Natural Connections: Paintings by Emily Moll Wood and Laura Brainard Raborn
ON VIEW Friday, November 11, 2022–Saturday, January 28, 2023
Loft Gallery, CALS Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square, Roberts Library
This exciting collection of paintings by Emily Moll Wood and Laura Brainard Raborn explores a visual dialogue with the natural world and nature’s deep connections to their own family histories.
Emily Moll Wood paints a lot of portraits, and more recently an obsessive number of flowers, most of which are done in watercolor and on a variety of surfaces. She holds an MA in painting from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock and has taught painting classes for over fifteen years, most being at the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts. Her work has been accepted into and won awards in numerous juried exhibitions. Wood’s work can be found in many private and public collections such as the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Springfield (MO) Art Museum. She lives in Little Rock with her partner JD and two young children.
When the pandemic began, while homebound, I surprisingly found solace in observing and painting flowers as they took turns blooming. I have obsessively painted flowers each spring since, wondering why exactly it made me feel so good. One reason, I realized, was the connection I felt to the women in my family who came before me. I come from a line of makers, master gardeners, hellraisers, and aesthetes. I set out to explore the influence and connections to my maternal lineage. Working from the many flower studies, combined with sketches from old photos of myself, my mother, my grandmothers, and great-grandmothers, I create large paintings on inherited old tablecloths to draw attention to undervalued domestic work. The work in this show examines the connections and differences between the lives my female forebearers and I have led, reflecting broader social changes. I am drawn to the flow and transparency of watery paint on various absorbent surfaces. The process of observing and translating faces, figures, and flowers into paintings is therapeutic, is meditative, and brings me joy. I enjoy the challenge of how to control it as much as the medium and surface will allow, but while also embracing the unpredictability of it. This is an appropriate metaphor to my life right now—raising small children while trying to maintain a career and grow as an artist. My work functions to literalize the balance between control and release through its materiality and its subject matter.
Laura Raborn has had paintings exhibited in multiple collections in Arkansas, throughout the U.S., and in the Bahamas. Her work has earned numerous awards and has appeared in publications such as Women Make Arkansas: Conversations with 50 Creatives by Erin Wood of Et Alia Press. An interview about her most recent work can be found at https://www.arkansasartscene.com/home/interview-with-artist-laura-raborn. After receiving a BA from Rollins College, Raborn worked in marketing for six years and took evening classes at the Arkansas Arts Center. Later, at UA Little Rock, she earned a master’s in art while working as a graduate assistant. More recently, she has participated in three prestigious art residencies: the Women’s International Study Center in Santa Fe, NM; the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Amherst, VA; and Breck Create in Breckenridge, CO. Raborn has also recently increased her mixed media workshop teaching in various art schools such as the Ah Haa School for the Arts in Telluride, CO, and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR.
When asked why elements of nature appear in my figurative paintings, I initially considered my deep fascination with the visible miracles in our natural world. The veins in a leaf, the spiral pattern in petals, the defense mechanism seen (or felt!) in thorns are all signs of design that constantly ignite curiosity and wonder. My interest stems from pervasive childhood memories and relationships with my mother, aunt, and grandmother, who were knowledgeable and passionate gardeners. In addition to years of shared information, they taught me to look closely at our natural surroundings. They taught me to care and to notice. There is a certain element of control in gardening, and I became equally interested in wild growth, especially when nature takes over something manmade. This theme was the basis of my portfolio when applying to graduate school at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock years ago. There, I became enamored with the figure as an attempt to create paintings that reflect shared human experiences. This exhibition includes work that reflects the combination of my two greatest interests in art: nature and the human figure. Occasionally, botanical elements combine with the human face, but more often natural growth is part of the surrounding space, interrupting or filling parts of the body. Patterns from nature contrast—as well as relate to—the body. Despite our human tendency to see ourselves as separate, we are part of the natural world. We are one with nature.
The CALS Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square often features artworks from the CALS permanent collection, and more artwork from the CALS collection can be seen at the Main Library, the Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art, and any of our thirteen branch locations.
The Underground Gallery is located in the Galleries & Bookstore at Library Square in the CALS Roberts Library of Arkansas History & Art.
Check the CALS Roberts Library website here: https://robertslibrary.org/visit/location-hours/ for gallery hours and visiting procedures.
The Roberts Library is located at CALS Library Square in the River Market District of downtown Little Rock.