Creativity driven by instinct: Nature gives French artist answers to her questions

“La renarde aux magnolias” (2021) by Lara Blanchard.

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The work of Lara Blanchard weaves a world of whimsy and wonder into an alchemy of nature.

Her path to engraving, embroidery and watercolor imagery of floral-bedecked animals, figures and chimeras began with photography. The artist lives and works in St. Jean d’Aulps/The French Alps, France, and shows her work at Santa Fe’s Keep Contemporary.

Lara Blanchard

From 1990, Blanchard studied plastic arts in Strasbourg, France, training in film techniques through experimenting and manipulating the products and papers. She preferred fibrous and thick textures.

“I have always sought to develop a photograph that would not only be image, but texture, thickness and object,” she wrote in an email. Blanchard lived in Ireland for “a few years,” connecting with creators and craftsmen. When she returned to France, she felt naturally led to blending photography and textiles, as well as engravings and drawings. She was inspired by the botany, zoology and anatomy that had formed her graphic vocabulary since childhood.

A piece form the “Ad Lucem” series by Lara Blanchard. (Courtesy of the artist)

“I’ve always collected, observed and drawn nature,” she stated. “As a child, the forest, nature, was my shelter and gave me answers to questions I asked myself about the world, humanity and the living.”

Blanchard says her arrival to the “Ad Lucem” series of sculptures and masks came magically.

Before the spring of 2017, she had never imagined shifting to volume, masks and ornaments, mixing clay modelling, felting and the assembly of natural materials.

“It was with immense joy that I realized my first volumes,” the artist wrote. “The project is growing, growing. I imagine it arborescent,” tree-like.

She imagines expanding the project with choreographic collaboration and

A piece from the “As Lucem” series by Lara Blanchard. (Courtesy of the artist)

theater. She even created a soundtrack recorded in nature to accompany her installation with musician David Piget.

The natural, ecru hues imposed themselves on her creations, she writes.

“It was the light that would create the shadows, the hollows and the full ones,” she stated. “White not as not-color, but as all colors.”

Instinct drives her creativity.

“It is by soliciting, in my turn, what I call the ‘universal magic’ that I advance and discover what comes through me,” she writes.

Blanchard returned to drawing 10 years ago. Creating her “Animal Souls” series was like rediscovering a long-lost friend. Drawing first led her to engraving. But the longing for thread lingered. Blanchard began printing her engraving plates on textiles. Linens and cotton were her canvases.

First, she placed a few touches of colored threads onto her work. These transformed into embroidery and a new artistic language. Producing no more than 10 prints per etching plate, she realized the needlework allowed her to make each piece unique.

A piece from the “As Lucem” series by Lara Blanchard. (Courtesy of the artist)

Blanchard’s background fueled her artistry. Her mother was a nurse, leading to her love for anatomy.

“When I was a little girl … I loved to open her medical encyclopedias whenever she didn’t see me,” she wrote. “I saw trees in the pictures of lungs, small creatures in the drawings of cells and viruses, roads in veins and arteries … it was a fascinating world.”

Hers was a solitary childhood. She and her mother moved frequently.

“Actually, I had really few friends,” Blanchard said. “I drew a lot, I collected a lot of treasures found during my walks. I loved nature. I loved observing salamanders, fishes in the rivers, birds and their singing, flowers.

“I was always interested in how things were made,” she continued. “Nature gave me answers to my questions. Drawing became a language to express these questions and answers.”

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