"This is about a period of hospitalization for migraines at the University California
San Francisco Medical Center. All the photos collaged were taken in my hospital room."
- Laria Saunders
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“Creating these works connects dots in a world that I cannot always connect in my own life.”
Laria was born in Boston and comes from four generations of artists and performers. Growing up, the question wasn't "what are you going to do with your life," but "what type of artist are you going to be?" Despite growing up in an artistic environment, Laria didn't become serious about being an artist until she became disabled. Laria has survived ten recalcitrant pain syndromes with pain from head to toe, including cervical demyelination and daily migraines. She is often bedridden in a dark house with ice packs and due to allergies, has never been able to sufficiently manage the pain.
For unknown reasons, this mysterious invisible illness started at age 27 while she was a student at the University California LA. She lost her marriage and a life-long passion for dance. She even lost her health insurance and had to move to India to be treated in a western style specialty hospital. After nearly three years of near total isolation and periods of hospitalization, her pain was no longer at emergency levels. At that point, Laria was able to pick up photography more seriously, circling back to her roots of committing to artistry.
Despite receiving awards and recognition for her work, the passions of her mind's eye lie outside the bounds of traditional photography. When smartphone technology took off she began to collage on her iPhone. Years later, technology continues to serve as her creative outlet, connecting her with the world “of the living” she rarely sees.
She collects moments around her - textures, rocks, landscapes to digitally produce something new. For example, a simple red rock in Colorado can yield infinite possibility when you focus on the elements that comprise the whole. She collects these inspirational palettes on her phone, finding images in the things all around her. She usually doesn't have to go far to glean these pieces. "Every square is an art piece," she says. She collages these single moments that eventually appear painterly in form. She notes, "the more images you add, the more texture and depth you can create." Her pieces are usually comprised of 30-40 smaller images that are pieced together digitally.
Laria created a five-year series of moving camera work called “Despite the Pain” that focused on transformation beyond suffering. For Laria, creating abstract digital collage work blurs lines and merges objects, providing a poetic portal to altered states of consciousness. She does abstracts to get different perspectives and to make sense of things. This process allows her to enter a world that gives her a sense of empowerment and to attempt to convey suffering or a brief moment of normalcy.
Laria lives in Denver, Colorado with her partner James who has been devotedly by her side for years. She one day hopes to paint and explore new mediums in the light of day.
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