Arts Writing Artist Features

Laura Fritz

Laura Fritz. 2014 Individual Artist Fellow, Oregon Arts Commission.

Photo: Sabina Poole

Originally published January, 2014

One critic has fittingly called her “a poet of light, darkness and enigma.” It will not be a surprise to anyone who has seen Laura Fritz’s work to know that as a child she was fascinated with light in darkened rooms and to know that as a painting student at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, she also spent time studying jewelry making. Fritz tends to make pieces in a furniture vernacular that emit light, that cast multiples of ambiguously organic forms that feel like specimens. (Sometimes the organic form is explicit, as in the projection of the shadow of a cat in her video installation, Interspace, installed in the ceiling of Quality Pictures). But these castings, illuminated as they are, are often exotically precious and jewel-like. She has said, “I often make dark, mysterious spaces with elements that are lit to enhance the viewer’s fascination or the mysterious qualities of the experience.” She says she experiments, though, with the scale-perhaps making a table slightly higher than standard-to destabilize what would otherwise be a comfortable relationship a viewer might have with a piece. In fact, she is highly aware of how each element affects the viewer. “I would consider myself as more of a director,” Fritz has said, “because I organize elements for a certain effect upon the viewer.”

In addition to inviting the viewer to peer closely at a form illuminated from within, another common Fritz strategy involves the patterned projection of light. Her Intrus, installed at Worksound, projected a cold white light through the grating of what could have been perceived as a low outdoor fireplace. Evident, an installation at New American Art Union, projected an array of circular forms on a long wall.

Fritz has said, “…I didn’t realize that I could use installation when I was younger. I didn’t realize that sort of thing could be art, because I was brought up to believe that art was drawing or painting. Installation art wasn’t something I encountered until college and…I didn’t really start doing installation art until I moved to Portland and took a few continuing ed courses at PNCA.”

After her first solo show at the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) Manuel Izquierdo Gallery, Fritz went on to have work included in major regional group shows, and has had solo exhibitions including those at SOIL Gallery in Seattle, and Quality Pictures and Soundvision in Portland. She was a recipient of one of the New American Art Union Couture, stipend-supported exhibitions. Most recently, Fritz had work in a group show of international artists entitled Transparencies at the Des Moines Art Center.

Of the fact that her work willfully resists easy parsing while teasing with hints of image and cohesion, Fritz says, “I’m interested in the efforts we make to close the gap between perception and understanding, especially in the fact that the gap can never really be closed successfully. My work deals with the unease this causes, and the narratives and false positives we create as response. This phenomenon is referred to as apophenia.”

Courtesy of The Oregon Arts Commission.

Artist Credit: Laura Fritz

Exhibition: Oregon Arts Commission Fellows

Project Website

Oregon Arts Commission