By Wim Roefs
Laura Spong’s painting Good Report, Bad Report, No Report shows an artist in the prime of her artistic life – at age 82. The painting measures 100 x 80 inches and consists of a vertical grid of 25 paintings, hung in five rows of five. The painting shows the breadth of Spong’s artistic language, incorporating different pallets, forms, compositions and a wide range of marks. In the process, it also shows both the aesthetic variety and consistency in the painter’s work.
While Spong was working on the 25 paintings, she never thought about making them fit together, even though she meant for them to become one composite work. Yet, the pieces hang together beautifully, as if each was painted with the others in mind. The painting is evidence of a mature painter with a consistent, personal language that comes across regardless of her approach to individual pieces. This is true for Spong’s other work of the past few years, too.
“I always wanted to make a big painting without having to deal with a big canvas,” Spong says. “I thought that 58 x 48 inches was about as big a canvas I could handle. Once I started doing this, it was a lot of fun.”
Spong painted most of the panels in Good Report, Bad Report, No Report in the summer of 2007. She had no knowledge then of the pending cancer scare she would experience in the fall, though in hindsight she suspects the work anticipated the scare. “I operate on three levels,” she says, “the conscious, the sub-conscious and a third level. Even on a subconscious level, I think you still have some idea of what’s going on, but I really didn’t, even though I think now I suspected something.”
“When you are dealing with problems, every time you go to the doctor, even when you’re apprehensive, you think you’re fine, that you’re not scared and upset. Then you get the results, and even when they are positive, you realize that you’ve been scared to death. In hindsight, I think the painting is full of creatures. That’s what I am seeing in them.”
That Spong is seeing things in her work is remarkable. Here’s a painter who, only half-jokingly, would threaten to paint over her typically non-objective paintings if a viewer claimed to see representational elements in them. “I’ve always had a form in there that resembles the Easter Island heads,” Spong says. “I can detect that in my work as far back as I can see. But that’s all I could see. Now I am seeing all these things. I guess that after the fact I was looking for an emotional content in the work because I was dealing with emotional issues.”
“I came up with the title after I was through with the work and knew I had run into a new medical problem. The name covers the next five years, you know.”