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Summer 2005 | Volume 28, Number 2 | Faculty

Professor’s Acclaimed California Exhibition Inspired by the Northwest’s Gray Skies

SOON AFTER LAURA LASWORTH became professor of art at Seattle Pacific University, her new colleagues began asking how she was handling the change from sunny Southern California to the often overcast Pacific Northwest. “It’s not the rain, it’s the gray,” they cautioned her. “I must have heard that 10 times,” she remembers, laughing.

Lasworth, who came to Seattle Pacific in 2002 after teaching for 12 years at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, “handled” the change by creating 30 new paintings. After three years in the studio, Lasworth recently had a solo exhibition called “The Gray” at Hunsaker/Schlesinger Fine Art, a gallery in Santa Monica, California.

Although her cool, gray pallet was, indeed, inspired by overcast Northwest skies, Lasworth’s pieces ultimately reflected the internal “gray” of emotion. She explains: “Very simply, the paintings and drawings in the exhibit represented a journey through a gray region where faith or, at best, faulty intuition is the only tool of navigation — be it a region created by the dark of war or by mourning after a great loss.” And Lasworth herself experienced great loss while working on these paintings.

Inspiration for “Twin Trees” came after her half-sister, Juliana, was killed during a lightning storm while vacationing in France. As Lasworth grieved and reflected on her family’s suffering, “The image of a tree with branches spiraling outward like a circular saw blade ornamented by gray mittens came to mind,” she recalls.

Other pieces in Lasworth’s collection include “Will Seen, Will Said,” a three-paneled painting that plays on the title and content of the story “Ill Seen, Ill Said” by Samuel Beckett. An Emily Dickinson poem inspired “After a Great Pain,” in which a snowflake goes through a transformation.

Called “unpredictably sumptuous” by artist and author John O’Brien, all of Lasworth’s paintings in “The Gray” are oil on panel (i.e., on wood), which was the medium used by liturgical painters hundreds of years ago. “I consider myself a contemporary liturgical painter in many ways,” she says, adding that oil on panel has a smooth, glasslike quality — like a window into the soul. Wrote O’Brien, “These works keep your mind oscillating between the sheer beauty of the scenes imagined/depicted and the religious meditation conveyed by them.”

After 25 years of solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States, Lasworth says her art represents her own faith journey. Exhibitions with names such as “Miracles and Mysteries,” “Spiritual Inquiries,” “Love’s Lyric,” and “The Gray,” she says, are “footprints” to her conversion and the life that followed, including the steps to Seattle Pacific. “I’m so grateful to SPU for bringing me to Seattle,” says Lasworth, adding that she loves the “low-hanging” rain. “I feel like I’ve found myself.”

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