A Mélange Of Media Composes This Alabama Artist’s Works

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Sitting woman gently smiling within a white room surrounded by colorful artwork and a lush palm tree

Artist Laura Deems’ light-filled studio was a labor of love established with the help of her husband, Cannon, in the backyard of their newly renovated Birmingham residence.

Laura Deems’ artistic practice knows no bounds, despite her formal education in textile design. For the Alabama-based creative, who earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Georgia, it has given rise to an ever-evolving exploration of materials and techniques.

Following a career trajectory that included living and working in both Charleston and Atlanta, Deems incorporates traditional methods of painting, screen printing and weaving with equal measure. “I create to relate to people,” says the artist, who relocated to Birmingham with her husband in 2022.

The couple labored with love to build Deems’ studio atop the guesthouse behind their Spanish Colonial-inspired abode. After years of working in rented studios she couldn’t truly make her own, she can now embrace what her practice needs most: natural light, open space (she often works directly on the floor) and quietude. And although intermittent trips to New York bring energetic boosts, the artist always feels happiest in the tranquility of her studio.

Fabric strips dyed with watery colors

Deems' latest body of work incorporates elements of the fiber arts, drawing upon subjects she studied at the University of Georgia but had not incorporated heavily into her practice until recently.

A variety of abstract artworks featuring different techniques and colors

The artist's mixed-media portfolio is broad in scope, including gestural paintings, fiber works and screen prints.

Artwork made by moving paints and dyes using a squeegee tool

The artist often employs a squeegee tool to render her signature swooshes.

Piles of dyed fabric scraps

Strips of frayed and dyed canvas await reorganization into woven arrangements.

Pencil sitting atop an open book about the art of Josef and Anni Albers

The oeuvre of 20th-century masters Josef and Anni Albers deeply inspires Deems, as seen in the colorful grids of this reference book.

Best known for the colorful, abstract paintings that bear her seminal swooshes, Deems produces her signature gestures using squeegees—tools traditionally employed for screen printing. The latter is an art form she continues to explore, with plans to launch a limited-edition silk screen series this season.

The artist’s materials are equally varied: heavyweight canvas and paper that can handle the fluidity of the acrylic paints she combines with inks and textile dyes. In addition to brushes, Deems sometimes reaches for kitchen tools. “They add variation in texture,” she notes. 

Continuously cycling through different creative outlets keeps her feeling fresh and engaged. “It prevents me from fixating on things,” confesses the talent, who recently returned with full force to the fiber arts. Her latest body of work, Leisure Unthreaded, is inspired by “what it means to be feminine,” she describes. “It explores the instinct to do it all, be it all.” For this series, ripped strips of dyed canvas are assembled anew, sometimes painted, then affixed to paper or canvas using archival glue. 

“I love how beautifully canvas frays,” Deems explains. “There is a weaving component to these works, but I’ve also incorporated areas for the eye to pause,” she says, likening the viewer’s experience to a kind of meditation. “I want people to get lost in them.”

PHOTOS: ROB CULPEPPER