Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Hello. I'm Dr. Lisa Bealle and you are listening to, or watching Radio Maine today. I have with me artist, Laurie Fisher. Thanks for coming in today. 


 

Laurie Fisher:

Thanks for having me. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I love the fact that you brought this beautiful piece behind us, with its swath of blue, because it reminds me of how you and I first connected. 


 

Laurie Fisher:

So true. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Even though we didn't really know each other at that point.  Obviously there's something else going on with this particular piece, but you could say it looks a little like a swimming pool.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes, for sure. Actually, before I painted this piece, I did a painting that was really reminiscent of water. It was accidental. And then it translated into how I resolved this one. So you're right. But, i t wasn't intentional water.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, tell me about this piece. And then we'll go back to our swimming pool connection because now we've got people intrigued. But for now, let's talk about your art since that's why you're here.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes. Explaining my art is something that I don't know that I can do eloquently.  For me, I'm a process painter and working with the materials is really the joy and the discovery and just the act of creation itself. And so where they end up, they end up. I don't come to a canvas with any preconceived ideas at all. I definitely didn't have a swimming pool, or water, in mind or a color palette. This one you can see, if you look closely enough, a lot of layers behind it, different colors and different ideas, and that's just how they evolve.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So, because I'm not an artist, when you say process painter, I think I have a sense of what that means, but for you, what does that mean? What does it mean to be a process painter?


 

Laurie Fisher:

Well, and I didn't mean to say that as if it's some title that I assigned to myself, but as I've learned about myself as a painter over the years, I've realized that it's the interaction with the materials themselves that is inspiring me. So sometimes, when I need a boost, or I just need a little dose of inspiration, I'll just go wander around at the art store and a color might jump out at me or a new material, a new oil stick or something, and it'll just transform all the work in the studio at that at time. So color is definitely one of my subjects, but it's also because of the material itself and the color is part of that material.  I really just get really lost in the contact with the materials with my body.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So when you use words like, like visceral, you're talking about this kind of physical, emotional interaction with the things that you're using to create your art.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes. I think there's a creative intelligence in our bodies. And again, I only came to know that because I spend a lot of time looking at a piece that I'm stuck on. They all get stuck and that's why they can take months sometimes and all of them get to a place where I'm just not sure. And sometimes I'll turn it against the wall and won't look at it for a while or I have my methods of getting back into it. But sometimes as I'm stuck and trying to solve something in my mind, even then I know that I just have to act. I don't always do that that well.  I sometimes spend too much time thinking I can resolve it in my head or come up with an idea or come up with the next step in my head.


 

Laurie Fisher:

But if I actually just pick up the paint, even if it's on something else, a small study or something, if I actually just get going with the materials, usually it unlocks an answer or an idea or a next move. Sometimes I'm working on one painting and I think I'm making a mark on a painting over here. And it turns out that mark actually belongs on another piece and it resolves it. So it's this kind of push pull between all the work all the time. But it's really when I'm actually in process that the work begins to emerge. That might seem obvious, but it's not always that obvious. You get close on a painting and you like certain parts of it and you're working really hard not to mess it up. You want to preserve something that you like. But sometimes you have to destroy it and , yes, over time, I've just learned to, to take risks, trust my gut and just throw paint around.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Does this piece have a name to it or does it just exist the way that it is and people can interpret it the way that they want to?

Laurie Fisher: 

Well, it's both.  I try not to title my paintings in a way that will create an idea or define it. I don't like to limit the work. I don't like to limit the work for the viewer either. It's abstract work. I want people to see and connect with it however they see and connect with it, if they do. But titling can be fun. This painting is called Red L. In an attempt not to lead I didn't put the Red L into the painting after having an idea of an L and it wasn't even an L but usually I finish a painting and then the titles come afterwards, after a few days of thinking about it. Sometimes I'm very literal in the titling just so I'm not leading the viewer.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

What about this other piece that I have that we have in the studio with us? 


 

Laurie Fisher:

That painting is called Juliet. And the reason why it's called Juliet is because it reminded me of nautical code code flag. And one of the nautical code code flags is Romeo, there is no Juliet, so that painting is Juliet.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

So when we asked you to provide us with information before you came in, you talked about the fact that writing, and specifically haiku, were something that you have worked with for quite a while. And as you're describing the Romeo and Juliet connection, that kind of evokes the writing, the literary aspect of the work that you do.


 

Laurie Fisher:

I'm pretty fond of poetry in haiku because they are abstracted varieties. I like the language itself and, when I was writing more, I was often really enamored with creating the sentence or creating a poem moving the words around so that they sounded and felt and looked a certain way visually. And yes, it is an abstracted form of writing.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I think that's why I've always liked EE Cummings. There's the words and it's what they say, but also the way that they look and what he does with punctuation. I've never found another poet that I think I like quite the same way.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes, it's very artful.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

You have a graduate degree in clinical psychology. Tell me about that.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes, I'm still the same person. Psychology is peeling back layers of humans and it's similar to what I'm doing in the studio. Writing was a step in between those things. I'm just really intrigued and enamored by our experience, the human experience. My painting is not necessarily emotional directly, but it's all a process of self discovery, which is what intrigued me about psychology, helping others to really get to know their true selves. And I didn't end up pursuing clinical psychology as a career, but it's a consistent thread for me.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Having spent many years doing arguably some element of psychology in the work that I do in medicine that is also very process oriented, you can go in and you can think, okay, well I need to accomplish these goals, but this person also has their goals that they want to reach. And you're both bringing to the table, your own backgrounds, personal experience, and you really don't know where it could end until you both dive in and start interacting and having that collaborative relationship which can be a little intimidating at times.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes, it's very vulnerable. It takes a lot of trust. Yes. They're similar.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Did you need to move through that phase where you felt that vulnerability and allowed yourself to trust as you are continuing to evolve your art? Was there ever a time of trepidation?


 

Laurie Fisher:

Every day <laughs>. Yes. Every day still.  And it’s not in an insecure way, necessarily, but I will be a student for life. There's no doubt. I have no formal training. When I started to paint, I had a little yearning and started painting with a friend.  I had been writing and I got a little bit tired of the limitations of language actually, and explaining things. I didn't want to explain anything anymore. And yes, I started to paint and I didn't know what I was doing at all. And it's been an experiment the entire time. I’ve grown into more confidence. I just need to be as true as I can be and follow my own gut and what brings me alive and notice what that is and why I like a certain painting or why I like a certain artist's work and what is it about it. And, how can I access some of that in my own work. And yes, that's all pretty vulnerable because you're really putting yourself out there.  I don't feel intimidated by the vulnerability of painting as much. It's okay with me. If people don't like my work it is okay with me. If I'm painting authentic work, I can feel if something is what I'm trying to access. What the world thinks doesn't matter.


 

Laurie Fisher:

I like it when it resonates but it's not about that anymore.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

So that requires a certain amount of trust in yourself.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes. And that comes and goes.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, I have to say it's a little comforting to hear you say this. <laugh>  Not that I want you to suffer in any way whatsoever, but I think it's a very human thing and that it's not always something that people are willing to share that there is a sense of uncertainty that kind of persists throughout life for most people.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes. Well definitely for me.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Well, for me too. Yes. I guess for both of us. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

This makes me think of our daughters, we're coming back to the swimming pool , because obviously you and I are both swim moms. I want to  say “we are” versus “we were” because, I would admit, that I was also a soccer mom and I probably will always be a soccer mom to some extent. But our daughters competed against each other. You and I probably spent many hours not knowing each other on opposite ends of the pool deck.  My daughter is now 26. So, I'm guessing that your daughter is also somewhere around that same age.  For me, I have really been getting to know my children as adults because it's such a different phase. I’m not raising them. It's sort of a coexistence. As you've continued to grow as an artist, what have you learned about yourself that maybe has had an impact on your relationship with your children?


 

Laurie Fisher:

Well, my daughters have always been my biggest supporters. Truly right from the beginning. And I don't know where that came from. I've never really thought about it other than I've always felt like they've been really enamored and excited for me finding something. They're artistic as well, each of them in their own right.  So maybe this will free them to stay creative even if it's a hobby, or something on the side.  They've been really crucial to me continuing as I was growing, I knew that they were right there, on the sidelines, not all that differently than I've been there for them. So it's pretty beautiful. Yes, it's pretty great. Lots of times I'll paint something and one of them will say “I want that” <laugh>. And,  they're not just being sweet even though they're sweet.


 

Laurie Fisher: 

Yes. I actually hadn't seen the pool in this and I kind of love it. There was another, the one that I mentioned before, that is another painting of mine actually.  That looked like water. Someone said that it had a hose vibe because that water also has a, what looks like a lane line in it bands of orange and white that one's actually at the gallery, but it's great. It's a great connection. And now I'll look at this painting in a different way. <laugh> from our years and chlorine.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Well, let's talk about your connection to water that goes beyond that’s chlorinated, because I know that you've lived in Maine for a long time. And prior to that, you lived across the big pond and you were connected to water in a different way. So when you talk about process painting and visceral reactions, you're actually drawing from a background that goes back to very early in your life.


 

Laurie Fisher: 

Yes. I think that's an astute observation.  It took me a long time to recognize that in myself that you know, where this was coming from, because it's definitely not a little role. I saw this, it inspired me and I went and painted something. It's often in a painting in the process of painting or when looking at something finished that I have a flash of a memory, or a smell, or a feeling that was recycled, that got lodged in there somewhere and made its way out again. And again, it's not as if I see something and then set out to put it on the canvas, but there's, there's definitely experiences that are coming through. Yes, smells too.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Do you ever try to paint a smell?


 

Laurie Fisher: 

Not really but I think that sometimes when I'm looking at a work there's a body memory for me in there of the way some something like a Rocky beach in, in Wells where I was five years old and just the way the, the very limited amount of memory I have is fog and salt and a jellyfish and a rock cliff and somehow I'll suddenly be reminded of that after a finished painting. And so it's definitely not direct, but it seeps out.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Well, interesting to talk about this because I you know, there's kind of the, the frontal and the prefrontal cortex and all of the things that are our executive function and the things that we, that we think we know, but then there's the things that we know, and we don't even where do they come from? Where do they sit in our, in our neurons, in our brains and the rest of our body. And when they do become, they do kind of emerge again. Sometimes it can be really startling because we didn't even realize we forgot them. And we don't know where they've been the whole time and this again, this continues just indefinitely.


 

Laurie Fisher: 

Yes. And what's interesting about that is one of the things I think about a lot when I'm working, I, I heard it in a quote once. I haven't verified it, but I heard a quote once that the artist Philip Gustin said he was a, he was a teacher in the mid century as well, an art professor. And I heard that he would say his students paint what you don't know. And that stuck with me because I think for a while, not having gone to school for art in the beginning made me a little uncertain as to whether or not it was okay to call myself an artist or to do it this way to just learn on my own. And I had some questions about all that I didn't know. And when I heard that quote, it really was very freeing and very liberating because that's exactly what I do. It's exactly that I'm always pushing into the unknown, which is really uncomfortable and thrilling.  But you're absolutely right. That what is coming out through that channel is things we know, or our experiences that are, I think lodged in our bodies and so it's a dance I guess, but I think that being comfortable in the unknown is more fruitful for me and my work than trying to know things and know how and become an expert at anything.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

That's not a thing that I've heard many people say. I think people are either apt to just not ever worry about what they know or don't know, or they're apt to say, I wanna become the best that I possibly can at one specific thing, but what you're describing, where you're just making a commitment to not knowing and to uncertainty and to be willing to just process through that. I mean, that's not something that is common, I think for most people. Have you found that to be true?


 

Laurie Fisher: 

Yes. I don't know. I don't have a community of artists necessarily that I'm in communication about process with, although I read and look at as much art as I can.  But yes, all I can say is that when I'm looking at a painting that isn't finished and that needs something that is the experience of acting and just taking the risk. That's the experience that's the, that's the whole thing right there for me. You know, if I walk out of a studio, knowing that I had just not held myself back and that might make it sound like I'm like all over the map, it's not like that. It's more can you trust yourself to scribble a whole bunch of pink on that dark brown, just because you feel like you want to, and it's scary to, to wreck it then it was a good day and I feel really kind of elated by that. So I'm not sure that that directly answers what, what you were talking about, but for sure the uncertainty, the uncertainty, and then ending with a result that you're happy with. That's where the confidence in the work comes from.


 

Laurie Fisher:

I don't think that I answered your question though.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

No, it did because I think we're collectively struggling with this enormous uncertainty right now as a culture. So to say that for you, your willingness to wrestle with that, struggle with it, and then come out with something at the end, having trusted your willingness to wrestle with that, I think that's an important consideration for all of us really that nobody knows how to navigate this. And so just saying, okay, here we are. I'm going to trust who I am and what I do and know that there's no path forward. That's laid out for me. So at least if I can commit to a path and get to the other side, I think that that's very powerful.


 

Laurie Fisher: 

Yes. I think everything we need is in the present moment and you know, it can, you can be uncomfortable and it is uncomfortable right now.  But I think that if you're here now and you're in the moment there's nothing wrong, you know? And I think it's when we start to think too much about the future or the past that we create our own little dramas and yes. I think that something like painting just really keeps me present. I lose eight hours at a time. I'll just kind of like come up for air and I'm, oh my gosh, I gotta go. You know? And it's a pretty great feeling to kind of just be there and not be fretting about what could come or how things have been ideally.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

How did you come to the place where you decided now it's time to bring my art to the world? Now I'd like to affiliate myself with the Portland Art Gallery and make myself more vulnerable and be willing to share the work that I'm doing?


 

Laurie Fisher: 

Well, I don't know how I would've gotten there if it were all up to me.  I can be a perfectionist in some ways. It's never quite good enough. And so I was really lucky that I had opportunities that presented themselves to me. And so all I had to do was be brave and say, yes. Even if inside I was like, no, <laugh>.  I was invited into a couple of galleries. I was fortunate that I didn't have to go through the submission process. And I've learned a lot just by working with galleries about how to finish the work and prep the work and make it gallery ready.  But if I had to get to a point and then decide, okay, now I'm ready to take this to a different level, I'm not sure I still would have taken the leap because  I would be waiting for the work to be just a little bit better or a little bit more of X, Y, and Z. I don't know. But it was a real honor to join the Portland Art Gallery here in Portland, Maine because it's nice to be meeting other artists locally and have somewhere that is in our town and our little city that I love so much. It's really fantastic. I'm thrilled to be there.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Did somebody find your art, look at your art, and say Laurie this is it. It is your time. You need to agree to this. You need to jump in and be willing to do this. Did somebody support you in that?


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes, along the way there have been those people. The first person that comes to mind is,  I don't know if you know Erin Flett, I saw you have Erin Flett pillows? So Erin, who I have a little history with from another chapter of my life, she had her screen prints in Serena and Lily. I don't know if you know, Serena and Lily.  They're a home goods and art company. They were probably one of the first places that I'm aware of that was curating art to sell online. This was years ago and Erin said to me it's time. And I was like it's not time.  She was like, it's time. I was like, nope, it's not time. And she said, all right, I'm gonna bypass you. And she went to them and she said you need to check out her work. And they wrote to me and said we want your work. And that was like the first really big brave.  I had to just go for it. So yes, I think of her a lot in that way. And it's nice when you can trust someone who believes that they're seeing something that you can't see or don't wanna see yet. So I’ll always be grateful for that.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle: 

Erin is a wonderful person. I remember meeting her long before she had the success that she has worked so hard to achieve at this point.  I think it was at Picnic about eight years ago. I don't even know how to describe it exactly but it was a room of artists bringing their things together. I looked at her stuff and I said, wow, I really like your design. And I think she actually gave me something, even at that moment. 


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes. It sounds like Erin. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Yes, absolutely. I ended up doing more with her on a story at some point. And then I think she gave me these pillows. I don't even know how this all came together but then I've continued to be impressed that not only does she share, she brings people along with her… she doesn't just make her own journey and her own path. I feel like that's part of the creative collaborative that needs to take place in order to encourage people to continue.


 

Laurie Fisher:

Yes. It's great to have people like Erin. Not all of us are wired in the same way. If we were all collaborative, it would be overwhelming.  I tend to be a bit quieter in that way. It's really fantastic to be scooped up by those who are leaders and she's pretty amazing. She's in deep waters, too. I like her a lot.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

Think you're right and it is true that we can’t all be uber collaborators because I would also be overwhelmed.  I also tend to be a little bit on the quiet side but it is nice to know that we can also coexist within this larger sphere and everybody contributes in the way that works and creates possibilities or space for other people to do the same. 


 

Laurie Fisher: 

Yes, for sure. There's a bit of a yin yang to all of it. I sometimes think about the monks who are spending their days in prayer and that we also need “take charge leaders” and vocal influencers in the world. It's all a big balance.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I agree. Very well said. I've enjoyed our conversation today. 


 

Laurie Fisher:

Me too.


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

And I will forever associate you with the swimming lane lines and the swim mom.  You and I will probably always have that in our hearts; that past background. I'm very glad that you're a member of the Portland Art Gallery. It's been wonderful to have a conversation with you today. 


 

Laurie Fisher:

Thank you. It was really great to chat. Thanks for having me. 


 

Dr. Lisa Belisle:

I've been speaking with artist Laurie Fisher and you can find her work at the Portland Art Gallery and also online at the Portland Art Gallery website. I hope you take the time to come to one of our openings in the future and get a chance to meet her. I'm Dr. Lisa Belisle and you've been listening to, or watching, Radio Maine. Thanks for coming in today. 


 

Laurie Fisher:

Thank you.