Martha Lauritzen, 86, is an artist and the mother of Erik Lauritzen, a local artist and art teacher who passed away in 2007. His exhibition of Nevada photographs, Stop the Car, Dad! opened at the Nevada Museum of Art in 2008. Since then, it has been traveling the state, but it returns to Reno for an exhibition in the Sturm Library at Truckee Meadows Community College, 7000 Dandini Blvd., beginning April 14 with an opening reception at 2 p.m.
Tell me about Erik.
Erik was a very unusual person. He was extremely dedicated to his work because he had a lifelong health problem that was very severe, and he focused so much on his work. He really was quite amazing. He was a very gifted person. He started out in music, but with his health problem, he changed over and went to photography. … All I can say is that he was very—how does a mother talk about her son? You can’t do that.
He has an exhibit that’s been touring …
It’s now at TMCC. That show is really lots of fun. I came to live with him in ’97 because his second kidney was beginning to fail. And I kept him on a dialysis diet and maintained him for five years until he got a third transplant. So he wasn’t really able to do physically a lot of the things that he had done in the past. So, we took weekends and went to various places in Nevada … photographing all of these things. There are just so many things in Nevada. I love Nevada. It’s amazing. After 30 years in L.A., I moved to a place called Pioche, which is a town of 500, an old mining town on the east side of the state. Erik taught … at Pioche and built a darkroom for their high school, and had classes for the townspeople. And he went there two or three years, and it was a wonderful, tiny, historic mining town that’s 100 miles from everyplace, literally. 100 miles south of Ely, 100 and some north of Vegas. He thought that town was so great that he bought this little house for $10,000. … Then he did a project called “The Big Picture” there, which was really quite an amazing thing. He had all the people in the county come and stand in the shape of the state of Nevada, which he laid out on a football field, to celebrate the signing of the constitution, I think it was. The governor flew in and all these people, and it was a pretty big deal. As a result of that, he was hired in Reno.
No, he was first at the Sierra Arts Foundation, and he taught classes in Reno. And for two or three years he was the photo curator at the [Nevada Historical Society]. And then he started teaching at TMCC. … He started the photo department at TMCC. They didn’t have anything. He ran the classes in the hallway and the closets and everything else to get everything started. … [A]nd when they built the new building, he had a very good setup, so they developed a photography department. He started both of the galleries there, too.
You’re an artist too, correct?
I’m a ceramicist, a potter. I used to teach, too, before I had children.
Do you still make artwork?
Yes, I do just minimal things. A friend of mine got me a low-fire kiln and a wheel. I’m 86, you know, so I’m not doing what I used to [laughs]. I have a studio here in the garage and I make stuff occasionally. … When I came to Reno, I knew that I’d be taking care of Erik. So I sold that house in Pioche. When I moved to Pioche, we had bought another building in Pioche for my husband for a studio, and then he got cancer. After he died, I opened an antiquarian used bookstore in a town of 500 people. [Laughs] It was called The Book Mine. I had that until he needed me.
Anything else you want to say?
He was a neat person, that I will say. He lived 37 years on three kidney transplants. His first one was at 17, when dialysis was eight hours a day, three days a week. Now, you go twice a week for two hours, so he really was really remarkable. 30 years on a cadaver kidney is something else. … He was quite an unusual person. Besides, he was my kid.