By Roy L Hales
The audio version of this story opens with a clip from Laura Balducci’s art installation “The Other-Side Presents That Wall,” which was at the Old School House Art Gallery on Cortes Island in the summer of 2016. The video of another of her multi-media performances, “Sense That Sin” was part of a show last month. Laura is a film maker, promoter, curator, painter, doll-maker, hair dresser, make-up artist and the former lead singer of a female punk band. She promotes the Old School House Art Gallery through her website and Facebook page and is curating the annual member’s show, SPACE, which opens at 6 PM on Friday, July 27, 2018. This morning’s interview is devoted to Laura Balducci’s art.
Laura Balducci’s Art
The first word I would use to describe Laura is eccentric – which is probably more of a statement of who I am, than who as she is. After that I would have to add she is obviously prolific, talented, cute, socoiable, and embodies the spirit of community.
I haven’t had much to do with galleries since the 1990s. Back then, a gallery owner told me he would permanently bar my artwork if he ever heard I displayed in a mall or library again. Artists did not display alongside crafts either. So I was surprised when our interview started by discussing hairdressing.
“I consider many occupations to be art, from hairdressing, to a painter, to a carpenter, to a gardener. So I feel there are actually a lot more artists in this world than people who may consider themselves artists … Anyone who is creating something with passion could be considered an artist. I do realise that many don’t roll that way, but that’sthe way I roll,” says Laura.
“If my art, my haircut, my make-up, or the outfit I pick out for you, or my painting on a wall can put a smile on your face and help you ferret out of whatever situation you’re in for a moment, then I feel like I did my job.”
A One Girl Package
Laura was seven, when her talents started manifesting themselves. Her father asked about homework; She responded with observations about her teacher’s bad hairdo and the poor color choices she made for clothing and make-up.
“I had a very bad snowboarding accident and they told me I would never cut hair again. I was like ‘whatever’ about that, but I needed to add something to my gig. The closest thing I could think of was to become a make-up artist, which also intrigued me because of colour. Its kind of like working with a three- D form and so is hair. Its a good combination, so I did my fashion styling and make-up artistry at Blanche MacDonald and that took me into the modelling agencies, weddings, more weddings.”
“I was a one girl package then. I could do the hair, the make-up and I could help style all the outfits and take them shopping for the outfits. That took me into photo shoots, fashion shows and other curating freelancing work. I would curate a whole photo shoot of say four outfits, that I would have gathered; the make-up; the hair styles. I would do the turn overs and I worked one on one with the photographer and the model.”
She took night school courses at Emily Carr in the late 1990s.
“A flat canvas didn’t quite do it for me because I had already been working … two or three dimensional … but it did open me up to meeting and networking with other kinds of artists … Before that … I never worked gallery style.”
The Abbie Hoffman Society
You can google another of Laura’s talents. Her bio, on the Abbie Hoffman Society website starts out, “Originally from North Vancouver, Laura spent a lot of time on the Lower Sunshine Coast growing up, and later lived in Powell River – where she met up with the right ladies to pursue a teenage dream: voicing some positive riffs.”
“The music is really experimental. I’m not sure everyone wants to hear the music I made,” she says.
“I was the lead singer and dealt with all the hecklers … I wrote the songs. I played the tamborine when I felt like it … and I totally free styled the entire gigs. We were an all ladies punk rock band that went on tour with ‘NoMeansNo’ and a bunch of other bands – [such as] Little Farmer and Discount Limousine. We did a lot of touring and we created a CD. We had a lot of fun and I would like to think that we inspired many young people to just break out of their shell and create music – if that is what they wanna do.”
The Old School House Gallery
Laura and her partner moved here around 2010. They had been looking for a home on an island, when a “cool rental” popped up on Cortes.
“Before I moved here, I was definitely checking out what is going on. I looked at the Cortes Island Tideline and that led me to look at a few of the different artists on the island. I wanted to make this move and I was gradually taking myself out of hairdressing and I was going to use this time to explore different avenues of art and different mediums. So I was really doing the google search on all the Cortes Island artists and the Old School House Art Gallery came up.”
“It was pretty impressive, what was going on in this little community. Its all volunteer and donation run, which is a lot of work, and I really wanted to be involved with the gallery one way or another: showing work, volunteering, however I could.”
Two Of Her Displays
Laura has contributed to a number of group shows since then, and also had solo exhibitions. YouTube videos have been made of two of her contributions.
Sense that Sin is a multimedia performance featuring Del Rivera on the accordion and the dancing of Namchi Bazar. It was originally performed at the Expose Yourself Exhibition in Powell River, BC, and a video was shown in the Old School House Gallery show “All Things Digital,” from June 29 – July 8, 2018.
“The Other-Side presents That Wall” is a solo exhibition that Laura made at both Cortes and Powell River during 2016.
“It took me about two years to create the whole installation … It’s two sided and inspired by the Berlin wall. One side represents the ladies that got stuck on one side of the wall, waiting for their men to come home. The other side is all graffiti art,” she explains.
Promoting the Old School House Gallery
I came to know Laura because of the way she promotes the gallery.
“I’ve probably been steadily promoting the gallery for at least five or six years, but I probably started when I first moved here because I am so excited about the gallery. I’m pretty active on my social media and I wanted to promote my community’s artists. So that out there, in the world, people could see that even on a little island amongst 800 people we could have an abundance of talent. I think the artists deserve to have that opportunity.”
“It can be really hard as an artist just to put yourself out there and I’m not a shy person. Once I got to know some of the artists and got involved with the gallery, I took it upon myself to promote every show that comes up on my social media. If that’s through the pictures I take during the shows, or artists talks, or the poster for the show. I just like doing that kind of thing.”
“I think its really healthy for each artist to share the art that inspires them. We can help each other get out there. Somebody in my network might fall in love with one of the artists here on the island that they [would not otherwise] have heard of. They can go to their website, through my promotion, and possibly sell a painting.
“That makes everybody’s day great. The person who buys it: its hanging on their wall, they see it every day and it puts a smile on their face. A couple of extra bucks in the artists pocket is always a smile on their face. Everybody deserves that.”
Laura Balducci is curating the Old School House Art Gallery‘s annual membership show, which opens at 6 PM on Friday, July 27, 2018. There will be beverages and finger food. There will also be an artists talk on August 3.
“I would like to invite all my neighbours and their visitors to come and experience our annual membership show because each individual who walks through the door will have an opportunity to experience something different,” says Laura.
“This year we have 29 local artsists working in all sorts of mediums: textiles; art dolls; soap stone; painting; collage; watercolors; photography.”
See you there.
There is much more detail in the podcast.
Top Photo Credit: Artwork for the Old School House gallery’s 2018 annual member’s show – Laura Balducci photo