Laura Hosaluk is an artist residing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She works mainly in but is not limited to; ceramics, painting, installation, wood, and bronze. Laura is a wonderfully bright and dynamic individual in and outside of the studio. I had the opportunity for a studio visit and to interview her in April 2015. Further biographical information about Laura and her work can be found on her website.
Amanda Leigh: What are some ideas you’re playing with right now?
Laura Hosaluk: Something I want to utilize is the pin board. I’ve used it in past installations.
AL: What other pieces have you used the pin board with?
LH: There was a piece I sent to Toronto it was a wall cabinet, it was a floating cabinet it was made into 6 rooms, and it was lit. It was beautiful from afar because the light was shining through these little cabinets, so that would pique your curiosity, and then they were all individual rooms from my childhood. My father holds onto everything, all our drawings from when we were kids, I transferred them into the bedroom walls, and they had these little spyholes you could look through. And that was for my first show, called Purge, where I started to use the doll as a body, like a vehicle with a message. I would use poetry transferred onto fabric… you use fabric like muslin and print onto it, like little stripes. I wish I could find that doll… where would he be… oh, I burnt it! I might have. I purged it.
AL: Do you often destroy your old work?
LH: Hmmm… I could destroy more. Yeah there comes a time when I’ll just burn it.
AL: You said you were a collector and that you come from a family of collectors, so why do you burn the things you make instead of holding onto those? What does that do for you?
LH: It’s cathartic. It’s interesting because I’ve been running with the doll theme for quite some time, and I’m ready to start moving in a new direction. That’s why with these pieces here [points to current doll work] I want to have a quick show, flush it all out, and move onto something new. So I just recently burnt this old work, that was made up of more fabrics, and filled them all with dryer lint. It was a real process; every time I did the laundry, I had to collect the lint. Why I did that is because my Grandmother gave me all these old blankets, and when I laundered them they were disintegrating because they were so old, so they would throw this fat dryer lint and you could see that it layered like red/blue/grey, and that to me was exciting. In my mind I was like “I could produce so much dryer lint to fill up these dolls”, so I just kept laundering them.
AL: And then you burnt dolls with dryer lint? It’s a very flammable substance.
LH: Yeah. There was only two left, from that show, and they were just in the corner sitting, they weren’t really going anywhere… I didn’t sell them. They were from really dark periods actually, from the past, and I think that was really important that I let that go. I want to start creating art from another place that resides in me, because a lot of it comes from my imagination as a maker, that’s why I love my artistic process because its so much fun, and its ridiculous. It’s definitely self-directed and self-taught, and also having teachers that are self-taught and intuitive, you learn you just really need to trust opening up to that creative process. I want to start moving toward more playful and beautiful things.
AL: You’ve been working with the doll for a long time, and it’s a body for expression. Do you feel you need to move away from it because the doll can only hold certain themes and not expand in the direction you want to go, or is there another reason?
LH: What I’ve enjoyed most about the doll was getting back to working with my hands. For a long time I was painting and really identified as a painter. Doll opened up for me a wider vehicle of how I can portray messages through different mediums. It started with hand building and sewing fabrics, stuffing them with lint, then transferring this idea to furniture. So they were boxes originally that mounted on the wall, and at that time I was doing bronze casting. What I really got curious about was how can I transfer this idea of doll into clay? Then I started pushing clay into latex molds I made to get that relief of the mask, and then I wanted to go further, so how can I create a slip cast? Now with doll I’ve refined my technical abilities, so I want to make my own objects to cast. I want to cast objects from my imagination.
AL: Do you have any idea what these imaginations are going to entail, or is that still on the drawing board?
LH: I wanna flush this stuff[doll] out first before I get too far. I’ve gone back to wood turning. Wood turning isn’t my strength but I would like to revisit that and that’s what I’ll be doing here shortly. Wood bending is new to me. My father has been showing me how to wood bend.
LH: I’m doing some work for my father. I poured some casts yesterday… I was going to pull some molds. These [wood turned objects] will then be realized in bronze. So they start with a wood sculpture, my Dads carving, and with these latex molds you pour your wax, and those will be cast in Pent, Saskatchewan. Our friend Joe has a foundry over there.
I remember always knowing I wanted to be an artist as a child, but my rational was like “oh your father’s an artist so you have to choose something else”. And just how… irrational that is.
AL: Why did you think you could have only one artist in the family?
LH: I don’t know, it came through so clear. My father always told me, “Whatever you do in life Laura, you’ve gotta love.” And so I was like, “I’m gonna be an artist,” then it was like, “oh but he’s doing that.” Maybe it’s because when you’re a child, what’s immediately around you is all you know, so you want to know more. So maybe I thought, “Do something different.” Which began this serious pursuit of what do I love. It always came back to working with my hands. I did hair dressing right out of high school for four years, which reinforced I wasn’t doing what I loved. I started tattooing, did an apprenticeship for a year, but after that I ended up working in a gallery representing other peoples art… and that’s when it was really clear I was unhappy. Sitting there, representing other peoples work when it was my work I wanted to be focusing on. I ended up back in Saskatchewan in 2007… I ended up back home, and began painting. I painted some really beautiful work, and I remember thinking “This is it, this is what I have to do.” I met a really good teacher at that time, Paul Crepeau, who was working with my father. He was working on stop animation and I became his assistant, I was moving all these little chairs for a chair show. 2007 was the year I started to take my practice more seriously. I’m excited about painting again, and drawing.
Here let me show you this drawing… I was sitting in a board meeting and making little lines… little lines little lines little lines. And here [points to large drawing board], I haven’t worked that big yet. I guess as a maker I’ve always made smaller, more intimate pieces.
AL: Why do you think you’re working big? Are you trying to push yourself out of your usual realm?
LH: I think it will be a great challenge to transfer these ideas on a larger scale. I have this one idea to build a large braid. I’ve been really interested in land art, planting grass and letting that grass grow and manipulating it then just leaving it on the land. So a 20 foot long braid, four feet or five feet wide. I think it would be beautiful to leave it in the land, and let the elements and the earth to take care of it.
AL: You said you like working with your hands, but these larger projects seem like they will produce more bodily movements. Have your smaller pieces hindered the ability to have a wider scope of movements, a sort of interaction with the piece if you will?
LH: It’s a more kinetic approach to the work, relation to the material and environment. The small pieces are almost so internal, so intimate, there’s so much going into it, so it’s complex, almost overwhelming. Whereas the braid is larger but more simple, with beautiful moving lines and a certain technique.
AL: It seems with the smaller work it has very much been a reflection of yourself, and sometimes a darker part of your past. With these bigger works, maybe part of that physical movement is part of the process, which translates a kind of beauty, and the process ties into the end result your trying to achieve.
LH: It’s also a very basic material. It’s nice to have space and lots of materials to work with, but the grass is simpler. I still have an interest in doing more bronze casting though, my own molds, making my own objects, and found objects. I can’t see myself moving away completely from found objects.
AL: What’s so appealing about working with found objects?
LH: Oh… the history I believe. Their have their own unique history which conjures up playfulness in my imagination. It creates a dialogue from me to my environment. I love engaging with the world this way. Like these beveled frames with shell art in my Grandmother made, I’ll probably hold onto them. I’ve been really curious about these lenses I got from value village, I’ve been collecting these.
AL: Maybe your not exactly looking for an idea, but is that what found objects provide? They might provide a sudden starting point?
LH: Yes, they provide something that piques my curiosity.
AL: Do you realize an idea right when you start collecting? Or do you feel that the collecting is important and go with it till something surfaces?
LH: Being self-directed and intuitive as a maker, I trust that my inner knowing is onto something so then the collection and the gathering comes, and from that I become more informed about the process and how it will reveal itself. Definitely part of how I work is an intuitive approach. Right away I want to make this [the lens] into an abdomen, which goes back into the dolls and the wall box… so is that maybe an intelligence of my own body, of my own self? It’s telling of me; do I need to go back into something of my own body, or my own being?
AL: Yeah, are you “just creating things” or is your unconscious trying to tell yourself something?
LH: Yeah, that’s kind of the connection to the land art. How can I be separate from this? It’s coming from me, it’s through me, and it’s an extension of me. So if I create from that place of beauty, that’s going to transfer into the work, and that will influence the world. I like what you said about the land art: its very physical. I think it’s really important we take care of ourselves, that we’re taking care of our body by moving it, feeding it well, taking care of ourselves mentally, and that’s what appealing about the larger work, it’s another way of feeling balanced and whole.
AL: And that’s the balancing, moving to larger pieces. The past pieces of yours are smaller and are full of mentality, but the larger pieces move towards the unexplored realm of physicality.
LH: And it requires a refined technique to work with the land; to make the grid, grow the grass, to secure the grass, manipulate it… and I can’t do it alone.
AL: Look out everyone, Laura needs you for grass braiding.
LH: Yeah [laughs] I’ve already started hunting.
AL: It can be very hard to do some projects alone, knowing people and having that support is an important asset.
LH: My exposure to the EMMA conference has been quite formative for me as a maker. It’s a gathering of 100 artists who come together, from a global community, who make works in a collaborative way. A lot of the times my making is very private, and isolated. So working on this larger piece of land art is good for getting involved with other makers.
LH: This is something I’ve been doing a lot of: painting rocks. I meant to make earrings but I just kept going, they look really nice mounted in wax. This began with a daily walk, and looking for the perfect round rock for an earring. I get kind of manic in some of my processes, so I collected like thousands of round rocks, and smoothed them on a lapidary wheel, and started fastening little backings onto them, and then they led to a little series of mounted rocks and framed.
AL: This is very meditative.
LH: Yes, it is, I loved that. A lot of repetition. When I first started playing with dots on the rocks, we were at a little mini collaborative stonehouse on the Old Man River in Alberta, and I said, “I could do this forever.” And my Dad’s like, “No you couldn’t! You couldn’t survive off of dotting rocks for the rest of your life!” But it was just the meditative quality of it, how fulfilling it is to have that connection to the object, and to just be content. I have my purpose here, just to dot rocks! From here I can visualize a whole beach with dot rocks shoreline, but from here I need many hands, a hundred people.
This idea of doing residencies are really appealing to me; I would like to continue to foster my practice with people who want to work cooperatively and collectively, and to do some really beautiful projects that bring joy into this world.
Laura is curating pieces for a collaborative art project for Burning Man 2015. Here is the information to get involved.