Grief Art Walk Profile: Ann Arbor’s Wechter is “catching the tail of her dreams”

The Grief Art Exhibit, a major part of next week’s Grief Week sponsored and organized by GrieveWell, is a platform for people to share their stories through art and many local artists are taking part in the event.
GrieveWell created a juried art exhibit which will be up all week and walked as a community at the end of the week. The Grief Art Walk is scheduled for Friday, April 12 starting at 6 p.m. at the Literati Bookstore and ending at the Ann Arbor Distillery. Each location features several unique works of art accompanied by the artist’s stories of their grief journey.
WeLoveAnnArbor.com is featuring a look at some of the artists participating in the Grief Art Walk.

Laurie jo Wechter says her art has always taken her to another place.

“What flows out of me tends to be bright and colorful with an edge of darkness,” says Wechter. “My identity is very attached to my art and if a piece works it truly speaks for me.”

Wechter, 62, says she is finally catching the tail of her dreams. The Ann Arbor artist is honored to be a part of next week’s Grief Walk and is hoping that her work will speak to others.

“This show is important to me because it allows the artist to have a voice, meaning the effect of the piece can be more deeply shared and seen by those who want to see through the eyes of the artist,” she says. “It is also important because grief seems to be such a taboo subject, despite the fact that every single person on earth will deal with loss.”

Wechter says it’s sad that so many people have to suffer in silence. And events like this raise awareness that there are resources available to those struggling with loss.

“The universality of this pain needs to be flushed out and shared,” she says. “Ann Arbor is extremely lucky to have an organization that is there for all of us when we need a place to go for help.”

Wechter, a native of Kalamazoo, began drawing as a toddler and was known to take a crayon to the wall.

“Though neither parent appreciated my genius, I persevered,” she says. “Despite being spanked and having to scour and scrub, I knew I had a super power! Later, in school, drawing and my dog were my best friends. I was a little weird, a lot lonely, and my inner life was rich and colorful.”

While Wechter didn’t attend art school, art has always been a big part of her life. And she is thankful it’s been there along the way.

“I have seen many difficulties in my life and the language of art has oftentimes nagged me out of bed when nothing else could,” she said. “Aside from my personal trials, I have dragged through decades of great turmoil in this country and turned my actions toward social activism, both by career and outside practice.”

Wechter has worked in prisons, resource advocacy settings and therapeutic realms as a social worker. Her political activism has included organizing, demonstrating, civil disobedience, publishing an alternative newspaper for over 12 years, writing and creating signage, banners, props, and leading art classes and workshops.

Wechter, who has called Ann Arbor home since 1978, has gone through many periods with her art but her style was developed early on. She has long drawn and painted, with a long period devoted to papier mache, hand-painted silk scarves, potato-printed t-shirts and print-making. She has always included painting with oil pastels on paper and acrylics on canvas.

“Looking at the canvas, I used to just draw, perhaps starting with an eye, because I’ve always loved drawing eyes so much,” she says. “Now I am more likely to do a lot of sketching. Much of what I commit to paint or glaze comes from making large doodles and finding shapes I like. From there I develop the drawing.”

At other times, Wechter draws from life or her head.

“In the past year and a half, I have been making ceramics and glazing them with the same bright, colorful images that I do on any other surface,” she says. “Somehow the readability of utilitarian objects has drawn more interest to my work. I guess that’s okay, but I know I’ll always go back to painting.”

Wechter has a ceramic piece in “Hear Us” at the Riverside Gallery until April 29. She also has two pieces, one ceramic and one a pastel painting, at Literati Books for GriefWeek from April 8-12.

On May 19, Wechter will be selling smaller ceramic pieces at the Westside Art Hop at 705 Madison Place. She also is collaborating with a group of artists, through Art Kettle Gallery in Manchester, on a show regarding the historical construction of whiteness in this country, entitled “Seeing White.”

FOR MORE ON GRIEF WEEK

Check out her works on Facebook (Laurie Wechter Art)

 

 

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