Laurie Lee Brom is perhaps best known as the wife of Gerald Brom. An artist in her own right she produces stunning images of fantasy. She has an upcoming show at Roq La Rue Gallery in October 2013.
What was it like growing up in Charleston? How do you think coming from there has influenced you most to be as you are today?
I think we’re all deeply influenced by our early years. When I was growing up in Charleston I have to say, I felt like a space alien most of the time. It was a deeply provincial place then. I couldn’t wait to leave and find what was out there. I hated the heat, and it lead to me staying inside a lot,drawing and making up my own little worlds. From a really young age, like 5 or 6, I was obsessed with pop culture – music, fashion, tv, movies -basically anything new and less conventional. And now, of course, I long for Charleston! I miss the history and beauty, the moss and smell of pluffmud. I have such a love of history from growing up there. As an adult I’m now always drawn to things with a past rather than new stuff. And my earliest memories of art came from the fabulous Gibbs art museum there. They have this one room full of miniature portraits from the 18th and 19th centuries that I’d stare at for ages making up stories about who the subjects were and create my own when I’d come home from there. Charleston is the kind of place that makes you sure ghosts are real and are probably just around the corner. It seemed like everyone had a ghost story to tell. Even my super level-headed father had stories from his work (in Atlantic Coast life insurance) located at the time inside the Wentworth Mansion.
What were you like as a child?
I was a classic weird, awkward artistic kid! I’m sure I’d be labeled ADD now. I’d daydream when I should have been listening in class and would have no idea what my homework was because I was off in space. Then I’d hyper focus on art and music. I became vegetarian at 12, which went over really well in SC in the 70’s!(laughs)
I grew up on James Island, overlooking Charleston harbor. From my backyard you could see where the first shots of the civil war were fired. I had a deep love of animals that I still have, and enjoyed all the wildlife that came with the marsh.
I can’t remember not drawing or making things or playing with my lite brite or spirograph. My older brother and I used to draw monsters and witches and such when I was really little and my Mom is a terrific portrait painter.
When did you first meet Gerald? When did you know he was the one?
We met in a program in Atlanta for high school art students. I had a wonderful art teacher in high school who encouraged me to go to it. Brom and I clicked immediately. We all called him Brom even then. Growing up on bases as he did it wasn’t uncommon to be known by your last name. When my parents came to pick me up he told them he was going to marry me. We wrote letters to each other for years. Mine from New York and Charleston and his from Germany where his parents were stationed. I knew we were soul mates even when we were still just friends.
What is it like being married to an artist?
I can’t imagine being married to someone who isn’t at least in a creative field. It’s pretty all consuming for both of us, and I think it really helps to have someone who understands that.
Do you think his being an artist influenced you to be more creative?
In some ways. We visit lots of museums together and certainly going to all the art conventions has exposed me to some great artists. But before I really got going in painting it was quite intimidating creatively living with someone who has such success and endless creativity. I really had to separate my approach from his and just acknowledge that I’m not him. It was very important to me to get his valuable opinion but to find my own way of painting.
When did you first start creating your own works?
Before having kids I painted in watercolors mostly strictly observing and learning to draw. I painted people and cats (largely because they were willing living subjects) for the most part. I had a long break from art while raising the kids. For many years that creative voice in my head was just gone. But once our youngest got in middle school I slowly got back into art. I knew I would eventually try to make a go of it and feel super lucky to have come along now as opposed to thirty years ago when there was no real interest in this kind of art. I think one benefit to starting this late is that I know exactly who I am and what my point of view is. I certainly didn’t have that in my art when I was much younger.
Is there any one subject you like to cover most?
I’ve always painted people. That’s what has always interested me. I’ve always been drawn to spooky or dramatic storytelling or a sense of mystery, wanting to know the back story. There are tons of themes I want to explore. I feel like I’ve just started this career and I’m really excited to explore those directions, but there will almost certainly be living, organic elements in my work.
Who do you consider to be some of the best living artists of our time?
Oh I’d be hard pressed to name names. There’s such a great resurgence in art and illustration right now I couldn’t pick just a few. It’s a really exciting time in art between the talent in the illustration field and the gallery scene and the merging of the two I couldn’t pick.
Your works tends to deal with fantastical themed imagery. Why do you think you are drawn to such things?
It probably stems from an over-active imagination as a kid. I’ve always loved the idea of spirits and magic as well as themes in the natural world. Though I think it’s super important to learn to draw and paint from life models and still lifes, I just love illustrating characters and scenarios.
Do you enjoy offering up a bit of escapism through the images you create?
Absolutely. I hope people get that from my work.
Why do you think art has been so important throughout the ages?
I think overall it’s because art is sort of a mirror of human existence. All of our emotions, dreams and experiences are reflected in art through the ages. Without necessarily thinking in these terms while creating it, the art we create is a record of our lives.
Do you ever get nervous showing your work at galleries?
Well this is my first solo show and I feel like I’m jumping off a cliff! You never know if what you’re working on appeals to anyone but you.
Was it difficult balancing art and family when you were raising your family?
It was absolutely impossible for me. That little voice in my head that used to have its own thoughts and ideas grew completely quiet and was replaced with “Mom” thoughts- constantly trying to make sure the kids were where they needed to be, getting all the homework done, friends over, food bought, laundry done, meals cooked, volunteering as art docent in both kids’ classes. I just couldn’t make the switch to trying to get creative for little bits of time in between. However, I wouldn’t trade being a mother for anything in the world. It was the best, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. We have two fantastically creative sons, and I feel so incredibly lucky to have my family and to now to be able to have a career in art.
Do you have a dream project?
This is as far as I’ve plotted! I feel so fortunate that this early in my career I get to show at my favorite gallery, Roq la Rue here in Seattle. I haven’t even thought beyond it to what I want to do next month. I guess start on the next series and explore some new themes.