The Courage to Create

August 15, 2012 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 69

Laro has worked with his hands for some time, but always with a functional purpose. He currently makes his living as a stonemason, building patios, and even a bread oven recently, in Vermont, where he lives. But on the side for about 15 years now, he has quietly been creating sculptural furniture, fine art assemblages, and other work for the simple purpose of making art. 

The imagery in Laro’s work is an amalgam of Americana, pop culture, and flea market finds. He often uses old tabloid “scandal-sheets” as a backdrop to colorful icons of the past, with a decidedly retro look. The result of juxtaposing various imagery in jarring ways is a body of work ripe for interpretation, regardless of what Laro himself intends.

In “Take Aim,” the figure of a bathing beauty rises out of a rusted old Mott’s apple juice can in front of a bull’s eye target with point values around it: minus 100, minus 200, etc. In “Souveniers,” a rustic piece of wood is the backdrop for a cowboy figurine spray-painted to have bright red lips, ruddy cheeks, and sparkly accents. Below him are a collection of colorized black-and-white mug shots, with the notable exception of one image from the cover of Peep Show, a magazine featuring a buxom blonde, whose cleavage overflows as she looks up – perhaps admiring the cowboy above.

“That’s the appeal…  that’s another great compliment. It means I’m not forcing something on somebody,” he explains. “That’s the tricky part I guess, making something that has a story but it’s not written – it’s up to the observer to find it.”

A number of his works feature pin-up girls and several popular pieces at last month’s show featured a Charles Atlas type bodybuilder in various patterns. Asked what draws him to such a figure, he says plainly, “Just the fact that they’re icons and that they’re immediately recognizable.” He elaborates, “I bought a bunch of old magazines, and those are part of the covers of the old magazines. So, number one, that guy is recurring because I had a lot of him. But also it’s interesting that a human being will go through all that effort to build their body and then show it off like that, be in a magazine, go to a bodybuilding show. That’s what I’m looking for, so when you see it, there’s all sorts of things you can read into it.”

While he has had one show in a small gallery in Lebanon, New Hampshire, it was not until coming to Provincetown this past July that he entered the realm of the art world, surprising everyone by selling seven pieces over opening weekend at the Kobalt 366 Gallery. After an incredibly successful first show, gallery owner Francine D’Olimpio invited Laro back for a show opening this Friday, at the height of the season.

“I didn’t really go into it with expectations. You always hope to sell a few things. I didn’t expect it to hit a cord with people,” he says. “It’s interesting what people were drawn to. They were pretty diverse. Everyone had a favorite. That’s kind of the part that surprised me, even at [the] show in Lebanon, the emotional response that some people had really blew me away. One woman came up and she was crying… what better response could I have from someone, where it touches them emotionally like that. That’s the ultimate compliment.”

In a town known for being America’s oldest continuing artist colony, we often take for granted the value of art. Art for art’s sake is not a new concept here and it is rarely questioned. But for Laro, growing up in an atmosphere that didn’t particularly value art, an internal struggle has kept his artistic leanings at bay. He is only now beginning to emerge from that background and fully accept who he is… an artist. He hopes his family will come around, too.

“It’s important to have acceptance from your family, I guess,” he admits. “They’re not opposed to it, but when I started doing it, my dad and my brother talked to me about it. They said, ‘you’ve got to keep track of your hours and your materials…’ That’s not what it’s about; it’s about making something and learning from it. It’s not about trying to make money from it.”

Laro is excited to return to Provincetown. He will be coming in before the show, just in time for our annual Carnival Parade. Asked what he thought about that, he asks innocently, “yeah, what’s that all about?”

It looks like another Provincetown surprise is in store for Laro; a reciprocal gift for the surprises in his work.

Playing Games, an exhibition of work by Dave Laro will be on view at Kobalt Gallery 366, 366 Commercial St., Provincetown, August 17 – 23. There will be an opening reception for Laro on Friday, August 17, from 7 – 9 p.m. For additional information, call 508.487.1132 or visit www.kobaltgallery.com.{jacomment on}