In the Studio with Laura Davis

In the studio with Laura Davis, a visual artist who through her art, strives to release expressive brushwork into strokes of color. We met with Laura to tell us more about growing up in the Bronx, her greatest influences, and unexpected sources of inspiration.

When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?

I began at a very young age seeing myself as an artist in my grandmother’s living room drawing on the cardboard pulled from grandfathers pressed shirts, also in my Catholic School upbringing I was afforded art at a very young age. I remember one project was to take the postcards great master paintings and glue them into a postcard book. There I witnessed Van Gogh and was blown away by his energy within his paintings. I first started out trying to paint with such passion and devotion. I still have that passion in my art. 

Where are you from and what was your upbringing like? 

I was brought up originally in the Bronx, New York and then New York City as my parents divorced when I was 14. I had the world of the Bronx, New York, with an incredible dad who loved history. He would take us on trips to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, Gettysburg, PA.and Williamsburg, Virginia. There was more of a glamorous life when visiting with my mother who remarried a wealthy Welsh man who spoke several languages. She was a hair colorist at Kenneth Salon at 19 East 54th Street in New York City, where Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy had their hair done by Kenneth. She also was the head colorist at Saks Fifth Avenue. So you could say my artist background comes from my mother, Charlotte.

My work was impacted also by traveling from the Bronx on the express bus down to the Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art, the Frick Museum, and the Whitney Museum. I loved NYC, and was enthralled by all things art. Later I would travel for a month through Europe on a first class eurail pass. I started in Amsterdam, I cried when I went to the Van Gogh Museum as his work is so impactful, alive, and soulful. I also traveled to the Left Bank in Paris, Munich, Germany, Innsbruck, Austria where I skied on the Alps. In Rome, and Florence Italy the streets are saturated with art as well as the museums. I also took a road trip for six months cross country in the USA into the Baja and Mexico. I truly believe traveling is the best experience you can have.

Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work?  

Recently I took my art very seriously wanting to be part of the bigger picture. Before that I went into painting animal portraits for an income, and for fifteen years I was the owner of Laura D’s Folk Art Furniture in New York, creating children’s animal furniture for FAO Schwartz, Neiman Marcus, the Folk Art Museum, Gallery Parr, NY, New York, fine stores and galleries nationwide, and abroad. There are pictures of the furniture I designed and painted on my Instagram account. Funny enough Francis Bacon created rug designs, and De Kooning worked as a house painter. Cecily Brown was a waitress when she arrived from the UK in New York. I too was a waitress at Barbetta Restaurant in the Theater District of New York.

What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from? 

My work is gestural based on mostly figures that are abstracted, but I do love purely abstract art as well.

How would you describe your work?

I strive to release expressive brushwork into fast strokes of color. I paint in my own way, with faith, unconventional compositions viewing my painting emotionally.‎‎ ‎‎I got to know my passion, and my angst in painting by studying Willem De Kooning, Picasso, Joan Mitchell, Cecily Brown, Amy Sherald, Van Gogh, Edouard Manet, Francis Bacon, Asger Jorn, Chaim Soutine, John Cage, Philip Glass music and Laurie Anderson. I was drawn to them in a profound way of love, empathy, and desire, forcing me to embody the free spirit on an expressionist painter. It prompted me to look inward, to reflect on what I wanted to be my voice on my canvas, and to self-answer from the voice of my soul. I want the viewer to gain awareness of the strong earnest strokes in my paintings, the scratching and scraping of paint, the emotion of the colors I choose, the energy and passion I strive to get from my subconscious onto the canvas.‎ I believe my painting comes from my body’s natural movement so that my soul can speak.

Who/what are your greatest influences? 

Willem De Kooning, Joan Mitchell, Cecily Brown, Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh, Rose Wylie, Tracy Emin, Edvard Munch, Egon Schiele, Edouard Manet, Asger Jorn, Chaim Soutine.

An unexpected source of inspiration? 

Tracy Emin became a woman I respected in the art world. She thought outside the box, or inside the bed (pun intended) and has given back to her community in Margate, UK. She has created the Turner Contemporary Museum, and studio space for professional artists to rent as well as free space for emerging artists, all while still expressing her confessional art through a bout of cancer and major surgery. Fortunately, she is now in recovery, but remains an opened book about her life. Her courage blows me away. 

What do you want people to take from your work when they view it? 

I create for the love of art, and passionately put my heart and soul into it. I want people to see that in my painting. I want people to love guessing at the figurative abstracts of my paintings. I want them to love looking at them and spend time with it to evoke their emotions. 

What events in your life have mobilized change in your practice/aesthetic? Do you experiment? 

Oh yes, I experiment with my art all the time using thicker paint, oil paints, subconscious brush strokes, I recently started loving painting with shades of pink, and scraping paint.

What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work? 

To be alone in my studio with this wonderful large antique window overlooking a enormous pin oak tree in my front yard, the window it gives great light into my studio. The quite is what I enjoy as my brain is always working. 

Tell us about the inspiration behind your works?

Yes, I tried painting in the style of Gerhard Richter except with figures under the scraping. You can see this in my painting: An Inside Place. It is quirky and makes you feel like explore such a place and its characters.

Something in the future you hope to explore?

I would love to have a one woman show.

Describe your work in three words: 

Free-spirited expressionist painter.

What do you listen to while you work? Is music important to your art? 

No, I love silence when I work, but interesting enough I love to cook and create dishes. My Family loves them and there I listen to a very eclectic group of artists from Edith Piaf to Billie Eilish, Johnny Cash, and of course Bill Crosby Christmas music when I bake my German Grandmother’s cookie recipes. 

What is your favorite read? 

My favorite read is Colette, she was a ferociously independant woman during a time when women were not respected as writers. She also was an actress and choose who she would love. I also love reading about art and Flora Yukhnovich comes to mind as an incredible artist that changed the way we see baroque paintings. 

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received (any quotes or mantras you particularly connect with)? 

“It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” ― Pablo Picasso & Willem de Kooning: “Even abstract shapes must have a likeness.” 

What makes you laugh? 

🙂  I love obnoxious humor

What makes you nervous? 

Learning to stop when a painting is finished.

Is there anything you wish you were asked more often? 

Would you like to be part of our gallery of artists? I love your work; may I buy your art?

Is there anything you’ve recently tried for the first time? 

Yes, I tried painting in the style of Gerhard Richter except with figures under the scraping. 

Is there anything you’ve been hesitant to try in the past, but you’d like to this year? 

More figurative paintings with abstractions.

Do you have any superstitions? 


Would you rather know what the future holds or be surprised? 

If the surprise is like being in AucArt then bring it on. That was a wonderful surprise I received during Christmas. It was my very best Christmas gift. 

What place in your everyday environment do you go to for inspiration? 

I read a lot about art; I have several publications that come to my email daily. 

What are some things you’re most passionate about outside of your practice?

I am very passionate about social work and the elderly. I went back to school in a cross discipline, I hold a master’s degree in social work from Fordham University, and worked for six years in a psychiatric hospital teaching CBT and DBT Skills, as well as art therapy to older adults. During that time I co-curator for “Art with Intent,” at Andus on the Hudson, Hastings-On-Hudson, NY. I also curated the “Seasoned Artists: A New Province” exhibition at Marymount Fordham University Gallery, Tarrytown, NY. 

What is your relationship with social media? 

I first was on Facebook, and recently went onto Instagram where I think the audience is much more personal. I get to know who likes my work and develop some relationships with other artists and connoisseurs of art.