Henry Ward Beecher once said, “Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” These telling words are the perfect introduction for today’s post. As beautiful, impacting, and emotion evoking that a painting or drawing can be, it is the story behind the canvas that really lets one into an artist’s mind. Today we have the pleasure of speaking with one such talented artist and individual: Karen Laborde. With her southern charm and effortless grace, Karen answers our questions about her paintings, her style and her artistic life.
Hi Karen and thank you for joining us! Please tell us a bit about yourself, your connection to Nashville, etc. Have you always painted, or did it evolve out of other artistic interests in your life?
I’m a fourth generation native Texan and I grew up on a horse and cattle ranch in Oklahoma, but I’ve spent most of my life in New Orleans. An English major, I began studying art and creative writing while working as a journalist, after my four children outgrew carpools. When galleries began inviting me to show my mixed media abstract paintings, I decided to paint and write short fiction full-time. My stories have been published in literary journals, and my paintings are in private and corporate collections in the US and Spain. In Nashville my work is represented by Bennett Galleries.
Home is New Orleans, that bawdy town with exquisite architecture, delectable food (grilled oysters…my favorite!) and a thriving community of writers, artists and musicians. It’s very forgiving to creative people, as it is in Nashville. Years ago my family and I lived briefly in Nashville, and we fell in love with it. Hurricane Katrina gave us a good excuse to return to this beautiful, friendly city–we found a second home and it’s a pleasure to spend time enjoying old friends, four seasons, music, food (love those meat-and-threes) and the arts.
What is your painting style? Contemporary/landscapes/
portraits, etc. What medium do you use (Oils/acrylics/watercolor) and what are your canvas sizes?
My style is contemporary abstract mixed media paintings. Each piece begins with text from short stories I’ve written, that I then transfer to the canvas. I add found material such as old keys, envelopes, tickets, bits of cardboard, pieces of cloth, metal, wire, screen…I’ve even mined my school scrapbooks, finding treasure like the rice paper on which my eighth grade Japanese pen pal, Harumi, wrote. This texture of life and story adds meaning to the piece, even though it’s eventually obscured by acrylic paint. I’m drawn to larger pieces now, typically 48″x60″ rectangles and 48″ squares, although there’s a range of sizes. Color tends to the neutrals, but I also like shades of blue, green, ochre and umber. Sometimes the forms, marks and colors are orderly and geometric, other times they’re flowing. Recently I’ve painted a few abstract figures. In all my work I strive to find visual expression representing, with paint, the meaning of words.
What is your inspiration or what influences your works the most?
My mother taught me all things domestic–one sure way to pass the time living in the country. She was also wonderfully creative, showing me how to make a still life (although she’d have called it a centerpiece)–like a ripe persimmon near the base of a tin bucket filled with bare branches. Through her eyes I saw objects in relationship to each other and their arrangement. Her inspiration is still with me. I’m also influenced by the great abstractionists such as Rauschenberg, Joan Mitchell, deKooning, Basquiat, and by the community of artists who, like me, work near the New Orleans Museum of Art in an old factory converted into studios. And, I love going to the Frist for more inspiration!
Do you do commissioned paintings? How long would a commission take?
I do accept commissions but the amount of time it takes depends on the request and what I’m currently working on.
How does your style and aesthetic as an artist translate into your interior design of your home?
My artwork complements contemporary decor, yet it’s also harmonious with more traditional settings, for example homes with French antiques. Our home is all about light and space, with white canvas slipcovers over much of the furniture–no fading and definitely kid and pet-friendly! There’s also a sense of relaxed formality, with sisal and Kilim rugs here and there, and shelves filled with family photos and books. Then there’s the art…primarily created by local artists and sculptors, most of whom I know. The bleached canvas background and off-white walls give breathing room for the colorful art, and occasional dark wood antiques anchor the rooms. Like viewers of abstract paintings, houses hold different meanings for their inhabitants. For me, our house is peaceful and livable yet great for entertaining–and, best of all, for those times when our large family gathers.
Thank you so much, Karen, for your time and talent that you’ve shared with us! For more information on how to contact Karen, please read below!
Nashville Interior Design Blog