From Chiapas, With Love
A Wisconsin artist, Laura Nelke has been a watercolorist for 20 years and is a signature member of the Wisconsin Watercolor Society.

A New Yorker by birth, Nelke earned a Masters Degree in Art History from the University of Chicago. She moved to Pennsylvania in 1981and in 1990 began studying watercolor techniques at the Baum School of Art. After moving to Wisconsin in 1992 she continued painting in watercolor and attended workshops led by nationally and internationally recognized watercolor artists.

Laura’s paintings have been juried into shows at Marshfield’s New Visions Gallery, Wausau’s Center for the Visual Arts, and the Riverfront Arts Center in Stevens Point. She has been juried into both the Wisconsin Watercolor Society and Wisconsin Visual Artists, and exhibits her work at museums and galleries around the state of WIsconsin. Her watercolors have received awards of excellence at regional shows as well as at the state level and are held in private collections both locally and nationally. In addition her work appears as the cover of the Marshfield Clinic's 2004 calendar and illustrates both the 2005, 2006, and 2008 editions of the calendar as well. Ms. Nelke has taught watercolor classes at the University of Wisconsin, Wood County campus for five years through the Office of Continuing Education; she is available as an instructor for individual and group workshops with experience teaching both youth and adult learners.

My motivation to paint arises from my desire to express memory—in particular, the emotional content of memory. Each painting starts as the recollection of a unique place and a singular moment in time. My choice of subject matter is dependent on the power of the emotions I associate with that specific place and moment. The memories I paint may be intensely personal, but my intention is to render my subjects in such a way as to create a connection with others. I am looking to capture something spiritual and universal, and by so doing evoke a resonant, emotional response in my viewers.

My style reflects my artistic purpose. Colors are bright and often exaggerated; light accentuates atmosphere and intent. Space is flattened or restricted; the arrangement of the subject often appears pushed forward or even frieze-like against a colorful background of washes. The result is to accentuate the immediacy of the color and emotional content.

The titles of my paintings precede the actual execution of the paintings. I find that if I can not name my work I have not sufficiently defined in my mind what I want to say. Thus, the titles are an extension of and a part of the art they name. The complete title of each work includes an identification of place to establish the reality of memory. The balance of the title is most often a playful interaction between words and image which invites the viewer to embark on his or her own fanciful journey.

The following quotation from 19th Century German Romanticist Caspar David Friedrich guides the direction of my painting and is an accurate summation of my artistic goals:

“Close your bodily eye so that you may see your picture first
with the spiritual eye. Then bring to the light of day that which
you have seen in the darkness so that it may react upon others
from the outside inwards.”
Marshfield, WI
WVA membership status: