American painter Laura Schiff Bean is best known for her lush thick paintings of dresses that invoke a sense of emotionally charged human presence. Surfaces are endowed with the quality of flesh: sensual, raw, and scarred. Each dress reflects its inhabitant. While referencing the use of clothing as a way to define who we are, her paintings speak also to the interior world and psychological spaces we all exist in. Educated at the School of The Museum of Fine Arts, her passion for the act of painting speaks clearly in each and every brushstroke.
Laura Schiffs Bean’s work can be found in private and corporate collections in the United States and Europe. Her work will be included this fall in DRESS MATTERS: Clothing as Metaphor, at the Tucson Museum of Art.
For as long as I can remember clothing, specifically dresses, has held much significance for me. It is no wonder they have become a central theme in my painting. Dresses have been a defining icon as I have searched over years, originally for my own definition of self, and later for things far more abstract and indefinable. The dresses have undergone a metamorphosis as my search has expanded, encompassing issues far more personal, and conversely, far more universal. Ironically, the garments that we use to cover and disguise have become the conduits to the very heart of our being.
The dresses have become my guides in the darkness, transcending the here and now to enter the realms of our collective pasts and futures. They have accompanied me on my own personal journey… and continue to help me navigate as I venture forward into the unknown.
My work stands as a daily record of my world and of my own search for truth, as well as homage to the searches of the women who have come before me. In my most recent work, I paint that which we use to shroud the soul but instead of obscuring what there is to hide, the dresses themselves reveal an interior world of unspoken secrets, leaving the artist, and at times the viewer, feeling just a little bit naked.
The empty coats, dresses and ties in my work reflect on identity as both journey and construct, accumulated and fabricated from the critical moments and turning points that indelibly mark our lives.
The recent inclusion of text and graffiti references the human desire to render our presence tangible, to make our voices heard, to leave our individual mark in a world becoming increasingly cacophonous, filled with the 24/7 intrusions of smartphones, computers, media sound bites, and text messaging.
While acknowledging the ever-present noise around us, I try to take viewers back inside themselves to find the human presence that often gets lost in the chatter. Whether thinking of human presence as the elusive interior world of the subconscious – evidenced by the butterflies and lights – or the more material, gritty and visible text of graffiti, in the end I view my work as successful if, as stated above, my paintings can leave the viewer feeling just a little bit naked.