The Many Media of Erin LaBonte

In Erin LaBonte’s Algoma studio, three sculptures of standing women with protruding stomachs and large breasts stand in the corner. 

“I made it when I was pregnant,” LaBonte explained. “My life, relationship and my experience as a woman are changing, and that has my art changing, too.”

Most of LaBonte’s creations are about women in some way or another.

“I don’t remember the last time that I made a work that didn’t have some kind of representation of a woman in it, no matter how abstract it could be,” she said.

Erin LaBonte.

Women are the constant thread through work that touches many media. 

“I am all over the place – collage, painting, sculpture and photography. I am definitely not a specialist in anything. I like to mess around,” she said.

LaBonte likes to work in series, too, because they can keep her going for a while.

“A lot of the time, I’ll go back and forth between projects. I don’t necessarily design as much as I like to react to things.”

As an art instructor who has worked in colleges, high school and middle school, LaBonte has taught printing, photography, painting, drawing and ceramics. At the end of a day of teaching, she’s often tired, but she still seeks to focus on her own work at least two days a week at Yonder, the studio/gallery/event space on Steele Street in Algoma that she owns with her husband, Don Krumpos. It’s an easy commute to work – they live upstairs with their three-year-old son, Arthur.

“Artemis” by Erin LaBonte.

“I like to just come down and think of other things, look at things, listen to music and move things around the studio, putting paint on somewhere and seeing how it looks, or how things stick together,” LaBonte said. “When I work in woodcut, that’s a lot different because I have it all drawn out before I start carving.”

As well, she said, “One thing I really like about woodcut relief prints is that the medium seems political. It has history and has often been used to share the struggle of, and the voice of, the people.”

A prime example is a 36-inch-by-48-inch woodcut called “The Unkindness,” which stands in her studio. 

“Lupa” by Erin LaBonte.

“I started it the night that Russia bombed Ukraine,” she said. “This is an image of Ukraine exploding with a dark side. And then the peaceful side has olive trees and doves and sunflowers. I do it because I feel that stuff happens because of greedy men. I definitely react to things political. I carved a lot of it with a Dremel tool. I really like the look of it, but it’s very tedious, and I’m not a patient person.”

LaBonte used to do more solo and group shows in other venues, but that has changed since she and her husband opened their own space. LaBonte and Krumpos have accepted that they aren’t going to support themselves financially on art alone, so the gallery mostly sells printed T-shirts and sweatshirts, and occasionally a print or painting.

“The stuff I do in my studio, I don’t expect to sell,” she said. “We’ve also realized that a lot of our goals aren’t going to be met if we depend on art for our financial needs, so we have each specialized in different things – like Don’s design work and my teaching. That way, we can do our own passion projects.”

“She Wolf” by Erin LaBonte.

LaBonte is looking forward to the summer, when she will have an exhibit at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac June 9 – July 21.

“When I grew up in Fond du Lac,” she said, “there never was a venue dedicated to the arts, so I’m really happy that the arts are being celebrated within this community and that I get to be a part of it.”

Also in June, LaBonte and Krumpos will participate in Green Bay’s Mural & Busker Festival – street performers and painting a mural June 15-18 – followed by a paint-by-number community-invitational mural June 23 in Sturgeon Bay. See their Yonder Facebook page for more information.

Related Organizations