Scott Laumann is both a nomad and a master of reinvention. Not rooted to one place or one style, he moves throughout the world with eyes wide open, taking in form, color and shape and re-imaging geography through his art. He quotes the Chinese geographer Yi-Fu Tuan who said that Americans have a sense of space but they don’t have a sense of place. They know how to move in the space. There’s not any direct relation to the place itself.
“I’m trying to find that sense of place with the work,” says Laumann. “It's more common these days for more commercial artists to be broad in their approach, maybe largely because of necessity. But that hasn't always been a seamless transition for me,” he relates. “Portraits have spilled over to ink prints, to oil painting, to working with natural pigments at specific sites to working on more sculptural installations. Sometimes I think I'm more designer than artist in the way I look at things. I'm always thinking about how work I complete can be applied or re-purposed in a new or complimentary way.”
The peripatetic illustrator grew up in Escondido in San Diego’s North County. He has been moving ever since, attending Northern Arizona University, and then to San Francisco where Gerald & Cullen Rapp signed him. Laumann’s early career was defined by award-winning portraits of musicians, and literary, film, and political figures for Rolling Stone magazine. He has done numerous commissions for Time, Rolling Stone, Reader's Digest, GQ, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Dow Jones, the Grammy Awards, Warner Brothers and Netscape, among others and has exhibited his work in the U.S. and abroad. In a twist on the commercial illustration world, Scott has become intrigued by making work for which an audience has yet to be determined, reveling in the sheer joy of creating at will.
An engaging conversationalist with an avid curiosity about a myriad of topics, communication is vitally important to Laumann, who loves to collaborate with artists in other disciplines, such as dance and music. This includes his wife Alicia, a dancer and choreographer, with whom he has collaborated; he has filmed her dancing in a series of Vimeos, most notably in the elegiac Five Frontier Poems.
It’s the lack of control that excites him about the process of making three-dimensional, site-specific, “immediate” work. Within a few weeks of my visit to interview Scott for a feature in CA’s Design Annual 55, the piles of sinuous branches and surprisingly delicate tumbleweeds outside his studio had transformed an art gallery into a dialectic between nature and defined space, becoming part of The Little Country, an exhibition in the Historic Carnegie Building based on Charles de Lint’s urban fantasy novel of the same name. “Instead of utilizing a literal visual interpretation of the novel, cues were taken from my local surroundings and themes were transposed from the novel onto the materials present,” Laumann explains. “The Russian Thistle, or tumbleweed, plays a metaphorically prominent role in the installation as a ubiquitous symbol of the local landscape. Interesting parallels can be found in its cycle of life-death-life with themes from the novel.