Laura Gurton Unknown Species 215 | 31 Women | Whitney Modern

31 Women

Laura Gurton Unknown Species 215 - 31  Women

LAURA GURTON: Unknown Species #215

Oil, Alkyd, Ink on Linen  
30 x 36 in

Laura Gurton’s childhood was filled with museum visits, art books, the theater, ballet, foreign films, music, and art classes at the Brooklyn Museum. It is no wonder that she went on to study art in college; first at Philadelphia College of Art, and then The School of Visual Arts in NYC. She looks back with gratitude to her teachers: May Stevens was generous with her time and her experience; Marsha Tucker, who had just started the New Museum, taught a class about the art world; Audrey Flack and Alice Neel co-taught a painting studio. Having these women artists as teachers and role models made it seem quite possible that she could succeed as well. Gurton later returned to SVA to take art education courses to become a high school art teacher. A few years later she earned a Masters in Supervision and Administration in the Arts from a joint program run by Bank Street College of Education and Parsons School of Design. Gurton’s paintings consist of concentric circular lines and colors that mimic pieces of agate, rings inside of trees, mold, other patterns in nature and most importantly, microscopic cells. She once read that when humans are born, they have an instinctual attraction to the shape of concentric circles, which makes sense since the nipple is the first shape they need for survival. She has always been fascinated with the idea that we have instincts towards shapes. Her paintings are titled the Unknown Species, a phrase that suggests that her shapes are alive. Gurton states that she sees “the shapes with their concentric circles as representing time itself, displaying their growth like the rings in a tree which come with age.” When thinking of inspirational artists, Gurton recalls learning about Paula Modersohn-Becker in an art history class. She was intrigued by her abilities, the beauty of her paintings, and her life. She then found the book Paula Modersohn Becker: The Letters and Journals and learned more: that at times Modersohn-Becker left Germany, her husband, and her stepchildren to paint in Paris. The more she read, the more connected she felt to this incredibly brave German woman who died in 1907. As a woman coming of age in the 60s and 70s, Gurton says that was influenced by Gloria Steinem and Andrea Dworkin, among others. She was interested in the suffragettes and in women’s history, joined women’s support groups, and tried to raise her daughters “thinking about what they were up against.” Today she expresses appreciation for the Guerrilla Girls, women’s marches, and “my daughters, both very amazing and powerful women.”