Artist profile: Abstract expressionist painter Corlé LaForce hits her stride

Posted: Thursday, July 15, 2010

Paint is undeniably a visual medium, but when local painter Corlé LaForce approaches a canvas, she doesn't rely on her eyes to guide her. The cues she responds to in creating her work are largely invisible, based on emotion and interior sensations rather than images from the physical world.

Courtesy Of Corle Laforce
Courtesy Of Corle Laforce

"Generally, if there's an image that I'm painting, or in my head, and I'm trying to create that, it's a disaster," she said. "That has never worked for me. But if there's a feeling that I'm wanting to create, and to give illustration to, that will happen because (the feeling and the image) can work together."

LaForce's latest work, a collection of oil paintings as well as some work in gouache and acrylic, is currently on display at Heritage Coffee in the Emporium Mall.

Some of her most vivid canvases recall the work of abstract expressionist painters Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, known for their huge color fields and geometric designs. Other paintings achieve complex texture through an amalgamation of layers; LaForce said some works contain up to 14 full paintings on one canvas, elements of which are revealed or obscured over time.

"As one of my friends said, it's like looking through water," she said of the layered quality.

Though some paintings, such as "Auke Lake," hint at her physical environment, LaForce tends to steer away from landscapes and other representational art, finding freedom in the lack of reference points.

"I don't do still-life (paintings), they don't make sense to me at all," she said. "I can try, but it's really contrived and feels wrong - and is really frustrating."

LaForce, 27, said she's often unaware of where a painting is going until it gets there, and is intrigued by the idea of "stepping out of the picture" and letting the work take over.

"I've been flirting with that idea a lot, of letting the painting paint itself, and just to witness it and move it along. In that regard, my idea of painting and my definition of painting has really changed."

Being pregnant with her daughter, Elle, now 3, was a real transition point, she said. She expected a hyper-productive period of creativity during her pregnancy, but that isn't what happened.

"I didn't want to paint at all. I'd pick up a paintbrush and think, 'What? This isn't edible!'" she said, laughing. "I painted only one painting my entire nine months."

Though frustrated by the experience, it helped her begin moving away from a product-driven process toward one more closely aligned with her interior states.

"That's when I started to connect painting feelings and sensations rather than painting a product," she said.

LaForce, who grew up in Juneau, said she didn't really start painting until she turned 20. While on a backpacking trip through Europe, she forged a friendship with abstract expressionist painter Renate Lohrmann, based in Vienna, who generously allowed LaForce to share her studio space and supplies in exchange for a small fee.

"I learned a lot from her," she said, "but there's something kind of scary about working that closely with someone because you start emulating them."

LaForce has continued to find her own style, moving toward bigger canvases and richer colors in the past few years. She hopes to go even bigger in the future and attempt giant wall-sized canvases.

Fans of LaForce's work should be advised that the artist plans to move to Boulder at the end of the month with her boyfriend and daughter. Though she likely will be back at some point, this may be the last chance to view her artwork for a while.

Her show will remain up at Heritage through the end of the month.

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