Louanne's Portrait by Carolyn Males
If you know Bluffton/ Hilton Head art, you likely know Louanne LaRoche. Growing up in Bluffton, she is probably the first local artist I can remember. She shared a studio space with my piano teacher when I was around 9 or 10. I remember thinking her art was so interesting- she had created a number of characters, but they were represented over and over throughout the work she had there. Themes repeated over and over but in many different ways- different compositions, different styles, different marks all building the same people, environments. As an art- loving kid, but not knowing much more than whatever projects we were working on at school, seeing Louanne's pieces there every week gave me my first real sense of what it meant to be an artist. To be inspired by something so much, or at least be curious enough about it, to study it, create it, develop it. To stick with it until you know you're done. To not abandon it and jump to the next.
Now, working at Camellia Art, and getting to be around Louanne's pieces everyday- it's still all so vaguely familiar. She is still inspired by her world here in the Lowcountry. We see her trawlers and men roasting oysters by the landing, her swimming beauties, her forlorn hounds. Families after church. Locals at gatherings and parades. Nearly her entire portfolio can be summed up as the first phrase on her website's homepage: "An Artist's View of Community."
I'll stop rambling.
Here is Louanne's interview she put together for us. Thank you for reading and thank you to Louanne (and Tori Lusik) for all of their hardworking putting material together for me.
"What motivates me as an artist?"
“What motivates me as an artist is what resonates with me. Whether that is other artists work, nature, or aspects of the community that I observe. Producing artwork has always relied on the exploration of a medium, documenting what I envision, and the intuition guiding my hand. As a child, art was a vehicle and extension of how I interpreted what I saw and what I felt, a grounding of unharnessed thoughts and energy. Later, as I got recognition, my self-confidence grew and with it so did my motivation. My drive to create is a focus on what my eyes and spirit see, and what they interpret as meaningful. I desire to evoke and preserve the spirit of the moments often times overlooked or taken for granted.”
"How does my background influence my art?"
“I have always been a visual documentarian at heart. My passion for folklore, spirituality, heritage, and all things exotic fueled my desire to travel and to explore, but most of all, to reflect and document what I experienced. My parents appreciated my artistic talents and nurtured them. I received my BFA from Carnegie Mellon University and later purchased the Red Piano Gallery. This began the over 40 years of the Lowcountry and being associated with highly talented artists, mentoring and building meaningful relationships with clients and fellow artists alike. Community and connections are key aspects of my work. From sitting on the board of Penn Community Center on St. Helena Island, to opening my second gallery, The Red Piano Too, for self-taught artists, my drive to document what I observed grew. Opportunities to connect with multiple communities have enabled me to sell my work to clients internationality. The glimpses of everyday moments, combined with my interpretation of its spirit, fuels my artwork.”
"The first piece I ever sold:"
“When I was in high school, I had painted a hunting scene depicting riders on horseback. I won first place for the painting. At the time, I owned a horse as well. When I went to the horse auction in the middle of Pennsylvania, I gave the painting to the auctioneer to auction off. They held the painting upside down and frankly didn’t know how to talk about it, but it did sell to a $25 dollar bidder.”
"What are the specific themes that reoccur in my art and why"
“My focus is on the space that radiates and surrounds a subject, a spirit if you will. Producing artwork has always relied on the exploration of a medium, documenting what I envision, and the intuition guiding my hand. As a child, I was attracted to folk tales and diverse cultures. In time, I was able to submerse myself in travel and experience firsthand the connections between people, place, and communities. This drive and willingness to explore resonates in my artwork. My intention is to depict what connects our shared humanity as opposed to what separates us. I desire to evoke and preserve the spirit of the moments often times overlooked or taken for granted. The combination of these experiences provides an intimate gaze into places not only across the world, but in my own backyard. Of particular importance are the connections being lost, displaced, or diminished.”
"How I would describe my art to someone who has never seen it:"
“I would describe my work as a distinctive vision of the Lowcountry that combines the freedom of expression with the strength of representation. People often respond to the color and lines of my work. Yet it is the subject matter of the importance of community and the need to observe and document the intimate connections that occur in everyday interactions that draws people to my work.”
"How has my art evolved?"
“My art has evolved by me becoming more confident in my work and intuition. My drawings have improved and continue to improve but it is that intuition of knowing when to stop, when to add another layer or step back, that has been the key development. Often I feel that there is a grey line between keeping artwork fresh and overworking it, as with any creative endeavor. With every painting, I learn something new, or redefine my craft— even if it’s a subject that I am familiar with.”
"Something to know about my creative process:"
“My creative process is messy, and what may be seen as procrastination is actually fermentation. I have many cleaning and sorting rituals that I need to go through before I sit down and paint. I have been on a health journey for the past six years, and I find that in order to paint, I need to be healthy not only in mind but my body. Clarity and focus on my artwork has been greatly impacted my well being by omitting flour and sugar from my meals and using tools like meditation.
Once I am ready to work, I go through numerous images that I have compiled, mostly of my own photographs, some anonymous or images that have been shared with me that spark a need to put them on canvas or paper. I then draw the composition in rough charcoal initially and then refine and redefine it with mark after mark, revealing the energy within the final painting. It either remains the drawing or color will be added in layers, and then redefined with drawings on top of that. Often the same subject is used for a series of paintings but the approach I take, the medium, and color differs to explore a variety of visual and emotional connections. I’m always searching for a little gem— the way somebody’s postured, the activity itself, how spaces are blocked out in the image, or how the subjects are interacting. I’m interested in light, form, color and line.”
"What I hope people will get from your pieces when they experience them:"
“I hope people will feel uplifted and connected to my work. My work is about connections, about collaborations. If someone responds so strongly to my work that they choose to live with it, this adds to the story of the piece. Not only will my work reflect the moments and feelings I have preserved, but also the moment and feelings the owner and their family has shared.”