Laura Crabtree Hollenbeck has no dry, academic artist’s statement to offer. She simply paints, in watercolors, sometimes acrylics, real people, real cows, real dogs, real produce … real everything. She’d rather capture whatever inspires her to pick up a brush, and to make a deep, emotional connection to viewers.
Primarily self-taught, Laura has spent decades teaching, participating in juried shows, and running her own studios and shops. She’s participated in Grand Rapids’ Artprize, and was juried into the art publication Acrylicworks with her work selected for the cover.
Her motivation has always been to connect positively with viewers, but that attitude intensified after a near-death experience. “I don’t want to put the ugly side out there,” Laura says.
A DETERMINED LIFE
Laura grew up in Barrington, Ill. She started her career as a painter at the age of five, when her parents kept her occupied with watercolors at restaurant tables. When waiters purchased her paintings, an obsession was born. (Her father had slipped the waiters cash to do so, she admits with a laugh.)
As an adult, she worked to open her own “tiny little art shop” in suburban Chicago. She created and sold her art, and held classes that, she says, felt like warm social events. She loved the community atmosphere of the shop, where her “service was for visitors to leave happy.”
This artist was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm and unlikely to survive. However, she did! Laura had to re-train many skills that we take for granted and began painting again. After a move to Grand Rapids, part of her self-prescribed therapy involved walks to the Fulton Street Farmers Market. She became friends with farmers, learned about the sustainable farming and farm-to-table movements, and gained inspiration to paint the people, their produce and livestock.
To her surprise, just a year after her coma, Laura’s “Fulton Street Farmers Market” paintings got a spot in the 2013 Artprize and went on display at the DeVos Place Convention Center. Her art connected with the farmers, some of whom were moved to tears, she said, at her tribute to their work.
Visit us in October to see our exhibit of Laura Crabtree Hollenbeck’s paintings. Laura will also be teaching art classes with us later this fall and ongoing. Take care, C2