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Laura Lian

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Digger talked to sculptor Laura Lian who has created memorable and highly-valued images of some of pop culture's greatest icons, including The Eagles, U2, The Beatles and George Best. 

 

 

Laura with John Lennon sculpture

Laura with John Lennon sculpture

 

Digger: Can you tell us a brief bit about you background?

Laura: I was born in Cambridge, raised in Canada and lived back here for my mature years.

Digger: You look young in the photos.

Laura: That's what everybody says.

Digger: And you don't sound how you look.

Laura: Yes, somebody recently rang me up from a gallery and when I met him he said "Gosh, I thought you'd be really tall!"

Digger: I don't hear tall, at all (Laughs)

Laura: I'm only five foot four and a half. And when people meet me they go "Uh?" The good news is most people think I'm about ten years younger than I am, which is 58.

Digger: Are you nostalgic-minded?

Laura: Yes, I am in that if I hear a Beatles song it sends me right back to my youthful days. It's a heart thing. When you're young you fall in love and life's exciting and romantic and I'm a  child of the sixties and went to all the pop concerts.

Digger: Where were you?

Laura: In my teens, I was in Toronto and The Beatles didn't come over until I was about twelve or thirteen.  I first saw them  on the Ed Sullivan Show.

Digger: Did you feel British or Canadian?

Laura: I always felt British in my heart. Even though I was brought up as a Canadian. And I did come back and live here when I was 21.  My sister was two years older and into The Beatles big time . I was influenced a bit by her . She went out and bought all the albums. My first album was Revolver and I loved George Harrison. He was actually my favourite until John Lennon left the group.  I liked John because of what he stood for. And what he stood for was peace and love. And because I was a child of the sixties that's what I was into. Sadly, I never saw them as a group. I did see John Lennon and Yoko Ono in a pop concert in Canada. There were big names like Jim Morrison there. It was a big concert and Alice Cooper was there with all the chickens!

Digger: So it was the merging of Hippiedom with Glam Rock. 

Laura: The punk thing didn't happen in Canada as big as here and we didn't have things like the Mods. In Toronto we had greasers with their slicked-back hair and hippies. I was a hippy chick with bell-bottomed blue jeans. I felt there was more to life than 3D reality and having kids and a marriage and a home and following that suburban dream, which to me was a nightmare. I didn't want to take that route. I just loved The Beatles and retro.and many other 60's bands
I never liked 'Glam' rock. It felt really superficial to me and this was a British thing.


Although, let me ask you, what does retro actually mean?

Digger: Not meaning to sound glib, it means different things to different people. I would say that the term retro relates to anything that is 20th century popular culture fashion or style. Which could be 20s flappers or 30s deco or 40s movies or 50s furnishings or 60s pop or 70s Glam and Punk or 80s brick mobile phones and Sinclair C5s. But retro can also technically mean anything from the past, like Robin Hood, dinosaurs, Victoriana or Stonehenge. Although I don't think it can ever relate to the decade we are in or maybe the decade that preceded the one we're in. Actually, it's a bit like trying to explain the off-side rule!

Laura: So John Lennon was inspirational to me - a leader who was anti-establishment and I didn't like  authority or anyone telling me what to do. This attitude is probably because of my dad. It didn't break my heart when they broke up as a band because he went on creating  and George and Paul did too.  Even though, as a group, I would say personally, The Beatles have got to be the best creative group from the last century. Because they kept fresh ideas going and every album was different .  I got involved with the Hard Day's Night Hotel in 2008 where they commissioned me to do their logo in 3D form. I love the hotel and what it stands for. I went on the Liverpool tour, have you been on the tour?

 

 

Laura Lian at the Hard Day's Night Hotel

Laura at the Hard Day's Night Hotel,
 Liverpool with her logo

 



Digger: Yes, I certainly have. I went on one with the Fab Four Taxis and it was really good value. It was about 40 for four of us and it lasted about three hours or more. We saw everything.

Laura: They very kindly gave me a freebie and I met the guys running the tour and what amazed me, absolutely floored me was the places they pointed out where The Beatles got inspiration for their songs, like Penny Lane. There's a picture of me there on my website.

Digger: Yes, I've seen that, in the rain.

Laura: And there's the Sergeant Pepper's cafe and I thought "My God, these guys were geniuses because you'd expect Penny Lane to be the most amazing street with lots of things going on and it is just an ordinary street." It could be any street anywhere.

Digger: And Strawberry Fields is tiny.

Laura: Yes, and I thought these guys must have been really observant and sensitive to be inspired by ordinary, everyday things and to make the songs they did out of them was phenomenal.

Digger: Did you go over to see the Eleanor Rigby grave?

Laura: I think so, but I can't remember everything on the tour.

Digger: It's over the road from where they first played skiffle as The Quarrymen in about '58.

Laura: We did stop at  the houses where some of them lived.  For these guys, that came from such simple backgrounds, they wrote such brilliant, imaginative, creative songs, not just the music but the words. How many bands do that nowadays? Not many. Okay, so they had George Martin.

Digger: Who they called the fifth Beatle.

Laura: Yes.

Digger: You met George Martin?

Laura: Nordorf Robbins commissioned me to do the U2 band portrait which I did to raise money for their charity . And it was really amazing that it sold at auction for 22,000.00. I was very pleased with that result. And that's how I met George Martin and had my picture taken with him. I also met Bono there as well and managed to grab him and get a photo taken before he bolted.

 

 

Laura Lian with Bono

Laura Lian with George Martin

Laura with Bono and George Martin

 



Digger: He didn't know who you were?

Laura: No, you don't get any status even if you've contributed a sculpture. Anyway, I thought I had to grab him and I pushed myself, even though I don't like having to do it, and I'd already asked this couple to stand by with my camera and when I grabbed him I had his arm and he looked at me rather indignantly and I told him I was the sculptor that made the portrait of them and then he  mellowed and said "Oh, are you?" and  asked me if he looked like what I thought etc. He was very nice and obliging and so was Larry.

Digger: Who commissions your stuff and who buys it?

Laura: Nordorf Robbins commissioned me to do their U2 and Eagles art to help raise money for their music therapy. So it can be businesses, corporates, charities and, of course, individuals. The David Seaman was commissioned by Cancer Research, George Best I did myself because I actually met George once in London at Tramps and I liked him a lot. For some reason I wanted to do him as he was part of that sixties scene.

Digger: He was also called the fifth Beatle.

Laura: Yes. Of course, I wasn't living in this country in the 60's so I didn't have a clue who George was till I came back here to live.  I gave one to the George Best trust as a donation.

 

 

George Best by Laura Lian

George Best by Laura Lian

George Best

 



Digger: I know you're very keen on the charities, but it must be an occupational hazard that a lot of the people who contact you are after charitable donations. But you need to make a living.

Laura: A few times I have given something away as a full donation but I can't do that often as I simply can't afford it.  I have done deals where I get my reserve and I lower the price a bit so it gives them a chance to make more money. In the heydays before the credit crunch where money was easy for everybody it was going really well and I would put my artwork in for charity auctions and it would sell for a lot of money. Anything from 5,000 - 10,000 and Upto 22,000. And the John Lennon went for 9,600 to Sharon Osbourne I forget what year that was but it was the same year that The Eagles sculpture also went for 6,000. If we'd had their signatures then it would have gone for a lot more, like the U2, but we couldn't get them for some reason. That could have gone for 10,000, 15,000 or maybe even 20,000 with signatures. I've recently been commissioned to do Paul McCartney by a private collector who has bought the John Lennon NY tee-shirt bronze.

 

 

The Eagles by Laura Lian

The Eagles

 



Digger: Does that mean that other icons might be in the pipeline too?

Laura: There's talk of maybe doing a bronze sculpture portrait bust of Simon Cowell, possibly, but nothing is fixed. Ideally I like to meet the person I'm to do if they are alive because to work from pictures is really, really difficult. It takes hours and hours of trawling through images and finding the right angles etc.

Digger: You've got a good connection now though because you've done some work for Sharon Osbourne.

Laura: For the Paul McCartney, I'm not going to even try to get a hold of him. Anyway, he's older now and I'm doing a younger version, so there's no point.  I'm sure that the Hard Day's Night Hotel would be interested in a Paul McCartney sculpture too. There is a client/friend who bought one of the early New York T-shirt editions of the John Lennon about three years ago for himself in New York.  We got chatting on the 'phone a few times and we both felt New York should have an enlarged version of John Lennon as a memorial sculpture portrait bust.  He decided to champion the idea of this and God (Laughs) it's been really difficult. Yoko's lawyers or managers are hard to get to and he tried many, many angles. He recently managed to get hold of Sid Bernstein, who, of course, you did an interview with, who really feels it's a great idea and allows us to use his name in this connection. Sid, was a big fan of John Lennon.  There is of course the memorial mosaic in Central Park which is all very nice, but we're trying to get an 'image' of John for the next generation who at least can see what he looked like to hold the memory.

Digger: Somewhere between Central Park and the Dakota building out on a plinth in the open air?

Laura: Yes, it needs to be somewhere where John Lennon haunted and where his energy was around and that means something. But apparently getting permission for any public artwork in New York is  attached to long realms of red-tape. So that's still in the pipeline and we haven't given up. Spain and Cuba have sculptures of John Lennon, for heaven's sake. Not to have one in New York seems weird, where he lived and died.

Digger: We're not good at that over here either, because one of the things we do really well is pop culture yet they don't celebrate it very well with sculptures and memorials to these significant people. It takes forever to get these things done.

 

 

Laura Lian with U2 sculpture

Laura Lian with U2 sculpture in progress

Laura with U2 sculpture
 and in progress

 

 

Laura:  I have tried to have one of my  Buddha bronzes enlarged and  placed somewhere, maybe in London.  I got some interest but didn't seem to go any where so I've put it on hold and get on with other work . it takes a lot of energy to get something like that going. You may have seen on the website Tony Benn saying don't give up because it took ten years to have the Nelson Mandela sculpture in Trafalgar Square. These things do take time and two years is nothing.

Digger: It's so appropriate the Nelson Mandela being there because when I worked in London in the 80s I would walk past South Africa House twice a day and there would be a crowd of anti-apartheid, pro-Mandela protesters there with their placards every day without fail. And nobody would have imagined that a few years later it would go full circle and that a statue of Mandela would be outside.

Laura: People who inspire should be commemorated. George Harrison was the spiritual, mystical Beatle and I loved him. And he was very fanciable.

Digger: Well, I'll take your word for that.

Laura: He was just gorgeous. I just loved his big dark eyes and soft ways . I have to say when I was modeling him I was referring to lots of pictures and I had to almost obsess myself and listen to the music and look at the pictures.

Digger: And falling in love with him again as you were doing it?

Laura: Yeah, yeah. yeah. I was so into the whole thing and I had a dream that I was being kissed by him!

Digger: Well, thanks for that Laura. That was most enlightening and best of luck with your future projects.

Laura: Thank you.

 

 

Laura Lian George Harrison sculpture

George Harrison sculpture

Laura Lian with John Lennon statue

Laura in Liverpool with John Lennon statue


 

 See Laura's work and for more information go to:

 

Laura Lian



 

 

 


 

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