Magnolia Laurie plays with the hypothetical. The painter and educator explains she’s producing possible solutions in the form of pictorial space. “I don’t know a whole lot about geology,” she says, “but my drawings are all about this sort of imagining of it.” Laurie loves duality, the collision of two elements that can mean two separate things. The “fusion or the hybridity that is pretty natural with a collage, where you’re sort of forcing relationships between different things,” comes across naturally in her language of layering different oil paints or ink in her works.
Much of Laurie’s recent work references landscapes, seen and unseen, imaginary but close to realism in their depiction of extreme foreground and deep background. Laurie plays with borders and fences, flat spaces and wide-open ones that look like anywhere and nowhere at once. Looking at her paintings, I think of landscapes I’ve seen with my eyes—volcanic flats in Hawai’i, pictures of the surface of the moon, the great meadow of Yosemite at twilight—and places I’ve only pictured with my mind, influenced by news, literature, or songs—mega dumps in China, my ancestor’s homestead in Virginia, and the open ocean off of Iceland. I think Laurie would welcome these interpretations, both because her influences are so vast—such as adaptive survival structures in the arctic circle and the jungles of Puerto Rico where she spent her formative years before high school—and because she’s a deep believer in the power of personal perspective.
Regarding her own vantage point, Laurie describes herself as “a watcher,” having grown up removed from mainland American culture in Puerto Rico with her mother and five siblings while struggling to survive poverty. Her upbringing made her deeply respectful of adaptation and survival. Growing up as a white person in the predominately Hispanic and Caribbean community of Puerto Rico made Laurie feel like an outsider even in the place she felt most at home. It also instilled in her a love of making things and problem-solving, and a respect for the slow passage of time.