There is an advantage to being a self-taught artist like Laura Caron.
“I don’t have to worry about breaking rules,” she laughs.
And because of that, she has created a unique — some say revolutionary — style that uses layered fabrics, paint and hand stitching to produce a three-dimensional quality to her work.
The portraits she creates come alive with a vibrancy lacking in more two-dimensional works, and that quality has earned her increasing exposure in art shows throughout Northern California.
From her studio in the Sacramento Art Complex on K Street to Oakland’s Transmission Gallery, which is displaying one of her pieces, Caron has increasingly found herself in demand. And with good reason.
“She’s at the point where people are recognizing the strength and humanity of her work,” says artist and curator Robert Ray, who like Caron works out of the Sacramento Art Complex. “Even in the abstract, you can see the humanity.”
“I wish I could take the credit for discovering her,” he adds.
Caron, who lives in Dixon, says she has “painted all my life.”
“I took some classes at Sacramento State, but basically I’m self-taught,” she explains.
The bulk of her adult life was spent working in the mortgage industry and she didn’t really start focusing on art until 2005. She feels like she’s still catching on.
“I was working in real estate for so long, it did take me a while,” she says. “I’m still working at it.”
She says her technique involves painting on felt and then stitching on top of it to add texture and depth.
“The stitching gives it life,” Caron explains.
“I call myself a textile artist,” she adds. “I don’t know how to sew … it’s just a straight stitch. It’s kind of intuitive with me … I just try to get subtle changes in the features then start stitching.”
One of her pieces — which was displayed at the California State Fair — shows several people waiting at a bus stop. Fabric is used on the faces, clothes, arms, even eyeglasses, with stitching adding depth.
It took a month or two to make, Caron said, in part because she wanted each person in the piece to be distinct.
“I wanted each person to have a story behind them.”
She also sculpts, using mixtures of clay, fabric and other materials. Her Mother Earth sculpture, currently a work in progress, also incorporates real branches.
“I’m still learning with the sculpture,” she says.
One of her favorite pieces so far is one she hopes will soon end up in the hands of President Barack Obama.
Using a photo of the president, Caron crafted a portrait of Obama that she believes captures the “everyman” side of him.
“I wanted to do a piece where he’s more himself,” she explains. “A laid-back depiction. I like the emotion I captured.”
The piece, using her unique fabric and stitching style, will soon be on its way to Washington, D.C., thanks to a friend in the Democratic Party with connections to the White House.
Many more of Caron’s pieces will be on display in a show at the Red Dot gallery on J Street in Sacramento in May.
She’s come a long way since her first show at International House in Davis. Since then, her work has been displayed in numerous locations and for a while adorned the restaurant Mermaids in South Davis until it closed. She’s heard her pieces are now in a restaurant in Benicia.
Meanwhile, her work can always be seen at Second Saturday in Sacramento at the 2110 Gallery.
Learn more about Caron and her upcoming shows at www.lauracaron.com.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy