Three words that describe you?

Curious, passionate, honest.

What's your first artistic memory?

Drawing "fashion" illustrations with my friend Rachel for our magazine that we self-published every month when we were kids. We had a pretty small subscriber pool (just our parents), so unfortunately that endeavor ended after a year or so.

When did you realize you wanted to become an artist?

I think I always knew that I needed to do something creative with my career path. But I never intended to become a visual artist as my job. It really happened very slowly and quite by accident -- first I was painting just for myself as an outlet, then some people saw things I was making and invited me to do other things. Everything just evolved pretty naturally from there.

What was your biggest influence growing up (artistic or otherwise)?

I think the general experience of being who I was and growing up within my particular family structure was probably the most influential thing from my childhood. The basic formation of how I was taught to see the world and myself, and how I've had to continue to work with that as I've gotten older is really the thing that most shapes the work I'm making.

How did you learn your different mediums?

Drawing and painting were thing I've done since I can remember: they were always hobbies of mine. In college I majored in performance art and minored in design, and I did a lot of different kinds of painting there -- from costume renderings to enormous backdrops for productions.

I haven't had a lot of formal training specific to painting, but I've taken a pretty wide range of art classes throughout the years. Ceramics is really new for me and I take a weekly class at an art studio. I taught myself the basic animation skills I have by reading articles and googling stuff.  So I guess I'm mostly self-taught. I do think you learn best by doing things out of your comfort zone: that has been the most helpful to my growth as an artist.

How do you decide which medium to use for which idea? Do you have a medium that speaks to you most?

I think because painting is my main focus I tend to mostly get visions of complete images in my head. Sometimes I get an idea that doesn't see through fully as a static picture and I'll have a feeling that I want to see the figures moving around so animation becomes more compelling. The ceramics are a way for me to work more intimately with the body positions and focus solely on that form since they're in three dimensions. I find that all of the different mediums feed and inspire each other. And it helps keep things interesting: to try different visual ways of expressing an idea.

Women seem to be the primary subject in your work, and are often portrayed nude. Tell us more.

I guess because I'm a woman, it just makes sense for me to paint women -- I both feel more comfortable with it and I also like it and want to paint women. Initially I thought I was making figures that were kind of gender neutral, but since they were pretty soft and curvy everyone tended to identify them as women so I've really just grown into that more as I've gone along.

I'm interested in how our gender affects and impacts our sense of identity and our experience in the world, and I like to envision scenarios where women are empowering themselves and each other. The nudity was something that initially started as a way for me simply to minimize fussy details and focus on color and form. But I can also connect the concept of nudity to the themes I'm working with: the idea of freedom and ease, of a sort of utopia where there are no boundaries or walls, no divisions based on status or race, and we're left with just the pure ability to be totally comfortable within our own skin.

What's the first step in your creative process?

I usually get a visual in my head of either a full or partial image, and then I record it in a book so I don't forget it and I can go back to it when I'm working out a new painting or series. Generally I just write out the idea with words, but sometimes I'll sketch a little thumbnail.

When/ How/ Where do you get inspired?

All the time and by everything. Inspiration is everywhere and often comes in unexpected packages and at weird times. A color can spark an idea, or a word someone says, or a texture on a building, a song -- there are infinite sources of inspiration around us. I do feel like a lot of ideas come up in that space when I'm not thinking about anything in particular -- like when driving on a long road trip, or right before falling asleep, or in the shower.

What would you be if you weren't an artist?

A singer or a dancer or an activist.

Your fantasized collaboration (anyone dead or alive)?

Gloria Steinem is pretty awesome.

Why do you create? What's your message?

I don't have a why or a single specific message that people are supposed to think -- I just want to make work that feels like an honest expression of something I'm working through. People can decide what it's about or how it makes them feel. I find solace in creating images that are comforting to me, or in envisioning the world the way I wish it could be: it's simultaneously an exercise in both manifestation and escape. I feel like making things is just the natural thing to do.

What is success for you?

Being content and at peace inside myself, feeling creatively free, and living with integrity.

What would you imagine your last words to be?

Oh man... Maybe "that went fast"? haha.
Hopefully it's a hug to my husband and I can tell him how much I love him.

Laura Berger is based in Chicago.
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