(This story was first published in the October 31, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Katy Savage, Standard Staff
David Laro’s studio looks more like a flea market than an artist’s retreat. Upstairs, in his 1905 house, are his art supplies — five years’ worth of dolls, comic books and toys, along with wood scraps that fill boxes and shelves.
Laro also has a room for old signs, a room for scrap material and a room for scrap wood.
The former throw-a-ways are what Laro uses to make his art—the majority of which is a combination of re-purposed items and wall fixtures with colorful backgrounds.
Gallery directors have described his work as “humorous,” “disturbing” and “socially conscious.”
One of Laro’s pieces is an orange “Posted, No Trespassing” sign with bullet holes in it. Laro drilled a toy doll carrying old-fashioned guns to the middle of the sign.
“The thing I’ve learned is try not to say too much,” he said. “It’s whatever you bring to it.”
Another of his pieces, “Early Separation,” is made from an old organ board. There is a black and white photo of a man and woman from the early 1900s. A black top hangs on a hook above the picture and there is a whisky bottle and a gun on the tray below it.
Laro, who grew up in Quechee, became an artist about 20 years ago, when he found an old 1935 Ford truck in a farm field in Lyme, N.H.
He gave the farmer $100 for the truck, not telling him at the time that he wanted to make it into a bed. The cab became the headboard and the tailgate became the footboard. Laro painted both the pieces bright blue.
The idea for the bed came to him when he was a student at Norwich University. He started drawing in a scrapbook and imagining items being used for other purposes. In the mid ‘90s, Laro imagined a room painted black and white to look like a television. He also sketched a bed made out of skis. He drew the truck bed around 1995 and made it a year later.
“When I first started making art I used to make it functional, just to justify making it,” Laro said. “I didn’t have the courage to just make stuff to go on a wall.”
Laro never went to art school and he was never interested in art classes in high school.
“I thought art was kind of pretentious,” he said. “A lot of people have studied color theory. I haven’t. Just by noticing what works, you start to figure out what goes together.”
Laro started working as an apprentice for renowned furniture maker Charles Shackleton around 1998. Shackleton let Laro use his studio after-hours and it was there that he refined his skills.
“I just study things — I just observe things and that’s where it comes from,” Laro said.
Laro has finally gotten the courage to make pop art for the sake of making it.
He goes to the flea market in Davisville, N.H. every Sunday and looks for anything with a story— dripped paint, worn wood or wellloved toys.
“I started putting this stuff together and it gave me a better reason to go,” Laro said. “It’d be pretty exciting if that could become my future — going to flea markets and making a living off of junk basically that nobody cares about.”
Laro is a stonemason in the summer, building patios and stonewalls for clients. In the winter, he concentrates on his art.
“I enjoy doing the stone work, but the art work, I feel like I have more to offer,” he said.
Similar to his artwork, Laro built his own studio and living space out of recycled materials about three years ago. He keeps his clothes in rows of blue lockers on his wall.
Laro built his bed himself — the headboard is white bricks from a former chimney with a cleanout in the middle, above his pillow. His living space is separated with sliding doors that came from an old carriage shed.
Laro’s art is currently display at Ava Gallery and Art Center in Lebanon, N.H and at the Kobalt Gallery in Provincetown, Mass.
“Dave is kind of a quiet guy and I think he has a lot to say through his artwork,” said Kobalt Gallery owner Francine D’Olimpio. “It’s kind of his way of expressing everything that’s happening around him.”
But Laro is still weary with the term, “artist.”
“I wasn’t super interested in becoming an artist,” Laro said. “That word kind of scared me. I still have trouble calling myself an artist.”
Regardless, Laro has found his niche.
“I think ultimately we end up doing what we’re good at,” he said. “I like making things…anything I can, out of material I have.”
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