Laura Kimpton’s work in sculpture and mixed media/collage is focused on the experience. From monumental scale words deployed in a range of unlikely settings, to detail-rich collage-based work that rewards the closer look, Kimpton is all about shifting perceptions and the viewer’s emotional response. Her work offers humor, social critique, surrealism and empathy, and in one particularly poetic case, gratitude. Her word sculpture LOVE has been installed at Renown Health’s Regional Medical Center in downtown Reno, Nevada, where it is visible to the public and the staff, as a message of support for the hospital’s healthcare workers and patients. It’s on view until July 16, when it might have otherwise started its migration to the Playa, but will instead come home to Los Angeles.
L.A. WEEKLY: When did you first know you were an artist?
LAURA KIMPTON: I knew the moment I could walk. I believe I’m an artist, not because I create product, but from the way I live. My art pieces are just the outcome of how I live. When I was very young I would spend my days building forts, making paper dolls and playing with markers. I would dress with two different shoes and just BE ME. I have spent my whole life this way. It has given me the freedom to always be myself. How lucky I am!
What is your short answer to people who ask what your work is about?
I’m sorry, I don’t have a short answer, but I’ll try. My art is about breaking boundaries, making the viewer or the participant think in a different way. One of my creative outlets is collage and assemblage work. I always love to give treats to the viewer who spends the most time with my art, a present. Something they wouldn’t see if they just gave it a glance. I’m also a sculptor who is best known for my monumental words at festivals, mostly Burning Man. The Words have strong meanings, but to everyone it may be different. I love that about them.
What would you be doing if you weren’t an artist?
Well as I said, I live as an artist so I would always be an artist. But, I’m also a teacher. So I would be teaching high school. I’m also a licensed therapist for kids, so I would be teaching and helping kids get through those tough years using creativity to get their emotions out.
Did you go to art school? Why/Why not?
Yes I went to school, I first graduated from the University of Iowa with a B.A. in art education. I’m a Midwesterner so Big Ten colleges are where you go. Then after traveling the world, I came to San Francisco and went to SF Art Institute and got my BFA in Photography. Then after traveling some more I got my master’s in psychology at the University of San Francisco. Not bad for a dyslexic!
Why do you live and work in L.A., and not elsewhere?
I live in Venice because of the vibrant art culture, and the beach and town. I need to be in water a lot. It just brings my spirit and energy together. In Venice I meet so many people who are being creative and alive! This is very important to me and my work. L.A. as a whole allows me to experience or interact with so many different experiences. I’m an experience junkie!
When was your first show?
My first solo show was at the San Francisco Art Institute when I was 24 years old. Just in the hallway gallery, but it meant the world to me. To show off your work and stand there watching people’s reactions, was mindblowing. I did self-portrait nudes back then, so it was really powerful. I came from a home where nudity was not allowed. So it was very freeing. I have had a show almost every two years since that.
When is/was your current/most recent/next show?
My next show I’m working on is in Mexico City. Can’t talk details yet, but it’s coming along. My last solo show in a gallery was in New York City at HG Contemporary on 23rd Street. I had the whole gallery — about 2,000 square feet — three years ago. Solo shows take a lot out of me, I put my whole life into them. I also do festivals. I have been building for Burning Man for 15 years straight. I have built 18 pieces there.
What artist living or dead would you most like to show with?
The artist I would most like to show with is Kurt Schwitters. As a child, a teacher, when I was around 10, showed me his work. It changed my life. Basic drawing and painting didn’t do much for me. I was a collector of junk, ground scores, anything found. When I was exposed to Kurt Schwitters, I discovered collage art and began to take my found objects and create collages. It put me on a path that gave me understanding of what art was to me. I wish I could thank that teacher.
Website and social media handles, please!
Facebook: Laura Kimpton