In a feature we are introducing this month called Variant of Concern, we ask a Utah artist about a body of work that falls outside their normal practice.
For Laura Ekerson’s upcoming exhibit at Writ and Vision, you can expect to be wowed by an appropriately Spring celebration of a flowering Mother Nature. The California native studied at Brigham Young University (BFA) and George Mason University (MAT) and now lives and works in Salt Lake City. Her background in printmaking and sculpture is apparent in her current studio work, in which she uses found objects and live plants to create works rich in texture and grounded in the materials she uses. “My painting process is filled with a variety of steps before I have a finished product,” she says. “Some steps are fairly tedious, others require vast amounts of ‘wait time.'” Most of her works take about a month to complete, but others might require a year.
By contrast, Crib, a series of family portraits that she began creating as soon as the stay-at-home orders were put into place at the beginning of the pandemic, provided immediate satisfaction. “At the end of each month my husband and I piled our three children into a crib, climbed in it ourselves, and had a photoshoot session with all of us crammed inside. We were all in this together—this was my way of communicating (via social media) our new, strange, and unforeseen reality to countless others who were experiencing the same thing in their own homes.”
The crib, with its vertical slates, calls to mind a jail, though from the parents’ perspective it provides a form of protection. “These family portraits explore the uncertainty, confinement, fear, and discomfort we are experiencing, as well as the humor, love, and strength that come from choosing how to navigate through this pandemic together,” Erekson wrote at the time she began posting the images to her Instagram site.
“This series gave me immediate gratification,” she says, looking back at the project. “I didn’t have to go through a myriad of steps to have a finished image. It was a quick and effective way of expression and I found that to be very satisfying. I am also fascinated by my little ones and how quickly they change and grow — photography is an excellent way to document their lives and the chaos, beauty, challenges, and humor of day to day living with small children.”
Erekson’s work has been exhibited in Maryland, Virginia, Utah, New York City, and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.. Her solo show, “And I Call Her Mother,” an exploration of Mother Nature, opens at Provo’s Writ & Vision, Friday, May 6 and continues through May 30. You can view more of the artist’s work at www.ereksonatkinson.com.
Commercial and academic settings generally prefer to pigeonhole an artist. Our “Variant of Concern” series cuts across this grain, exploring the practices that may lie outside an artist’s more recognizable output.