Sink or swim

Laurelin Gilmore

“Sheepish” by Laurelin Gilmore.

“Sheepish” by Laurelin Gilmore.

Second Saturday reception is September 11, from 6 to 11 p.m. at Marco Fuoco Gallery, 6764 Folsom Boulevard; (916) 455-0225; Through October 8.

Marco Fuoco Gallery

6764 Folsom Blvd.
Sacramento, CA 95819

(916) 455-0225

Laurelin Gilmore took the plunge. In July, the 31-year-old artist quit her day job as a state worker and dived into being a full-time artist. While it’s only been a few months so far, Gilmore, who has participated in group shows over the better part of a decade, will be exhibiting her paintings and drawings in her first solo show at the Marco Fuoco Gallery (6764 Folsom Boulevard).

You’ve been writing blogs about your art for a few years now.

Actually, no. I just started blogging when I left my job, just a couple of months.

I thought I saw entries that were written in 2008?

Oh, that’s my old blog. The way my website is set up, [the old blog is], like, hidden. … The way my site was set up before, it was, like, in a backroom, so even close friends didn’t know I had one.

You tend to get pretty philosophical in there.

(Laughs.) Yeah, well, you know, it’s a trip. [Art] is something that internally feels like the only thing I should be doing, but externally, in society and even to people who mean well, it sounds ridiculous. It’s totally intangible. You know what you’re going to be doing has almost no chance to really be successful, but for me, there didn’t really seem to be any other choice.

I noticed you have a lot of work that has human figures with animal parts, especially mermaids. Do you believe in mermaids?

(Laughs.) Uh, no. But when I was little I certainly did. There are a lot of water creatures that I paint. I have a real strong affinity for the ocean. …

The animal metaphor has been a way for me to have the conversation of walking through life, existing as person of blended ethnicity—black and white—so that’s kind of my tribe. … With the animal metaphor, I can use their parts as clues to what I’m trying to say, you know, the [“Sheepish”] painting with the two girls. They’re both sheep—this is about siblings—both of them mixed. One has horns and is looking directly at the camera, the arms in full view; the other is looking away, downcast ears, and her arms are behind her. The point is to show that though they come from the same place, their experience is different.

There’s a website called Mermaids Are Real!, and the author presents convincing evidence that mermaids existed, but not as mythical half fish, half human. They are regular women all around the world who dived for food.

Yeah, that’s cool. I will [look it up].

Do you always work from photos?

I didn’t use to. … I took a [class] in portrait drawing at [Sacramento City College] a while back and had an opportunity to study under Fred Dalkey. It was funny, because he came by when I was doodling something between models, and was like, “It’s very interesting: You lose a lot of [information] when you don’t have somebody sitting in front of you.” And it’s true. I’ve tried to draw from memory, and it doesn’t work for me. … The twin picture [“Sheepish”] is actually me leaning against a mirror.

I had a feeling that was you.

I’m part of a women’s art collective in Sacramento called the Swell Sister Society. We have little subgroups. … I did a portrait of myself for that. What [the group] did was allow me to have a wider model base, rather than just a couple friends I know who will rarely get naked and let me take pictures of them. Now I have, like, 10 other women who will happily pose.

You say you studied with Dalkey? He has a show in September, too, at the Center for Contemporary Art, Sacramento.

I saw him a couple of years ago at the B. Sakata [Garo] gallery. It was amazing. I wouldn’t take that [educational] experience back for anything. He changed a lot for me.

Who else has influenced your art and the way you think about artwork?

Chris Daubert, another professor at City College. I credit him much more with changing my mind about art than I do than with changing a technique. … It’s really hard to explain, but he could be pretty brutal (laughs). … It’s kind of nice to have someone just be like, “Yeah, great, but here’s where you need to improve,” you know? And he’s one of those people that you learn to respect his opinion so much, it doesn’t really hurt when he says something is not working. … And Dalkey, he’s just—stay quiet and watch, ’cause if you can learn any little piece of what he does, you’re golden. …

Being part of the Swell Sisters has really been a neat experience for me. … I’ve created more and better art since I’ve joined that group. … Just having people around you who understand how important it is to be able to express yourself, how vital to society it is that you even exist and that you’re doing what you’re doing is really valuable. ’Cause you can keep telling yourself, like a mantra, “This is what I want, this is what I do, this is what I love,” but that can get old if you don’t have other people around you cheerleading, giving you new ideas and challenges.