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Cultivate Featured Artist: Laurel Dugan

The Cultivate Curatorial Board is excited to share the work of Laurel Dugan.

Laurel shares her work and process in our interview below.

Learn more about the Cultivate Featured artist series below.

Learn more about Laurel on her:

Briefly describe your work or share your artist statement

My work focuses on modern American life. It explores cultural forces and asks the question, “What do we surround ourselves with and what does that say about us?” My paintings seek to reveal what is beyond the clichés and fantasies.

I am drawn to the absurd—such as adults wearing animal inner tubes—but I approach depictions of these subjects with empathy. I remember that we are all human and doing the best we can. One of my concerns is the encroachment of digital technology on relationships. I feel strongly that in-person contact is important. In accord with this, I construct my paintings in ways that make them best experienced in person: for example, their large scale, carefully modulated values, and thick impasto.

I think art will play a role in reweaving the tattered fabric of our culture. I hope viewers of my work see themselves in the portrayal of human experiences. I hope that the questions and ideas raised by my paintings are found worthy of sustained contemplation by my audience.

light pink fabric with red embroidery thread that reads "I don't think it was my fault" the red thread is knotted and tangled in the words and beneath them
"Tammy 2", 2021, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 70" x 60". Image Courtesy of the Artist”

How do you go about beginning a new piece? Do you have it planned or is it more spontaneous?

I start with an idea, but never a clear idea of the end product. For me, making art is as much about discovery as anything else, and the magic is in the process. Sometimes I don’t even start with a size—I just tack up a giant piece of canvas and let the composition find itself. So, for me, painting is a process of call and response: I make a mark, then step back and see how the whole has changed because of it. Then I make another mark. And so on.

What is a barrier that you, as an artist, overcame?

I think lack of structure can (ironically) be a barrier for a lot artists. I mean, you go through your whole life until you graduate with a very structured day-to-day, and then you graduate, and you realize that absolutely NO ONE is checking in to make sure you’re making anything. You’re on your own. It’s easy—SO easy—to lament not having the clear-cut path (and business lunches!) that other professions have. It took me years to appreciate that I was given an incredible gift in being so passionate about art that I wanted to make it my life and career. I had the opportunity to shape my life and career by nourishing the seeds of my ideas and bringing them to fruition, and all I had to do was show up to work. So I decided to do that. I have learned over and over that just showing up in the studio can be the hardest part. If you can just do that, ideas beget ideas, artwork begets artwork, and the rest takes care of itself.

rough painting of boy sitting on couch with sunlight streaming through windows
"Seamus Waiting for Mom", 2020, Acrylic on Canvas, 48" x 60”. Image Courtesy of Artist

What is your go-to music when you're working on art?

Indie rock, like Cat Power or the band Luxury. I like singer/songwriter stuff. I think there’s a connection there to what I’m doing in the studio.

What do you strive for as an artist? What form of recognition is important for you?

First and foremost, I strive for excellence in my work. Staying true to that inner voice, feeling my way through a painting—that’s really important to me. In terms of recognition, it’s important to me to be known as “a painter’s painter”—in other words, someone who knows the craft inside-out and practices it well, with love and a thoughtful sensibility.

Impressionist style painting of two men on boat with lake behind them, one wrapped in red beach towel with no shirt, the other in a white tee, baseball cap, and blue swim trunks. Both are looking down at phones
"Making the Deal", 2022, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 70" x 60”. Image Courtesy of the Artist

What advice would you share for artists? Share something that you have learned along the way.

Well, I guess I would say what I said in #4. Also, though, have your own goals. And be okay with them! Having a really clear idea of what your goals are—and no one else’s—will help you define success for yourself.

What is a work of art that is an inspiration to you?

I LOVE art, so I find a LOT of inspiration in almost every artwork I look at…so to choose just ONE...

Impressionist painting of front porch made from red-orange wood and steps coming off right side wit grass in foreground
"Front Porch", 2022, Mixed Media, 52" x 70”. Image Courtesy of the Artist

Who are three working artists that you love and would recommend?

Impressionist painting of beach goers. Woman stands in forground in left of scene facing viewer and pointing while several figures play in water behind her
"The Bathers," 2022, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 108" x 76”. Image Courtesy of the Artist


Cultivate Artists

A curated collection of emerging and mid-career artists. The featured artist program at Cultivate serves to share the artist's work and process with the community, inviting them to understand how and why an artist creates the work they do, to market and promote artists, and to connect artists to each other and to our network of curators, artists, and gallery owners.

These artists are curated together and represent the work that we exhibit at Cultivate. The artists are selected in January and June, and scheduled out for the six-month period. If you are interested in being one of Cultivate featured artists, please visit our open call for submissions.

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