Laura Marshall


social: @lauramarshallarts

city: Oakland, San Francisco

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you

Batkid! Here in the Bay Area a couple years ago, San Francisco and Make-A-Wish Foundation provided a young boy with his wish to be Batman. It was amazing to see how many people came together and made things happen that day. If we gave 1/10 of that effort to real issues like education, poverty, and racism everyday, the US would be a very different place. I’m inspired by the energy and connectedness to strangers I experienced that day and the idealist in me feels like it’s possible to come together around bigger issues in the same way.

Laura primarily works in acrylic and gesso on wood, window, canvas, or other often discarded materials. She specializes in watercolor techniques and portraiture.

She describes herself as ‘the kid who didn’t fit in in the LA scene’. So, she left, discovered Oakland and free-form expression followed. “My main body of work is rooted in a constant quest to understand my place within the social and economic systems of oppression that exist today. I am among those who have greatly benefitted from these systems in the United States and I seek to challenge the costs others have incurred as a result.”

Laura was the first Bay Area artist I interviewed in an enchanting section of Oakland called Jingletown.

Later that evening I met Laura and her friends at Oakland Museum’s Friday Nights, where the conversations ranged from our generation’s place in history to ways in which art transcends social boundaries.

Her mission is clear in and out of the studio, it’s inspiring...


I’m a southern California born, Bay Area portrait artist, specializing in watercolor and acrylic mediums.

As a professional artist, I approach each piece through a social justice lens. My biggest hope is my work will help catalyze conversations around how we can all realize our unique places in the systems of oppression we have inherited- and from there work together to dismantle them.

I work from salvaged or recycled pieces of wood or glass, I tend to start with the canvas and work from there. I usually start two or three pieces at a time by developing the background and then finding or developing my subject matter or foreground to fit. A work is done when the contrast I’m looking for is strong enough, and the composition is balanced. That’s at least when I’ve gotten more disciplined with myself to stop painting, which is super hard to do sometimes!

I’d definitely consider myself emerging. I personally define the term as an artist who hasn’t been completely established in the arts community but has been given multiple avenues for exposure already.

Do you have a favorite piece of work that you created

My largest piece, titled His Life Matters. It’s a simplistic portrait of a young boy, and I’m really happy I was able to capture his look, which creates a powerful mood in the piece.


I fell in love with Oakland immediately when I moved to the Bay Area. It all comes down to the mood of a city and Oakland is a strong, proud, community-based, take-matters into our own hands type of place, which I love. I’ve always felt at home here more than anywhere else in the Bay. The town is changing rapidly, which is causing tensions to rise around housing, jobs, and increased gentrification in a couple key neighborhoods. Regardless of these issues, I’ve found people get along better here than anywhere else I’ve ever been and beautiful art and creativity are rampant. Regardless of the many issues we still have to work on, people are continually coming together to have dialogue and problem solve.

The most unique aspect of the art community in Oakland is that a majority of the art you see isn’t in the galleries but on the street. Communities in the flatlands of East Oakland, the avenues of West Oakland, Fruitvale, and Laurel Heights are filled with amazing graffiti and street art.Much of the art I see on a daily basis and connect with are created through collaboration amongst community members—adding to what makes Oakland a special and unique place. In these communities, public art is a tool for healing and empowerment and not an avenue for individual artists to self-promote.

Oakland and the Bay Area have had an enormous influence over my work. I am inspired daily by the use of Art as a tool for community building, healing, empowerment of the oppressed, and as an avenue for having important dialogue. Graffiti culture and street art are such a huge part of the Bay Area scene and are definitely sources of inspiration for me.

If you could be an artist in Oakland during any era, which would you pick

Definitely the Civil Rights era, I would have loved to be in Oakland to see the burgeoning of the Black Panthers and the Black Power movement, which has had such an influence on how we as a town work to combat oppression that is systemic and much larger than ourselves.


I measure the success of my work by whether or not the viewer's attention shifts to thinking about their place in the systems of oppression we have all inherited. Success to me is opening the conversation in places where racism and oppression are invisible and rarely addressed. Success to me is people hearing the stories of victims that are continually swept under the rug, and saying names that need to be remembered.


Various portraits for my full series entitled Anonymity- which focuses on the subjugation and othering of young Black men and women by placing them in fragmented portraits. Also continually experimenting with combinations of materials- I’ve hit a stride recently with watercolor and gouache on wood.  

Near the end of his career, Rothko, abandoned all attempts at responding to those who inquired after the meaning and purpose behind his paintings. Finally responding that silence is 'so accurate'.

How would you describe the meaning and purpose behind your work

The meaning and purpose behind my work are from the same vein. The meaning I’ve placed in my work stems from my purpose for creating it. I’ve started out with a purpose to perpetuate the same message that’s been passed on from so many others before me with an added layer of meaning, simply because I’m a white privileged woman providing the platform.

[August, 2015]