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Creativity Takes Courage

5/11/16

Shea Stanfield
Arts Columnist

Well-known Impressionist artist Henri Matisse reflected, “Creativity takes courage.”
Courage in creativity certainly describes local ceramic/porcelain artist Les Lawrence.  His trip through the “slipstream” of possibilities has spanned the decades from the 1960s to present day with a virtual “Magical Mystery Tour” of useful and ornamental art forms.

Born in Texas, Les grew up enjoying the exploration of object components. During his childhood, he tirelessly disassembled and assembled objects that caught his interest and imagination. In Les’s case, as he entered his teens, it was hot rods and custom cars that focused his creative talents as he dreamed of one day designing automobiles. In 1963, Les received his B.A. Degree in Commercial Art from Southwestern Oklahoma State University.  His first employment was as an illustrator for a large department store, but this did not satisfy his desire to create in three-dimension. By 1964, Les enrolled at Texas Tech University, where he found ceramics, sculpture, art history, and watercolor. At the same time, he connected with a group of older students that were pushing the envelope on kiln construction, pug-mill design, welding techniques, and foundry techniques. A star was born in the world of 3-D art.

Les accepted his first teaching position at Hardin Simmons University in Abilene, TX, where he established the ceramic and sculpture department. Here, he found the opportunity to build kilns and a foundry for the program, as well as keeping on top of a rigorous schedule teaching drawing, commercial art, and art history. Once the HSU’s program was firmly established, Les returned to academia for his MFA in Art/Ceramics at Arizona State University. Here, he found the freedom to further expand his kiln building techniques and focus on his own work in ceramics. This milestone catapulted him into a position with Grossmont College in San Diego, where he would spend the next 35 years heading up their ceramics department. Before retiring in 2005, Les was honored with the Faculty of the Year Award. Going out on a high note, Les and his wife Jaye moved their studio and talents to Carefree, Arizona.

“Courage in Creativity” has been the place Les Lawrence has lived for decades. He pioneered the development of photographic silkscreen onto wet clay. This evolved into mono prints on clay using oil based ink with ceramic pigments. This innovation would become one of Les’ signature techniques as he moved forward into sculptural highfire porcelain sculptures. Through the years, Les’ work gained notoriety nationally and internationally, exhibiting his work in over 290 exhibitions. He is among the list of Who’s Who in American Art, The West, California, and International Education. His popularity, as a lecturer earned Les invitations to share his expertise in Hungary, New Zealand, England, Wales, and Korea.

Les Lawrence’s courageously innovative techniques have made him a “standout artist” with collectors nationally and internationally for many years.  A few of the public collections that house Les’ premier work include Museum of Arts and Design-New York, American Museum of Ceramic Arts-California, and Aberyswyth University Ceramic Collection-England. His Web site features a complete list of collections, featuring his most prized pieces. In addition, Les’ work appears in over 30 books documenting art techniques and innovation over the decades.

 To discover details of Les’ journey into the collective conscious of noted art historians, and his influence on the American art scene, visit his Web site, www.leslawrence.com. Les’ work continues to be fantastic fun, delightfully whimsical, mysteriously provocative, and amazingly insightful. Perhaps, you too will find one of his “conversation” pieces gracing your “digs” luring family and friends into the most interesting conversations. 

Contact arts columnist Shea Stanfield at flowingquill@yahoo.com.