Laura Colomb is a painter who currently works from the land surrounding Jacksonville, Florida. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Boston University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the College of Saint Rose. She holds awards including an Art Ventures grant from the Community Foundation of Northeast Florida (Jacksonville, FL, 2020) and a fellowship from the Starr Foundation (New York, NY) to fund an artist residency at the Royal Academy of the Arts (London, UK, 2005).
Additional artist residency awards include the Golden Foundation (New Berlin, NY 2023), Jentel Arts (Sheridan, Wyoming, 2022), Monson Arts (Monson, Maine, 2022) and Salem Art Works (Salem, NY, 2007). Her recent solo exhibition at the Lake George Arts Project (Lake George, NY, 2021), The End of Eden, was reviewed in Whitehot Magazine (NY, NY). She has been a guest critic/speaker for the Camberwell College of Art (London, UK), The College of Saint Rose (Albany, NY), Albany High School (Albany, CA), and the Upper Hudson Valley Watercolor Society (Queensbury, NY).
She has curated and organized exhibitions for various galleries including Saratoga Arts (Saratoga Springs, NY) and North Main Gallery (Salem, NY) for which she was recognized by Metroland Magazine (Albany, NY) with the Best Emerging Regional Curator award. In addition, she has taught drawing, design and painting courses at various institutions including Boston University, the University of North Florida, Adirondack State College, The College of Saint Rose and Empire State College. Laura has also spent time working with Albany Mural on murals in Albany, NY including the Hudson Riverfront Mural, Excavate Mural, and within the New York State Assembly Chamber.
"Most major natural spaces, where one can really experience raw nature, are through State and National Parks; many of which were initially protected due to their proximity to sites which contained historical significance. For my artistic practice, I make paintings and drawings in these spaces, both from life and from sketches and photographs that I take. In exploring this land, I am always struck by the contradiction of these utterly incredible, beautiful, awe-inspiring spaces adjoining historic sites where extremely violent events and massive crimes of injustice often took place. This dichotomy of how we preserve history containing some of the worst aspects of our past as a country, along with preserving our spaces of natural splendor fascinates me. I strive to explore this duality in my work by choosing these sites, to see if it is possible to show this tension through a traditional landscape approach. Through this process I’m left with questions as to whether history can leave a trace on the land, if it mars it in some way, if the spirits of those lost can be felt and experienced in the light that filters through the trees and in the stillness of the unmoving air.
My work has been focusing on these such sites just outside my current city of Jacksonville, FL; primarily Kingsley Plantation, Fort Caroline National Monument and the Talbot Islands State Parks. The heat of Florida, the swamps, the humidity, and the bugs only add to the sense of foreboding as I try to imagine what the stolen and displaced people who built these sites felt, as they found themselves in this poisoned Garden of Eden. The density of these forests, with the ominous rustle of creatures moving close next to you, but which you can't see, create a miasma of nightmare. Yet, in the light, the greenery, and the scrub, there is a rich beauty, as if steeped in a world where time stands still, where one can still momentarily get lost in the romanticism of the natural landscape.
As I explore the essence of this land through my painting, I am constantly reminded of the impermanence of it, located on the edges of a rising sea. A rising caused by climate change, another testament to the ravages of capitalism and colonialism. This location witnessed many horrors, and so I have begun to think of the trees as sentinels, or those who have been, and still are, keeping watch. I have taken this concept into my most recent paintings, where I paint the trees and shrubs as types of portraits, often echoing the centrality in light and placement, of a Christ figure in a crucifixion painting. This connection to Christianity, key in its relationship to colonialism, feels appropriate to make when working from this scarred land."
Tell us a little about yourself and your background in the arts.
I'm from Glens Falls, NY, but have lived in Jacksonville Beach, FL for about 13 years. I had a phenomenal art teacher, Tom Geyer, at Glens Falls High School. He was the first person that suggested a career in the arts could be possible for me, and that idea cracked my small world open. I then attended The College of Saint Rose as an undergrad, which had an incredible art program, (before being recently cut), and Boston University for my MFA. After that I was awarded the Starr Fellowship and was an artist in residence at the Royal Academy of the Arts in London for a year. When I returned, I bounced around as a freelance arts professional and taught as an adjunct at various institutions, curated exhibitions for local spaces, and then decided to move to Miami, Florida, where I worked in art shipping at first. I then relocated to North Florida and worked full-time administrative positions at a state university and a local college for 10 years. This past year I went back to freelance work and am teaching, attending residencies, and making lots of paintings.
What kind of work are you currently making?
Oil paintings on canvas and panel, and gouache and watercolor paintings on paper.
What is a day like in the studio for you?
I typically get going after lunch, and may work outside on a large piece. When it gets dark, I will often continue into the evening in the studio working on small panels. I currently don't have a set schedule when I work, but am thinking about setting one up. The issue with me is that I want to work all the time, and I find it hard not to choose painting over everything else I need to do for the day. Up until this year I worked a 9-5 office job, and so I have this scarcity mentality that makes me want to use every possible second to work. I probably need to get over that and find more balance.
What are you looking at right now and/or reading?
I listen to a lot of audiobooks in the studio. Some notable ones recently include "How The Word is Passed" by Clint Smith, "Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind" by Yuval Noah Harari, and loads of fiction titles. Artists I'm currently thinking about include Emma Webster, Torkwase Dyson, Ningura Napurrula, among others. There is an amazing amount of good work being made right now, I could list a hundred artists whose work I find fascinating.
Where can we find more of your work?