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A pentimento is an underlying image or alteration in a painting that shows through, usually when the top layer of paint has become transparent with age. The traces of previous work show that the artist has changed his mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word derives from the Italian pentirsi meaning to repent. Some pentimenti have always been visible on the final painting with careful inspection; others are revealed by the increasing translucency that some paint acquires after several centuries. The term has also been used in a modern sense to describe the appearance of the sides of buildings with painted advertising. Typically, they are painted over with newer advertisements and the paint gradually wears away to reveal the older layers. These layers are suggestive; they tell the story of a memory, a period or a place. I am awed by how things age–the way a surface gains its unique patina, influenced by environmental erosion, handling and the passage of time.


My work combines my life–long affinity for paper with a love of the texture and sensuous nature of beeswax. I begin by monotyping or painting on paper, sometimes thin sumi paper, sometimes maps and architectural blueprints, and sometimes tattered correspondence and ledgers from the early 1900s that have turned brittle and amber–colored with age. My work is my way of reconstructing the past – filtering and fragmenting hand painted papers – to gradually build up layers that capture a snapshot of history, invoking a precise, specific moment in time. The manipulation of the paper and wax allows me vicarious participation in its history. I often monotype or paint on both sides of a single sheet of paper so that when the molten wax impregnates the paper, the pulp becomes translucent and multiple images arise. The final step of fusing paper and wax transforms these disparate images and materials together into a harmonious composition which seeks to be greater than the sum of its parts.


Laura Engdahl lives in Northern California’s San Francisco Bay Area. Her mixed media work is inspired by the ethereal nature of time and the idea of growth and expansion. She layers imagery slowly, gradually developing a visual narrative. Her layers are suggestive; they tell a story of a memory, a period, or a place. She is awed by the way things age, how a surface gains its unique patina over time and distance. Her work is her way of reconstructing the past; filtering, fragmenting, and combining hand-painted and printed papers, gradually building up layers that capture a glimpse of history, a precise moment in time.

Laura's background surfaces begin with nostalgic materials with a history — things like handwritten letters, faded, frayed prayer flags, out–of–print Italian textbooks, stories her daughter wrote in preschool, vintage blueprints for buildings built over a century ago, and handwritten medical prescriptions from the 1930’s. Gradually as the layers evolve, she quiets them by selectively adding, scraping, incising, obscuring, and sanding; often revealing hidden layers from the background of the work.

Inspiration for Laura's work is making quiet spaces out of the chaos of an increasingly interconnected world filled with nonstop bombardment of messaging and technology. Laura prefers a hands-on approach to her artwork which has nothing to do with technology. She grew up in the Silicon Valley as the area became the epicenter for technology. Abstraction is more intriguing for her than realism because it is an interpretation of reality and she finds that process both fascinating and challenging.

Laura exhibits extensively and her work is in private homes and permanent public collections at Stanford University Hospital, Land Rover, Inc., and the city of Dublin, California.

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