OLEAN — The Tri-County Arts Council will host the digital art of Laura Cole in two exhibits, “Through the Looking Glass” and “Edwardian Olean” with a reception and artist talk in February.
Council officials said the opening reception and talk will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 12. The exhibit will continue through April 3 in the Arts Council gallery at 110 W. State St., Olean. The Arts Council is open from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays.
While admission to the opening reception is free, reservations are required to observe Covid safety protocol. Arts Council officials said Cole’s digital art is a ‘masterful restoration of time-worn photography from a long-ago era into fresh colorful portraits which transcend time and distance, linking the viewer with Olean’s forgotten Edwardian age.”
Cole describes her art on her website as “the notion that objects from the past have the power to move us, emotionally, through time and space, to by-gone eras and otherworldly places.”
Cole’s avant-garde surrealist art style reveals a dreamlike or, as she describes, a “fairytale-like” quality to create her “Through the Looking Glass” series.
“This resurrection of forgotten faces, exposed on old tintype photographs, starts when I scan these analog, 19th Century artifacts into my digital workspace,” Cole said, adding she uses Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter “to manipulate the unaware models into colorized-characters in surreal collages that transport the viewer to a place and time of maximalism and fairytale-like whimsy.”
Cole combines scans of 19th century photographs with photos taken from different objects to create surreal collages. Using Corel Painter, she digitally hand-paints over the entire image at the end of her process to create the “painterly” look to them.
“My images usually have rich colors and an element of nonsense or whimsy. My goal is for each image to feel like a scene from a fairytale,” she said. “I choose to work with images of real people from the 1800s because I’m fascinated with the time period and have a strange nostalgia for what is, no doubt, an idealized notion of what it was like to live in a simpler, more elegant time.”
Cole’s art career began in 2012 with a series of self-portraits she created as she learned to use her first-ever camera and Photoshop.
“I began shooting weddings and portraits professionally the following year but continued to create fine-art self-portraits in my free time. I eventually came across a number of artists who were creating various forms of collage using antique photographs, and I was fascinated!” she said.
The “Edwardian Olean” series is a bit different, as Cole begins with old tintype, ambrotype or daguerreotype portraits. In this series, she used old postcards, postmarked in Olean between 1901 and 1914.
“I curbed the surrealism a bit because I wanted them to feel like miniature time machines that could take the viewer back to an Olean that no longer exists … one of pride, wealth, and abundance,” she said, recalling the Olean in which she was born and has lived her entire life.
“My family goes back generations in Olean, on both sides. It was important to me to create something that paid homage to the import role that Olean has played in me becoming the person that I am.”