Artist Spotlight: Student artist flourishes with soft watercolors

Taylor Sexton

Assistant A&F Editor

tsexton@unca.edu

Artists of all genres thread the community of UNC Asheville. From musicians to painters to poets, art is made across campus.

Nestled in the hallway between painting studios at Owen Hall sits Huan Vida LaPlante’s studio, their works — both current and new — take up every inch of space, the small room drowning in a sea of watercolors.  

Huan Vida LaPlante draws inspiration for their art from references such as their brother, professors and their own body. Photo by Emma Jordan

“I’m not good at speaking,” LaPlante laughed. “It’s easier to communicate visually for me than it is verbally.”

LaPlante, a senior painting and drawing student, said they created art for as long as they can remember. Their mother and grandmother are both artists who surrounded them with art as a child.

“My mom, she was an artist in high school and she really did drawings, so she would critique my drawings when I was little,” LaPlante said.  “My grandmother paints as a hobby, just like, still lifes and portraits.”

LaPlante primarily works in watercolor, with others describing their work as soft, accurate and precise.

LaPlante draws inspiration from those around them and ideas from within them, often looking to their family, or even in some cases, their professors.

Their style has evolved and matured through  the years, the imagery itself even coming from a more original and personal place within them.

“I used to have an issue with collaging reference images together, so it didn’t exactly stick together cohesively. I think now it helps that a lot of the imagery now comes from myself, so I’m able to not just collage them but actually marry the imagery together into something more believable,” LaPlante said.

Associate professor of art Brent Skidmore has known LaPlante for two years and said their style has grown more risky, becoming more adventurous and controlled at the same time.

Skidmore also said that LaPlante has grown as an artist because they have become more open to criticism as well as the power of their own voice.

“Huan is hugely talented and no matter the next steps, they will be great ones,” Skidmore said.

Skidmore said he believes LaPlante draws inspiration from personal beliefs and how their experiences mirror those of others.

This painting called “Daydream” is featured in LaPlante’s art show Historically Apathetic opens Friday. Photo by Emma Jordan

“Like anything, it starts out as an image in your head and then the next step is kind of honing that idea and usually getting some reference images,” LaPlante said.

LaPlante uses professors, their brother and themselves to model when it comes to piecing the ideas together and making the image in their head a reality.

LaPlante’s current series incorporates the ideas of some symbolist painters and forms of art therapy.

“Right now my series has been about trying to marry ideas of symbolist painters like Munch and Klimt and therapy, like art therapy, or there’s this thing called EMDR, it’s eye movement desensitization and reprocessing. So basically trying to find a way that studio art can help in a therapeutic way,” LaPlante said.

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing uses bilateral stimulation to assist trauma victims in processing distressing memories and feelings.

LaPlante also aims to make their viewers feel a sense of anxiety when looking at the  pieces for this series.

“I want you to feel kind of insecure, or at least know what that is supposed to feel like. And then other parts are more relaxed. I have my wave paintings and I want people to feel relaxed around those,” LaPlante said.

LaPlante said they wanted people to be able to connect to their art, they wanted people to be able to feel the emotions that they are trying to portray.

“I used to say authentic a lot and I think lately I’ve kind of come to realize that there’s no real way to tell what’s authentic or not. Mainly I just want people to feel them and have some sort of relationship with the imagery. They don’t necessarily have to understand what it means,” LaPlante said.

Alexis Herring, junior chemistry student, has known of and followed LaPlante’s art since her freshman year at UNCA. In this time, she watched their passion and love for art grow.

“It is obvious that Huan Vida gives their all to their work. When I think of their art, I immediately think of their love and appreciation for their family, which shines through many of their portraits,” Herring said.

LaPlante’s art will be featured in two upcoming shows, the student juried show, which will take place downtown in the Asheville Arts Council through May 4 and their first solo exhibition from Friday to April 24 in S. Tucker Cooke Gallery. The opening reception of LaPlante’s solo exhibition will be held Friday from 6 to 8 p.m.

In the student juried show, one of LaPlante’s self-portraits will be on display, while their solo exhibition, titled Historically Apathetic: Using Art Making as a Means of Coping with Reality, will feature all of their work from this semester.

LaPlante gave some advice in hopes they could get more people to be interested in watercolor.

“If you’re not patient, I’m not patient either, which is why I have five million projects going at once so I can just cycle through them and that you don’t have to wait for things to dry as much,” LaPlante said.

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