For this guest, I traveled by foot from my car in the East Parking Garage all the way to the Weber Fine Arts Center. The inside of the building is a must see — it’s the place where art on campus thrives and breathes. I met our guest Laine Knowles in room 226. The space itself is uncannily reminiscent of one of those artsy New York lofts seen in indie movies. Being a part of the Bachelor of Fine Arts program means Laine gets her own space in the studio. She credits the space as being a great place to dump her “stuff,” for lack of a better word.
Laine has been drawing for as long as she can remember. When she decided on art, it made so much sense to her, and now she can’t imagine doing anything else. The artist remembers a pivotal moment in her art career as a child attending private art classes until elementary school. At age seven, she made a chalk oil pastel drawing that was so good, her mom framed it and put it on her wall.
“That was probably the first piece that I can remember being proud of doing,” says Laine.
It is at this point where I’m immersed in Laine’s perspective. She has shown me her art, and I note the gorgeous surrealism and mechanical parts. Her artworks are like puzzle pieces, a complicated connection of mystery, personal stories, and inspirations, different mediums each posing its own identity.
One of Laine’s recent projects has been the opportunity to paint an album for one of her friends. It’s free reign, and she loves how the album cover is cohesive with her art style. The art doesn’t stop in the room, either, as Laine also took up painting her car. It’s a little something she’s doing for herself.
Do you feel obligated to tell people what your art is about, or do you enjoy it when people look at your work and try to find the story themselves?
My artwork is very personal to me; the symbols I create are specific, so I don’t expect people to understand what I am talking about when I make something. I enjoy when people come to their own conclusions. If I am explaining an emotion through the artwork and people can pick up on that, they can make the image their own and that’s special. I want to make art that people can find themselves in, because I certainly find myself in my art.
I went through your Instagram, and I do notice a lot of symbolism with things like keys and birds. What is the power of expressing stories through symbols, and how did the symbols become your known motifs?
There are certain things everyone is drawn to. I liked birds and I had a parakeet as a pet as a child. I developed an affinity for their feathers and the way that they fly, and I like swords because I read a lot of “Star Wars” as a kid. These are certain images that I start to associate with other things and it’s unconscious, to be honest.
Would you consider art to be your life and something that is healing, almost?
For me, being an artist is part of my identity more than it is like a job or a hobby. I feel like it’s one of the core parts of who I am. So, I would say I identify as an artist first before I even identify as a woman.
When you are about to embark on making a new piece, do you have a specific story, or are you more inclined on making something in the moment and putting the puzzle pieces together when it’s finished?
It’s more impulsive and intuitive. I make something, then I usually don’t know what it means until I finish it. It’s more about just what feels right at a certain time in a certain spot. Afterward, I look at it and can kind of see how certain spaces connect and where the ideas came from what I am listening, doing or reading at the time.
What is printmaking and how did that interest come into fruition for you personally?
Basically, printmaking is just complicated, glorified stamps. The basis of printmaking is carving out negative space, so you only have the image left. Then you have ink, and roll it on the newly created image. I like printmaking because there are so many different things you can do; I feel like I’m always learning something with this art form. I took a class in printmaking about two years ago and my professor was really encouraging, and I enjoyed learning and carving and the ability to make multiples of something.
With the topic of printmaking and accessibility — for so long art was considered to only be enjoyed by an exclusive audience. What is your take on this idea and why do you feel that art should be inclusive for everyone?
People have an idea in their head about what modern art is, but contemporary art is not just one thing. The way we talk about art and the way the art market talks about itself really determines how included people feel in it. A lot of times, if a person can’t understand what the art is, or if they don’t understand the meaning of it, it makes them feel excluded or disinterested.
How do you think art can become more inclusive over time?
I do think that art is for everybody, and one idea that people have to let go of is that art has to be beautiful to be considered art. Sometimes people make art about things that aren’t pretty, but it’s still artwork. The more people are exposed to different types of artwork, I think artists also need to know how to explain their work to people instead of trying to sound smarter than they are.
This is such a super cheesy question, but why do you make art?
I make art because it’s a compulsion for me. If I don’t do it, my hands get restless — it’s like an itch. It’s not even a choice for me because it makes me happy; it’s something I am good at. Art is healing for me. I make art because I feel like I have to, because I don’t understand another way to be, but I always doubt that anyone else is going to enjoy it — it’s something that I have to deal with.
Walking away from the interview with Laine Knowles, I was taken aback by her enthralling and ever-present relationship with art. In a culture fueled by sacrificing passions in favor of the hustle and bustle, it brought me warmth to know there are still people and creatives out there who are solely driven by love. Take this as a lesson to never give up something that you may enjoy. If your passion is something that you really want to do, all the other factors become almost obsolete.
You can find more of Laine’s work at their Instagram account, @1tchyf1ngers.