Alumni Spotlight: Gracelee Lawrence '07
Posted 09/07/2017 03:08PM

Spending every spare moment in the Durham Academy art studio helped Gracelee Lawrence find her path into ceramics and sculpture in college and grad school, which led to a Luce Scholars Fellowship in Thailand. She’s traveled to 13 different counties in the past 12 months and has “learned more than I can express from these journeys and my time in Thailand.” 

Q: What have you been up to since graduating from DA?
A: After DA I attended Guilford College in Greensboro where I majored in Sculpture and minored in Spanish and Art History. I was also a part of the inaugural class of Principled Problem Solving Scholars, an initiative that supports experiential learning and innovative research to solve real-world problems through the lens of Guilford’s core values. Since high school I have been riding competitively in dressage with my horse Tigger — he is still an important part of my life, although taking it easy these days at 23! In the two years between Guilford and starting my MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media at The University of Texas at Austin, I kept myself busy starting a young horse (training a young horse for dressage) and making sculpture while working several jobs. One month after finishing my MFA I moved to Thailand on a Luce Scholars Fellowship.

Q: What are you doing now?
A: I just finished 15 months in Thailand where I was teaching in the Multidisciplinary Department of Art at Chiang Mai University as a Visiting Artist, assisting the incredible artist Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, learning Thai, making art and curating exhibitions. I’ve traveled to 13 different countries in the past 12 months (currently in New Zealand!) and have learned more than I can express from these journeys and my time in Thailand. My Thai students are hilarious, generous, wonderful humans, and I am so grateful to have spent a year learning from and with them. I am currently on my way back to the U.S. for several residencies, collaborative projects and, of course, time with friends and family.   

Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: Art making has always been my calling — I make art because I have to! Daily creative in/output is an integral part of who I am and is how I process, question and critique the world around me. My work is formed from a combination of lived experience, research and happenstance that keeps me constantly searching, questioning and making.

Q: What DA experiences influenced you or helped you get where you are today?
A: At DA I spent every spare moment in the art studio, as Ms. Gregory-Bepler can certainly attest! I began my serious foray into sculpture through my AP art portfolio, and those first tendrils of exploration pulled me into greater territory during undergrad and helped me to find my path into the ceramics studio, and later the sculpture shop, while at Guilford. DA gave me an incredibly solid academic foundation to build upon, which I am so grateful for. Also, Senior Challenge was my first time backpacking, and that experience definitively shaped my love for outdoor adventure!

Q: What are your interests away from work?
A: As mentioned earlier, I am a lifelong horsewoman. I’m so excited to be near my horse community in North Carolina for a bit and spend time with my horse as well as my parents’ donkey, Chicken. Outside of the studio I spend my free time cooking, biking, backpacking, collecting old records and language learning. I’m excited to continue learning Thai, especially as I have curatorial projects between Thailand and China for the next few years. Mandarin is next on my list!

Q: What’s on the horizon for you?
A: This fall, I have a residency at Bunker Projects in Pittsburgh, where I will be making new sculpture and video for an exhibition opening at the beginning of December. In mid-December, my two amazing collaborators and I will be making the inaugural journey for the project Cocina Ambulante, a mobile kitchen collecting and sharing stories between people living in the borderlands between Mexico and Texas. In 2018, I have several other residencies and exhibitions, as well as the culmination of an 18-month curatorial project. It is a collaborative exchange exhibition focusing on ideas around identity, communication and technology between the faculty in my department at Chiang Mai University and nine contemporary Chinese artists. It opens next May at the Yuan Xiaocen Art Museum in Kunming, China.

To see more of Lawrence’s work, visit graceleelawrence.com.

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