently featured in New American Paintings, MFA Annual, issue #111. She has shown her work in the Courtyard Gallery at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston through the Students-Curate-Students exhibit, at the Attleboro Museum of Art, at the 808 Gallery at Boston University, at Gallery 263, at the Nave Gallery, Fourth Wall Project, and at Gallery Benoit in Boston, among others. Fischman has had solo exhibitions at the McGladrey Art Gallery at Bentley University and the Elizabeth A. Beland Gallery at the Essex Art Center. A 2013 graduate of the SMFA/Tufts University MFA program, Fischman received a Boit Award from the SMFA in 2012. She just completed a month-long residency at the Vermont Studio Center and teaches painting classes at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where she is visiting part-time faculty. Fischman’s work can be viewed at http://www.laurafischman.com.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.