Archive for Thursday, June 18, 1998


June 18, 1998


The artists both paint objects: One artist sees beauty in them; the other, an opportunity to make a political statement.

Laura Carriker and Constance Ehrlich see eye to eye on most things. They love traveling to art shows, and they love to paint still lifes.

But where the mother and daughter part ways is in their approach to painting.

Carriker captures the beauty of flowers, bottles and other familiar objects by focusing on composition, color and shape. Her daughter, on the other hand, uses everyday objects, such as rubber gloves, as symbols to make satirical political statements.

``I'm a figurative painter, a realist,'' Carriker, who lives at Lake Quivera, said. ``I like to work from life. I like to have the objects with me. ... I like common ordinary things we see each year. I try to give people a chance to give them a second look. I don't like things that are nostalgic. I don't like social comments. ... I like to bring beauty into the world.''

For example, her ``Still Life with Black Jar'' shows a beautiful white pitcher, various jars and cut flowers in front of a leafy potted plant.

Ehrlich, a Lawrence resident, points out how she differs.

``I have a bit of a surrealistic bent to my work,'' she begins. ``I'm interested in details. I also work from life and paint larger than life. My paintings usually have humor or a witty edge to them. ... My work is issue-oriented. Recently, it's been with women's issues. It's subtle, not in-your-face. It's an intellectual kind of thing.''

Her ``Saving Grace,'' for example, shows a pile of yellow rubber gloves with one pair of pink gloves emerging. The painting is from a series of works that explores the significance of housework.

``My objects can be symbolic on a personal level, or it can be something more universal,'' she said. ``I work a lot with associations and cliches with titles and objects.''

Both women paint with acrylics, and each has a secondary medium -- for Carriker its watercolor, for Ehrlich its charcoal.

Getting started

Carriker considers herself a ``semi-professional'' artist who will paint for four days and then quit for three or four weeks.

``It's a struggle getting started, but once I get started it just flows,'' she said.

Carriker didn't think about taking art classes until Ehrlich, the youngest of her three daughters, had left home. Her first class was Drawing I at Barton County Community College in Great Bend. Two and a half years later, she graduated with an associate's degree in art.

When her husband was transferred to Arizona, she decided to enroll at Arizona State University. By 1987, she had earned a bachelor's degree with an emphasis in painting.

Ehrlich is a professional artist who paints five or six days a week.

``I can start easily but I find it hard to finish them,'' she said.

Ehrlich started out as an engineering major but switched to graphic arts. She married and moved to Arizona, where she worked as a graphic artist. When she became dissatisfied with her career, her mother suggested she take a figurative painting course from one of her favorite professors.

``I started taking night classes at Arizona State. Then I came back to KU for graduate school,'' she said, adding that she earned her master's degree in art in 1993. ``I'm full-time now.''

Plans for the future

Carriker, who has taught classes at the Lawrence Arts Center, has shown her works mostly at Kansas City galleries. Ehrlich, however, is starting to generate national interest.

Her works have been exhibited at the Athena Gallery in Savannah, Ga., the Haydon Gallery in Lincoln, Neb., and the Michael Cross Gallery in Kansas City, Mo. A show is planned in September at the Kansas City Artists Coalition in Kansas City, Mo., and in March at the Wood Street Gallery in Chicago.

``In the past 1 1/2 years, I've been showing more,'' she said.

Ehrlich said she is happy with the work is she doing now and plans to continue to develop her existing style of painting. Her mother is looking toward something new.

``I want to try to combine more abstract qualities, maybe using text,'' Carriker said. ``I don't know where it's going to go. It's just a different approach to the same objects.''

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is

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