My current work is primarily about light and attention to ordinary moments and things as they are, always shifting and changing.
Light illuminates things and spaces in my installations that connect re-purposed objects, hand-made things, photographs, painting, drawing, light, video projection and space. Pieces are both independently complete and are unified site-specifically as installations. I love Suzuki's deliberately ungrammatical phrase "things as it is," describing "things" in plurality, and at the same time, singular "as it is."
Light, openings, space, things and windows serve as subject, object, formal and architectural elements, and painterly media in my work. An enduring focus of painters throughout history, light has always fascinated me for its effect on perception, as well as its innate, energetic, illusionistic and symbolic qualities. I became engaged in expanding the use of light as content and medium when photographing a window that I was working with as object-painting. Reflected lights in the window photo led me to incorporate both light and photography more directly in the work.
I work in the tradition of painting as well as that of questioning how an object becomes art. As a conceptual painter working with untraditional or “un-artistic” materials, I cultivate tension between anti-formal and formal, free and restrained, intuitive/expressive and analytical, feminine and masculine.
Yellow light radiates through an opening and around the sides of a blue wood panel with carved red lines in Light Emerging (2013). In Seeing Blue (2013), fluorescent blue light filters through chicken wire and a roughly cut opening in a wood panel on which a yellow light bulb illuminates an incised red line and a painted blue rectangle. Reflection on a Pipe (2013) addresses the relationship between images and things, referring to Magritte's painting La Trahison des images (Ceci n'est pas une pipe) (The Treachery of images [This is not a pipe]). A fluorescent light reflects on a re-purposed copper plumbing pipe, a reflection of light is painted in the form of a white rectangle on the pipe, and a shadow image of the pipe is painted in bright yellow. In installation, connect the pieces are connected functionally and formally with red, yellow, white and black extension cords.
The Coachella series focuses on the physicality of materials, colors and marks. Untraditional strategies, intentional irregularities and funky materials are in active dialogue with aesthetic design sensibilities.
Surface texture evolved in relation to archetypal themes and specific, personal experiences/observations in the Purgatory series, which re-contextualizes the rich, layered imagery and themes of Dante’s The Divine Comedy into a contemporary and visual lexicon. The textures, colors and forms of PURGATORY (oil and mixed media on wood, 2011; 82” x 54”) allude to Dante’s allegorical description of transformation through recognition and reconciliation of sins and virtues in the journey through Purgatory. ADAMANTINE (white marble sand, plaster and oil paint, 2011; 42”x 30”), refers to the first of three steps leading up to Dante’s Purgatory, and is about seeing ourselves as we really are. The scorched surface of PERSE (burning on wood, 2011; 42”x 30”) is about the searing darkness of the second step, experienced when we see our shadows. In PORPHYRY (oil on wood, 2011; 42”x 30”), sheer red stokes on a naked wood panel convey the vibrant flame of faith and transformation in the third step. LETHE (oil, tar, marble sand and plaster on wood, 2011; 42”x 30”) reflects imagery of the dark, flowing river “thick with living green,” that washes away memories of sin in Dante’s Earthly Paradise. EMPYREAN (oil, gesso, vellum and paper on wood, 2012; 42” x 30”) draws from Dante’s realm of pure light, geometry and freedom in Paradise.
In contrast to the minimal palette of the work on wood, the linen series employs brightly colored mosaic-like paper fragments, thick paint and plaster. Personal and symbolic imagery meld with highly textured surfaces to re-contextualize Biblical and Buddhist literary source materials. In THE GARDEN (oil, collage and plaster on linen, 2010; 4 panels 82” x 145”), images of fertility and divinity emerge ambiguously from collaged fragments and thickly painted linear pathways. In SONG OF SONGS (oil and collage on linen, 2009; 3 panels, 82” x 76”), my personal images of heartbreak, freedom and re-connection merged with those of eastern and western archetypes. A bursting heart of death sparks a dancing torso, which opens to a tessellation of mosaic-like paper fragments that suggest faces and birds. “Mind dissolves into heart, heart dissolves into space, body becomes a shimmering field pulsating between fullness and emptiness” (The Radiance Sutras, translation by Lorin Roche of the Vijnana Bhairava Tantra, Sutra 3). Graffiti-like writing on white plaster represents the texts. In MADONNA AND PROTEUS (oil, mixed media and collage on linen, 2008; 82” x 54”), the re-contextualized archetypal religious icon merges with my deeply felt experience of changing relationships between mother and child. Painted paper tessellation suggests Byzantine mosaics on white plaster, and a fish-like creature alludes to the shape-changing Greek sea-god, Proteus, and our capacity for transformation.
Printmaking in the 1970's was the beginning of my involvement with materials and processes. Interacting with limestone, metal plates, acid, and engraving tools was as important as the images in my lithographs, etchings and monotypes. Figurative imagery allowed me to quickly capture the vitality of movement and structure, and enter into exploration of other abstract pictorial elements.
My work is informed by a great diversity of artists, from Giotto to Magritte, Duchamps, Cy Twombly, Richard Tuttle, Agnes Martin, Dan Flavin, and countless others. Teachers Nathan Oliviera and David Schorr supported and inspired me in my printmaking days. More recently and most importantly, the work of Tom Wudl—his art, experience, knowledge and insight--has helped liberate and enrich my seeing, thinking and experience of art.
Laurie Katz Yehia was born in Chicago, Illinois. She earned a B.A. magna cum laude with Honors in Art from Wesleyan University in 1978, and a J.D. magna cum laude from the University of Southern California in 1982.
She also majored in studio art as an undergraduate at Stanford University and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, and Tom Wudl’s studio in Los Angeles.
Her work has been exhibited in California, New York, Connecticut, and Washington.
Laurie is married with three sons and currently resides in Santa Monica, California.