By: KATE LUCE
Laura Cutler truly has lived the life of an artist. Living in the artistic hubs, creating work in many studios, teaching in high schools, colleges, and art centers, and co-owning a gallery and framing business with her husband in La Porte.
Cutler is currently substituting for Ron Monsa, painting and drawing professor, this semester. She is teaching a painting class and one of the fundamental drawing classes. Though she is substituting now, it is not her first experience at IU South Bend. She also taught painting and drawing classes on campus in 2009 through 2012.
“I have taught painting and drawing [at IU South Bend] before. Now, here it is, seven years later and I am back. It’s important for me to understand what has been addressed, so I am not repeating so that students can get a broader education. I looked to what Ron Monsa has done, what he has mastered, what his focus was and what his palate was,” Cutler said.
For Cutler, art was something she enjoyed, but other interests affect her as well. After her high school experience, she was determined to continue art, but not at first.
“I went to high school in Michigan. My art teacher was a pink-slipped history teacher, or she was going to get fired… I did not connect with her, and I thought ‘that’s it.’ I continued to draw and paint, but I got involved in other things, like athletics.
After high school, I had not done much. I headed out to California. I wanted to go to school there and establish residency. I got a job as teaching aerobics and working in the fitness industry. My life trajectory was on physical fitness. I started meeting bodybuilders, and of course I started drawing them,” Cutler said.
As she began drawing these bodybuilders and designing shirts for her clients, she was also taking part-time classes at a smaller school to build her portfolio for Otis School of Art and Design. Ultimately, she was accepted in.
“My freshman year, I was blown away. I had my first figure drawing class ever. I absolutely loved it. I took drawing and painting … My sophomore year, I took an elective in clay, and I got hooked. I ended up doing my senior year thesis and BFA in ceramic sculpture, which is clay work.”
She spent her time in the Los Angeles area, teaching at Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences in Santa Monica and sharing a studio with a classmate in Venice, just three blocks away from the beach.
“It was a cool life. We had outdoor kilns, gas, and high fires, but after about three years of teaching, I thought ‘I really want to go back to get my masters. Where do I want to go? I began looking, and asking what I would like to do,” Cutler said.
“I only had my freshman year in intense figure study. I had used it throughout the four years and I taught it, but I thought that I could be better,” Culter said.
In 2000, she decided to pack her bags and move almost 3,000 miles to New York for graduate school. Fortunately, her brother was out in Manhattan for his music career, and she was only five blocks away from the New York Academy of Art.
“I went there thinking that I was going to focus on more of the sculptural ecroches, and I started taking painting. I have never painted in oil. At Otis College of Art in Design, everyone painted in acrylics. In the 90’s acrylic paint, that was it. I didn’t really know oil paints until I took a class before you know it, I loved it,” Cutler said.
She met her husband, Thaddeus, during her time at school, and they both realized that they wanted something more than what New York Academy of Art was offering. At the time, leadership roles were switched around, and it was a strange time to be a student there.
She eventually did return to the New York Academy of Art for her degree in painting in human and equine anatomy, but her and her husband’s move proved to be more than just a vacation away from New York.
In 2004, the two officially moved back to La Porte. At first, it was only meant to just be a break in the summer, but the two decided to open a gallery. The place was small, about 500 square feet, but it gave them space to paint for shows and exhibitions.
“I always have continued to have creative outlets, be creative, and help others be creative,” Cutler says.
This year marks the 15th year of business with their gallery, Thaddeus C. Cutler Gallery, in La Porte. While the space is much bigger than 500 feet, they continue to create work, show local and international artists and frame artwork.
“I have lived a charmed artist life already. If I die tomorrow, I have some great opportunities. I have had some tough times too, but it’s been amazing,” Cutler said.