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Patti Lawrence prides herself on art viewers ‘get’

Leigh Ann Laube • Aug 24, 2013 at 4:39 PM

In art school in New York City, Patti Lawrence was often puzzled by the high level of seriousness and gravity that dominated most of the art being created by fellow students and professionals.

Her artwork takes the opposite approach. “Visual Puns, Practical Jokes, Little White Lies,” opening at the Kingsport Art Guild’s gallery at the Renaissance Center, will showcase Lawrence’s humorous and thought-provoking paintings, sculptures and collages.

The show will hang from Aug. 27 to Sept. 19, with an opening reception scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m., Sept. 1.

Lawrence’s artwork has always bordered on the whimsical.

“That’s just my personality. I’m always laughing. I love to have fun, and that’s what comes out in my artwork. When I was in art school in New York City, everything was so depressing, and this was long before 9/11. ... Whoever did the most depressing art that seemed so confusing and unapproachable to the normal person, it was hailed as being good art,” she said. “To those of us trying to focus on realism in art school ... the subject matter was very macabre, politically-oriented and sad.

“It was like a case of ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’ Nobody was brave enough to admit that they really didn’t get the point of all this depressing art. My philosophy of art is to make objects that pleasantly entertain the viewer, whether it is through the use of humor, color and texture, or the clever combination of objects.”

Lawrence, who grew up in New Jersey and has lived in Kingsport for 18 years, has always used “found” objects to create her art. As a youngster, these objects included pine cones and acorns.

She still uses found objects, creating irony and metaphor in assemblages whose meaning viewers can easily “get.”

Her sculpture “Junk Yard Dog” is exactly that — a large dog made from various junk, including broken furniture, old rusty things and even a rubber tire. Her paintings, which appear to be non-representational, are actually abstract interpretations of songs, thoughts and memories.

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