ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Artists look for a breakthrough in their work that catapults them beyond their creative comfort zone. Multimedia artist Laura Pope is exhibiting her “Breakthrough” with a solo acrylic and pastel show at the Weyrich Gallery.
The 10-piece exhibition includes conventional portraits and abstracted figurative works including a couple of swan-themed compositions.
Pope studied with the late Fritz Scholder, who she considered a mentor and friend. Pope credits Scholder with helping to cultivate her sense of color and to appreciate the importance of underpainting. During their 16-year friendship Scholder also encouraged Pope to trust her intuition.
Pope’s work titled “The Beginning” is the seminal breakthrough piece in the show. The figurative image was created through the application of layers of random marks and color areas over an abstract underpainting. Pope’s artist statement says the woman’s figure in a long gown emerged from the painter’s process.
Pope has worked since the mid-’70s to integrate her background in operatic costume and set design with her love of pure self expression.
Though there are loose visual connections between Pope’s imagery and Scholder’s works like “Possession with Clouds” and his “Butterfly” series following the birth of his son, Pope’s imagery more strongly drifts toward Indian petroglyphs and pictographs of triangular spirit figures.
Since Pope is working intuitively, her work logically connects at least atavistically with ancient sources. My friend, archeology and astronomy professor, McKim Malville once told me that humanity has a finite number of archetypes with which to express themselves. His conclusion was that we should not be surprised to see the same symbols cropping up among disparate cultures and time frames.
In “Winged” Pope manifests an angelic figure that seems to float in an amorphous atmosphere. This painting shares a close link between Pope’s work and Scholder’s “Possession with Clouds” painting without being a copy or replica.
Pope was attracted to some of Scholder’s imagery through a shared sensibility rather than a need to imitate another’s style. Scholder was profoundly influenced by a combination of American abstract expressionism and pop art with a cultural dollop from his Indian heritage.
Pope on the other hand is drawn to transcendentalism and other spiritually based art sources like the Society of Layerists in Multi-media. Her work is included in the 2010 book “Visual Journeys: Art of the 21st Century” edited by Nina Mihm and Society of Layerists in Multi-Media founder Mary Carroll Nelson.
As the layers of color and random marks inform her work Pope also layers in her life experience and in doing so infuses her paintings with the passage of time.
Her “Swan Song” painting bridges Pope’s musical, theatrical and studio worlds in a single image.
I see the whole show as a work in progress. Some of the images feel too arbitrary and stylized and color could play a much larger role than allowed in these works. Pope is attempting a very difficult path traveled by others including Picasso and Orozco, who also opened their hearts to the muses. I wish her safe passage.