Spotlight on Laura Harling
Dec 28, 2018 05:14PM
Award-winning sculptor Laura Harling specializes in works of political and social satire. Using a variety of materials—toothpicks, broom straw, coat hangers, and even human hair—she creates prominent figures of government officials, current and past presidents, and famous icons like Elvis, Princess Diana, and Oprah Winfrey. The artist gains inspiration for her intricate sculptures from a lifelong interest in news and politics, as well as a varied work history. Growing up in nearby Woodland, Harling has called El Dorado Hills home for the past 42 years and loves the area’s natural beauty and thriving art culture. Her words of wisdom for aspiring artists? “Just do it, keep doing it, and have fun.”
HLB: You've had quite the professional background. How did you discover your artistic calling?
LH: I started out making mud sculptures as a child and have sculpted in many mediums since. After getting a degree in fine art and a teaching credential from Sacramento State, I honed my skills using a variety of techniques and materials. My various jobs—blackjack dealer, high-rise window cleaner, janitor, clerk, dispatcher, and teacher for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation—allowed me to meet many different kinds of people and offered inspiration for my art.
HLB: What is it about sculpting that captures your interest most?
LH: I love working with my hands, the 3D nature of the medium, and how you can walk around a sculpture.
HLB: What political and social change or conversation do you hope your work contributes to?
LH: My parents were involved in politics and got me interested. As a state janitor, I cleaned Governor Jerry Brown’s apartment. Observing his ascetic lifestyle inspired me to create my first political sculpture. I like to hope that my sculptures make people stop and think about our society and the way we treat each other and the environment.
HLB: In your opinion, why is art so valuable and necessary, especially in today’s world?
LH: Americans today seem to have very rigidly defined mindsets. I believe art can help people be more open-minded and make them feel better. When people feel better, they act better.
HLB: How do you overcome artist’s block?
LH: I watch the news, visit art galleries and museums, and travel.
HLB: What is one of your favorite pieces and why?
LH: I’ve refined my techniques over the years and seem to like the most recent one the best—Gavin Takes a Selfie. I’m also fond of my sculptures of Jerry Brown. Overall, I like the pieces that make me smile.
HLB: What’s in store for the future?
LH: I want to continue sculpting for as long as I can and have a show for all of my 50-plus pieces.
by HEATHER L. BECKER
"High Speed Jerry" photos by Dante Fontana. Bottom three artwork images courtesy of Laura Harling.