photo credit: Dina Kantor
Laura Petrovich-Cheney cherishes the fact that nature is larger than we are. In all of the artist’s recent sculpture, a dialogue exists between environmental and individual concerns, a conversation whose central metaphor might emerge from the found and repurposed materials. Deeply committed to social impact, inseparable from the narratives which survivors share, Laura loves patterns and order, yet believes that so much is randomly chaotic. Hers is both a collective and individual experience of art. She sees patterns because she chooses to see them, so as to make sense of this life. History and innovation underlie her works, like fields edged by rivers, sky.
Much of Laura’s work is feminist in nature, since the artist works with traditional women’s arts, such as needlework and quilting, lending them novel materials, as well as approaches. As with rediscovered women’s texts, her work expresses resilience, power, voice. There is no insistence on static perfection. The imperfections of the material reveal an aesthetic promise in the discarded remnants of daily life. Laura’s dedication to her work and vision have been honored by solo exhibits such as What Remains, Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, MA, 2017) Block Party, at the A.I.R. Gallery (Brooklyn, NY, 2014), and exhibits such as Pattern Pieces, James Michener Museum (Doylestown, PA, 2015-16), Sandy, Construction/Deconstruction at Gallery 14 (Morris, NY, 2014), The Body in Review at the ARC Gallery and Educational Center (Chicago, IL, 2015), and Parallel Dimensions at the Chazan Gallery (Providence, RI, 2016).
Most recently, she contributed work to the Imagine Your Park, Imagine the Art public sculpture project at Sandy Hook National Park, NJ, a National Endowment for the Arts grant collaboration with Monmouth Arts. Awards include recognition from the Barbara Deming Fund for Women, a grant from the Clark Hulings Fund for Visual Artists, and a merit scholarship to the Vermont Studio Center. Laura received a Mary Hinman Carter Prize for Drawing from the National Academy, in addition to the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Art Education. As an artist in education, she was interviewed for an international Fulbright Association Conference; Dare to Act (Washington, DC, 2014). In 2017, she was awarded New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture. Laura earned a BA in Fine Arts and English Literature from Dickinson College, an MS in Fashion Design from Drexel University, and an MFA in Studio Art from Moore College of Art and Design.
Laura’s work is created in diverse spaces, such as the Arctic Circle Residency setting in Svalbard, Norway (2013). The artist was awarded a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Residency Grant (2004) as well as a Fellowship at the A.I.R. Gallery (2013-14). Laura also offers lectures in museums, galleries, and educational settings. She organized and raised funds for Frozen Earth, a climate change panel discussion led by Diane Burko (The Noyes Museum of Stockton University, Oceanville, NJ, 2014). In 2015, her sculptures were featured in Frozen Earth, at the aforementioned museum.
When asked about future directions, Laura stressed that she would like to give back to the next generation of artists. She has extended her unparalleled expertise as an adjunct professor, a fashion designer, and a National Board Certified Elementary art teacher to so many people. Her exhibits at university galleries and museums continue a vital mentoring process. About her own work, she writes: “I am drawn to what is in a state of transition—that which has been exposed to forces of nature and time. For me, material has memory.”
When describing the process of arranging wood from Hurricane Sandy into smaller pieces, then rearranging the parts into a larger quilt design, Laura affirms both local and universal themes. Her own story unfolds at the intersection of preservation and exploration. Sharing that story, the artist believes, makes us vulnerable, fully human, connected and whole.
Written by Christina Turczyn