Thursday, May 24, 2001
Lauretta Hendricks-Backus is a fixture in the Lawrence art community, though she would never admit it herself. When she considers her own work, she always thinks of what she's not getting done. To onlookers, however, she's accomplishing plenty with the swipe of her brush.
"I'm really just getting started and trying to get out," she says.
Pretty modest words for someone who has taught art in the Lawrence area for more than 13 years. What she means, by way of explanation, is that it only has been recently that she could devote more time to her own artwork, instead of teaching other burgeoning artists.
Her latest endeavors have culminated in a new one-woman show, now on display at The Bourgeois Pig, 6 E. Ninth St. In this display she's literally experimenting with shapes and color, and the end result is artwork that is both comical and contemplative.
"The thread through the work shows shapes that are cartoonish but have gravity," Hendricks-Backus says. "They show how light affects shapes."
Working extensively with oil, Hendricks-Backus plays with shapes, textures, color and shadow to expose how the colors tell a different story when intermixed with various lighting schemes. It's the latest in a series of works the artist has been laboring over in her recently finished studio.
Hendricks-Backus received a bachelor's degree in painting and another in arts education from Kansas University. For more than a decade she's taught painting techniques to area students, but it limited the time she could spend with her own creative projects.
That changed a few years ago when she began curtailing her teaching responsibilities. Now it seems her artwork is popping up everywhere. She has a booth each year at Art in the Park and creates pieces for the annual arts auction at the Lawrence Arts Center, 200 W. Ninth St. Along with her display in the coffeehouse, she also exhibits work at the Fields Gallery, 712 Mass.
That doesn't mean she's quit her routine of teaching up-and-coming artists. She is still teaching at the Lawrence Arts Center, along with a class at Free State High School. But now she is able to spend most of her time with her own work.
"I usually spend time in the morning doing chores. Then I work in the studio until lunch. Then I'm off to teach class," she says.
It's amazing what she can get accomplished in her own routine each day, when she still works primarily only in the mornings, but Hendrichs-Backus says having her own workspace really helps out with her creative output. It's an out-building recently built on her property. One-third is devoted to garage space for her family, while one-third is for her art studio. The final third is for a much-needed, relaxing sauna.
"The space helps immensely. I did not have the space before to work," she says.
The artist spends her time dabbing on paint from her pallet, tweaking the color schemes until they convey the right amount of light and shadow. The varieties are endless, as she experiments with all cool color combinations, then all warm colors, then progressing one color at a time through the spectrum.
And for additional fun, she and some fellow local artists like to periodically throw art exhibits in an old barn.
So for Hendricks-Backus, it all comes down to enjoying the art process, and she hopes to convey that impression.
"I'd like for (people) to see the humor in the paintings, because I see the humor in them," she says. "I'd like it to be fun and playful to look at, and pleasing in the way the colors work together."