­­With a little help from their friends

Garrett, Laurette celebrate friendships in ‘Anchors’ exhibition in November

Suzanne Garrett

Suzanne Garrett

For some, relationships are a fleeting thing. People come. People go. But for others relationships can be the foundation for a lifetime.

That’s the idea behind “Anchors,” the exhibition of Sandra Laurette, Suzanne Garrett and friends running Nov. 5 through Nov. 25. The exhibition will include the artists’ select friends, Linnis Blanton, Greg Busceme, Phil Fitzpatrick and Meredith “Butch” Jack, that have mentored the pair over 30-plus years of being involved at The Art Studio.

Conversations at The Studio often start or end up in the organization’s kitchen table. The Studio, for many artists, is like a home away from home. Laurette and TASI founder Greg Busceme, along with his daughter Olivia were sitting in the kitchen as Laurette worked copper wire into a bird’s nest while waiting for Garrett to arrive after a full day of teaching at Odom Academy, and the arrival of a photographer from the Beaumont Enterprise for a scheduled shoot in their space.

Laurette segues into her discussion of the upcoming exhibition with reflection on her past summer and challenges after overcoming serious health issues.

“Everything in the known world changed in my life this summer,” she said. “I spent April to July in the hospital and I want people to discover what the show the incorporates, and I want people to see what this show means to us.”

Laurette is sparse on the details of show to not spoil what will be represented, but to also build a sense of anticipation of what to expect.

Laurette and Garrett represent the longest tenured tenants at The Studio, with Laurette logging 33 years in residence, she joined two months after The Studio opened in 1983.

“I was there from the beginning, and from that time there were these four men (Blanton, Busceme, Fitzpatrick and Jack) that guided me, us, with their knowledge and support,” she said. “These men have been our anchors through sculpture and clay-making, casting metal and, essentially, everything we have tried to do.”

Garrett had arrived and echoed much the same.

“The ‘Anchors’ show is also about how these men have anchored us to the studio too,” she said. “They’re our anchors in the art world. They anchor both of us in the art world.”

Garrett and Laurette came to Beaumont on different paths but with similar backgrounds, and met at The Studio on the advice and encouragement of Fitzpatrick, then an art professor at Lamar University.


Sandra Laurette

Sandra Laurette

Laurette is originally from Bridgeport in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, near Saginaw. Garrett is originally from Lubbock. Both grew up in families where money was tight and a DIY work ethic was natural part of life.

Family commitments brought both women to Beaumont. Laurette’s husband, Richard was a sailor whose work brought them here and Garrett came with her husband for work.

The history for the pair is so long and involved that Laurette and Garrett, along with Busceme, trade stories around the kitchen table about who remembers what. The scene is one of heavy duty (and funny) banter back and forth about who knew whom from what point of The Studio’s different locations, and what year and location it took place.

“Phil Fitzpatrick encouraged me to get studio space to work and to get with Sandra at The Studio,” Garrett said. “And we’ve had that working relationship ever since.”

The dynamic between the pair is one of support and feedback more than actual collaboration on works.

“She does as she does and I do what I do,” Garrett chuckles,with Laurette nodding in agreement.

An observer only has to watch the pair parry back and forth to realize the depth of their collaboration and friendship.

“But we are total opposites in every way,” they laugh in unison.

“Sandra is always sure she’s right,” Garrett said. “She may be wrong, but she is always right.”

Laurette counters quickly.

“I’m seldom wrong, I’m invariably right and people just need to meet that,” Laurette said. “Ask me a question and I’ll give you an answer. I’m the only person Suzanne will say no to.”

Honestly underlines their relationship Laurette adds.

“We are a marriage of convenience that became a great friendship,” Laurette said. “We are the only people we can rely on — we are night crew. We can depend on one another. We share the same space and our work habits are the same.”

The pair said that each drives the other to work hard and to foster a dedication to their individual art.

“I can’t collaborate with anyone,” Laurette said. “I’ve tried. We’ve only ever collaborated a couple of times. We both are too consumed with what we make to turn it over to someone else.”

Garrett emphasizes the pair’s sense of trust in each other’s opinions and points of view.

“The way our collaborations works is the sharing of ideas, of having someone to run things by,” she said. “It’s constructive criticism, Butch (Jack) always taught his students this way. Feedback throws you to a different idea, a new way of looking at things.”

The ‘Anchors’ exhibition brings their relationship together, and that of their friends, full-circle.

“Artists need validation, often from an opposition of the very idea you are working on,” Laurette said. “It makes us better artists. What have I done that is working? I never found any of these discussions the least bit uncomfortable, even from the beginning. We have always found each other’s comments very accepting and constructive.

“This show is more about community, It didn’t begin that way, but that is how it ended up. We are all from the same cut. It was very easy to ask because we have so much history. We are working partners, drinking buddies and we have so much history together.”

Laurette said when she got ill, she began by being tired and ended up in the hospital, and Garrett spent a lot of time with her. The show had been scheduled some time ago and Garrett was concerned they may have to call it off. Laurette said, “No we’ll be able to do something,” Garrett remembers. Laurette was determined not to let this show go by.

“We all worked together for so long out of necessity, that was the basis of our original relationships, and through that we became great friends,” Laurette said.

Trust and respect allow the two to always move constructively toward their artistic goals.

Sandra is the one person that I can trust completely when I ask her about something I’m working on,” Garrett said. “I may not take her advice or do what she says, but I know she will always be honest about what I’m doing.”

The opening reception for ‘Anchors’ is 7 p.m., Nov. 5, at 720 Franklin in downtown Beaumont.

For more information, visit www.artstudio.org, find TASI on Facebook, or call 409-838-5393.­

Story by Stephan Malick, ISSUE contributor

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