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Artist plunges into full-time vocation

by Jordan Green

‘ jordan@yesweekly.com

Laura Lashley was working on a painting in her studio behind the Electric Moustache gallery in Winston-Salem last week.

It was her day off from her day job as a teacher at the Enrichment Center, an artsoriented therapeutic program for people of all ages with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and Lashley was working at a steady clip to ready about 30 of her concentric pattern paintings for an exhibit at the Green Bean in Greensboro whose opening coincides with the First Friday gallery hop in May.

The publicity-shy Lashley said she was surprised to learn that she had been voted Best Artist in the Triad by YES! Weekly readers, but her supporters clearly recognize her talent and hard work, while most likely also appreciating her humble and generous spirit.

Since taking up painting after moving to Winston-Salem in 1997 as a recent UNC Charlotte graduate, Lashley has steadily worked to make her avocation a vocation. Now she is preparing to quit her job as a teacher at the Enrichment Center and take the full plunge.

“This summer I’m going to start doing art full-time, especially murals,” Lashley said. “I want to do more of it. When I turned 40, I told myself: ‘I want to be my own boss.’” She hasn’t told her parents yet, and is hoping they will be supportive. In the meantime, there’s the matter of finding an affordable individual health insurance policy to replace the employer plan she’ll be losing. But the prospect of pursuing art full time is tantalizing.

“Right now, I’m working eight hours,” Lashley said. “Then I go home and walk the dog, and I paint for six hours. It’s getting to me.

“I’ll feel like I’m getting into the painting,” she added, “and it’s 4 a.m. and I want to keep going, but I can’t because I’ve got to get up the next morning and go to work.”

For the past couple years, Lashley has been absorbed in painting concentric patterns, one of many styles practiced by the late Anne Kessler Shields during her halfcentury career in Winston-Salem. Lashley’s method is to choose from one of a number of patterns and then endlessly experiment with different combinations of color. The visual effects can range from tranquil to shimmering with intense energy. The patterns imitate organic forms, including suns and flowers.

One painting, untitled, that Lashley considers her favorite shows at least two flowers with radiating arrays of petals that are interwoven with one another to create a flowing effect.

“This one happened effortlessly, without any struggle,” she said. “That hardly ever happens. Sometimes it’s like I’m not consciously making any decision; the decision’s already made for me. I tried to recreate this one, but I couldn’t do it.”

As she enters the next phase of her career, Lashley said she wants to reincorporate representational painting into her work and merge it with the concentric-pattern approach to create a new style that will be a synthesis of the two. Through the new, emerging style, she hopes to tell stories that are open to interpretation.

She also plans to keep working with the students at the Enrichment Center as a visiting artist, most likely on mural projects that will incorporate the students’ ideas.

“Hopefully, we can get a side of a building downtown and get a crew from there,” Lashley said. “There’s one guy that really likes to paint frogs. He has this idea about frogs that play baseball. I think it would be cool if we could do that at the ballpark.”

Since her first exhibit at the now-defunct Morning Dew coffeehouse, Lashley’s art has received an enthusiastic response, but she said she would have stuck to her vision no matter what.

“I got a good response from people whose art I respected,” she said. “That encouraged me. I feel like other people believed in me before I believed in myself.”

WANNA go?

Laura Lashley will be at the Green Bean, located at 341 S. Elm St. in Greensboro, for the opening reception of an exhibit of new, concentric pattern paintings during the First Friday gallery hop on May 3.

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