Artists & Designers

Laura Owens (b. 1970)

Artist Laura Owens has pioneered an irreverent and innovative approach to painting by challenging its conventions, while remaining deeply committed to its visual and emotional possibilities. Owens was raised in suburban Norwalk, Ohio, and pursued her graduate studies in Los Angeles, where she has lived since 1992. Her more theoretically minded professors and peers viewed painting with suspicion, she recalls, but their skepticism freed her to experiment with the medium precisely by appearing not to take it too seriously. She brought cartoon doodling to rigorous abstraction, along with other traces of her self-described middlebrow upbringing, such as the pastel palettes and frothy surfaces of decorated cakes and kitschy greeting cards. Over the years, she has sampled imagery omnivorously, from medieval tapestries to emojis, translating it to canvas with a dazzling array of techniques, including gutsy brushstrokes, digital rendering, needlework screenprinting, and folksy collage. For Owens, this heterogeneity is a feminist challenge to ingrained art historical hierarchies and traditional notions of good taste. Why can't an ambitious painting, she asks, be sentimental, pink, or funny, or full of a mother's experiences, animals, and googly eyes? Her work draws us in to throw us off, awakening our minds to the act of perception.

Throughout her career, Owens has shown a keen interest in how paintings invent spatial worlds while existing physically in the real one that they — and we — inhabit. Her often witty canvases show pictures within pictures, sometimes mirroring one another, and they have expanded to fill whole walls or rooms, unfurling across multiple panels that can be reconfigured depending on where they hang.

Excerpt from

Laura Owens, Gallery text, April 2018.

Web Resources

  • The New Yorker
    Read, "The Radical Paintings of Laura Owens," by Peter Schjeldahl.