Editor's Note: Laura is one of my oldest friends. We met in college, and she has been a positive influence on my life ever since. She's generous, kind, and loyal to those she loves, but like a cat, it's difficult to earn her trust. I'm glad I did, and I'm glad that she trusted me to share this story.
There's something wild, sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively, about your work. Do you intentionally call that up when you're creating or is that something that is just yearning to get out of you through your work?
This ^ is such a compliment, and something not intentional. I've discovered that I'm a type-A personality, but my artwork is just the opposite. When I'm working on something creative, I get absolutely lost. Drowning. I am it and it is me. I suppose the answer would have to be there is a wild nature that comes through because deep down, under my cardigan, there's a wild nature in me, too.
You work in many different mediums, which I love. Tell me more about how you decide which medium a piece belongs to.
I am enamored with process. I love having infinite variables to experiment with, and I often use the same subject in all medium. I'll fall in love with a tree and sketch it with a basic graphite pencil, then move to charcoal, then india ink, before I know it I'm thinking about color and paint...printmaking alone is another world of options- how would this tree look like as an intaglio, or relief print? What kind of plate should I carve into? What color ink(s)? How can I get millions of little pieces of this-and-that to come together as the simple pencil drawing? How do I transition this 2-D image to my 3-D work? It's utter madness, but it's really just a matter of me experimenting and having a damn good time.
To me, your two most infamous pieces will always be the cheetah eye and the large window. Tell me about how these works came to be and how you felt after they were finished.
My multi media window is my favorite piece, and it indeed came together in pieces. I had created the female figure on a separate piece of cardboard. That female figure is inspired by Henri Toulouse-Lautrec's painting "La Toilette". That piece stayed in my portfolio for a long time, until I found the window in our sorority house's attic. Everything just kind of came together after that. The female figure is staring into a broken mirror with not much of a reflection which poses questions I was asking myself at the time: "what am I made of?", "what am I sending into the world?", and "are we everything or/and is everything us?". It was exceptionally hard for me to know when this piece was "finished", but I also think that speaks to what I was going through personally when I created this piece- I too, was in pieces, trying to understand who I was becoming.
The Cheetah Eye painting was a color study! My professor gave us a list of really ugly colors to mix (army green, baby pink, yellow ochre, bright green, poopy brown) and we were to use them all on one piece. Turns out, it was really interesting to see something beautiful come out of a mix of such ugly colors, haha!
I recall when you left for California, after living in Ohio for so many years, you were excited to be in a cultural setting where people would pronounce your name correctly "Cama-ree-o" instead of the white midwesterner pronunciation, Cama-rillo. In what ways did your racial otherness in Ohio inspire your work? How has it changed now that you are among a more diverse population?
Boy was it hard being a brown girl in small town Ohio. I was constantly asked, "what are you?" (accompanied with guesses and racial slurs) or "Do you consider yourself 'American.'" I learned at an (too) early age that ignorance stems from fear. It is because of this, I try to use every single shade of hair and skin in my collage figures- it's why I love using collage to create nude figures. However, this poses another issue, using magazines to create nude figures- there simply are not enough shades of people in current magazines! This part of my work hasn't changed since I moved back to CA, but seeing such tremendous diversity does encourage me to continue to change what society is exposed to as "The Norm."
Which pieces of art do you like the most? Not just of these, but of any you've made. Why?
I am most proud of my multi-media window. I feel that it captures what I was experiencing spiritually at the time I made it, but I also think it captures the global idea of what Women are- what we give to the world and what makes us powerful, stifled, scared, but courageous all at once.
I also love another series (I don't have pictures!) I made based off of a tree series of 5. I took the same image I used in the small tree series and made three giant prints (~5' tall x 2'wide). The print was so large I had to use two plates. I modified graphite colored oil-based printing ink to make it more like paint, and painted these trees on plexi glass, then ran those plexi glass plates through the press on rich black rag paper. This series was technically challenging, and I was thrilled that the process worked and the finished product was gorgeous, though a pain in the ass to frame. The trees are so fierce, ominous, powerful, but peaceful. A wonderful woman I consider to be my unofficial adoptive mother bought them for her significant other. I couldn't be happier that they live in a beautiful home, appreciated every day.