Archive for Thursday, March 13, 2008

Opposite ends of this spectrum

March 13, 2008

This is the third in a series of features on the artists who have works on display and for sale at Coffee Talk, located at 724 Main St.

As Laura Carriker sits at a table in Coffee Talk with her daughter, Connie Ehrlich, she answers questions posed to Connie. Connie, in turn, does the same thing when questions are posed to Laura.

While it's a small quirk one needs to get used to in the context of an interview, it is indicative of the kind of relationship they have.

"We think of ourselves as kindreds," Connie said. "Maybe we each have a little more objective approach to the other person's paintings. We've kind of switched roles."

Whereas some children get into art because a parent influences them, Laura learned more about art as her daughter taught her.

Laura was part of the Meadowlarks, who were a group of women that would go out and paint scene of nature, but she became more intrigued by the art pieces Connie would bring home from high school.

"We kind of learned together," Connie said.

The Carrikers lived in Lewis, but moved rather abruptly to Phoenix when Laura's husband was transferred there for his job.

Connie had just entered Kansas State University and Laura decided to go to college that same year at Arizona State University.

Both women graduated in 1987 with degrees in fine art. This allowed Laura to accomplish her goal of finishing college before she was 50, graduating one day before her 50th birthday.

Connie got a job in graphic design in Phoenix but she was unhappy with it.

"Her heart wasn't in graphic design," Laura said.

After her parents moved to Lawrence, Connie was coaxed by her mother to move back and she received a master's degree in fine arts from Kansas University.

Now, both women focus on getting exposure for their art via galleries and shops both nationally and in the Kansas City area.

Laura's paintings will be shown at Artichokes Gallery in Overland Park in August.

"You have to get your work out there," Laura said. "Whether you're an artist or a writer, if you write a book you want someone to read it and if paint a painting you want someone to see it and give you some feedback. You put yourself out there to be seen in hopes that you can get a gallery, but you also have to be vigorous in how you pursue it."

Connie has a show in about a year at Shawnee County Library in Topeka and also has shown paintings in Chicago and Santa Fe.

Laura said Connie does a better job than her at getting into galleries and shows.

"I'm married and I don't have any children, so it makes it kind of easier to do," Connie said.

However, Laura still is proud of the effort she has put into her work.

"I've come a lot further than I ever thought I would," she said.

While they might be kindred sprits in terms of their relationship, their paintings are polar opposites. Laura deals in realism, painting scenes of fruits or vegetables - only real ones, never plastic.

"I take a more traditional approach," she said. "I've never had a big idea. I reflect on my life, which is home and family and gardening and that's what I paint. Sometimes I get bored and so then I try something different and think I have to change. But on the other hand, I seek peace of mind in my paintings, because that's what I seek in my life."

However, Connie paints somewhat surreal scenes featuring everything from women's underwear to rubber gloves.

"I have a crazy brain," Connie said. "I think of strange stuff and I don't know exactly where that comes from; I'm never without an idea of what to paint."

She currently is painting iconic cartoon character toys, which she buys from Ebay.

"It's like doing portraits of people but they don't move and they're fun," Connie said. "They have a lot of personality.

"Right now, I'm painting the Great Wall of China and I thought, "The person that would appreciate that the most his a Storm trooper from 'Star Wars.'

Even though their ideas for painting are different, they remain unintentionally connected because they still come up with some of the same backgrounds.

For instance, they both recently discussed wanting to paint tornadoes. However, Connie wanted to paint George and Elroy Jetson in the same scene.

"It's very strange," Connie said. "Sometimes we'll end up not doing it in the same way, but have the same inclination."

Laura and Connie's works can be viewed and purchased at Coffee Talk, 724 Main St.

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