Laurel Burch Poster Art included in Oakland Museum Archive Access Project
San Francisco, January 17, 2017 – Laurel Burch Poster Art included in Oakland Museum Archive Access Project
Like many arts and culture institutions, The Oakland Museum of California is always looking for ways to expand its audience and patronage. Dubbed, OMCA Collections, a semi-independent micro site accessed from the museum’s main page offers an archive from all three of the physical museum’s major galleries (California Art, History and Natural Sciences). The museum refers to OMCA Collections as a “portal” into its collections, and emphasizes the fact that much of the archive is inaccessible within the physical exhibits at any given time. The initiative was supported by a US Federal grant the museum secured with the assistance of California Congresswoman, Barbara Lee.
Included in OMCA Collections are several posters and prints by Laurel Burch, who often chose posters as a medium to rally support for the social and environmental causes for which she advocated throughout her life. With their stunningly bold colors and very basic, even childish shapes and compositions, some of Laurel’s posters from this collection exemplify the artist’s emersion into the craft and technical aspects of the printing process itself.
As was her custom throughout her career, Laurel worked closely with artisans steeped in the processes that intrigued her most. This was less about Laurel’s pursuit of a medium enabling fidelity to her original art, and more of a never-ending quest for effective ways to propagate the messages that gave rise to her original paintings in the first place.
It is these artisanal collaborations, with outfits such as Golden State Embossing and Graphic Arts of Marin (the latter with several pieces enshrined at The Smithsonian), that inspired Laurel to evolve artistically as new technologies emerged, while never losing sight of her “handmade” roots. This evolution is evidenced by her works within OMCA Collections, as the later pieces include more sophisticated printing techniques with specially sourced papers, metallic inks and methods intended to capture the look and feel of watercolors.
That Laurel’s posters are included in OMCA Collections is no surprise- Laurel was a California artist with a long history of groundbreaking artistic and entrepreneurial achievements. Even a casual look at OMCA Collections reveals some ways in which she felt connected to communities, both California local and global. Her contribution to AIDS Awareness Week, for example, represented a commitment to ending the HIV epidemic in San Francisco, where it began. Funds raised through this 1987 initiative benefitted the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the American Foundation for AIDS Research, two organizations which continue the fight against HIV/AIDS today.
A lasting impression was also made when Laurel contributed her unique vision to an Oakland SPCA facility remodeling project. With flair typical of Laurel’s work, she produced a variety of pieces from tiny and intimate to grand and architectural to express the special kinship shared between people and animals. These posters and the social and environmental initiatives they reflect stand as an historical record of one artist’s inspiration and efforts to inspire.
This article is part of A Celebration of Poster Art from GRAFIK. The series is a visual exploration of the poster as art, featuring the works of Tony Curtis, Laurel Burch, Primo Angeli, Frida Kahlo and others- sometimes as interpreted by different artists within the poster art movement.
About the Museum
The Oakland Museum of California was formed in the mid-1960s, but its root date back much further to its predecessors, the Oakland Public Museum, Oakland Art Gallery, and the Snow Museum of Natural History. More information: museumca.org Visit the OMCA Collections site.
About Laurel Burch
Laurel Burch and her artwork have been a phenomenon since she began making jewelry by hand and selling it on the streets of San Francisco in the late 1960’s. She was a single mother on welfare just struggling to get by, but over the next forty years, she became an internationally famous artist and designer with an instantly recognizable palette and style. Laurel’s vivid and vibrantly colored images of people, cats, horses, butterflies, mermaids, birds, blossoms, and fish are whimsical and timeless artifacts from a mythical world of her own creation. Inspired by her travels around the globe, her work evokes the flavors of many far off places, yet at the same time feels distinctly homegrown, unmistakably hers – both primitive and modern. As a self-taught painter, Laurel saw herself as a folk artist, telling stories. On some level, her work has always been about bringing different cultures together, and about our connection with the earth and all living things, ideas that have only increased in relevance over time. More information: laurelburch.com
San Francisco Bay Area-based Totemic acquires, develops and manages unique arts and entertainment properties. Establishing a portfolio of brands, each selected for its niche presence combined with broader market appeal and potential, the firm leverages industry specific knowledge to develop custom-tailored consumer product licensing programs. Properties include: Tony Curtis, Laurel Burch, Neecy Twinem and Utopia Joe. More information: totemicbrands.com
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