Dog days in the studioBend, with its urban center situated just minutes from beautiful landscapes, is attracting a growing community of artists. One painter, Lori LaBissoniere is developing an expressionist style that contrasts with the mainstream aesthetic found in many polished art galleries. LaBissoniere and I talked on a Friday afternoon, one of the first (and only) really hot days this spring. Sitting in her cozy studio downtown, and having been inside teaching all day, LaBissoniere was feeling restless.
"We should have done this interview outside on a day like today," she told me. As a young artist, LaBissoniere is artistically adventurous, drawing on multiple sources of inspiration and trying new styles in her work.
When I asked her about her artistic influences, LaBissoniere mentioned Jaimie Lynn, a snowboarder and contemporary graphic artist. "I find inspiration from street art, and art that I happen upon by chance - not only from famous artists," she says.
Despite the aesthetically anemic environment of her hometown, Yakima, Wash., LaBissoniere was interested in art from an early age, and even started an art club in the sixth grade. She says that her father, a doctor and amateur craftsman, assures her that she inherited her artistic talent from him. But, she says, "I always wanted to do something different, something expressive."
LaBissoniere's work consists mainly of expressionist landscapes. Her focus on nature and flowing, organic form is reminiscent of Georgia O'Keeffe, while she makes use of bold colors in a way that Van Gogh once did. Some of her work tends toward darker colors: blues, purples, and greens. However, she says, "Lately I have been incorporating more bright, joyful colors. I think art should be enjoyable to the viewer and not just to the artist who creates it." Mermaids, guitars, skylines and dolphins share her abstract canvasses with trees and mountains.
LaBissoniere's art has also been influenced by her travels and studies abroad. LaBissoniere's piece La Sirenita (mermaid in Spanish), for example, originated from a nickname she earned while diligently exploring Mexico's beaches. Montmartre, the Paris neighborhood of the intensely creative 19th century community of artists who helped form cubism and impressionism, made an impression on LaBissoniere. In Bend she has found a similar environment in PoetHouse Art, a gallery and studio space located downtown. There she has found a constant source of inspiration in the works of the other artists who share the space.
"When I see something beautiful, I want to do it myself," she reflects, "but I want to do it with my own style and form of expression."
LaBissoniere said she is excited about her teaching job at Cascade Middle School. From the Andy Goldsworthy-style nature photography project that she is currently working on with her classes to the local artists whom she has brought in to speak, LaBissoniere tries to teach students that art can be a practical career - something that they could make a living at.
"If a person has a gift, she should use it in many areas of her life - not excluding the public side or the private side," she says.
Although her art has always been a very personal creation, LaBissoniere is also trying to prove this theorem herself. "I want to be practical and successful with my art," she explains. "I want it to be more than just a fun hobby."