Palmer Makes Ballet More Of An Art

April 14, 1991|By Michael R. Driscoll | Michael R. Driscoll,Staff writer

Laura Higgins Palmer doesn't appear onstage anymore, but she still dances -- through her painting.

For the past two years, Palmer, 36,has found her inspiration in the Ballet Theatre of Annapolis, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year.

It was a natural connection for the artist, based on her own former career in dance. Samples of her art, which depict the people and productions of the BTA, are currently on display at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis.

A Missouri native raised in Bethesda, Palmer studied in Washington, D.C., New York state and abroad. She is a former member of the Washington Ballet Co. and performed with the Ithaca ballet when she was a student at Cornell University.

Though she loves dancing, Palmer said, "I think my real gift is for seeing it. When I hear music, I see a line, a color or a form. Definitely, I'm a visual person."

During the past six years, she has been teaching painting, design and drawing at Maryland Hall. Drawing, she said, is "the most gratifying class I teach, because I see the most rapid progress in my students."

The dominant theme in Palmer's art "has to do with movement, rather than with anatomy, because movement is the basis of life.

"I did classical figure drawing in college, and taught it. Then I dropped it, because I found more movement in light and clouds and water and landscape than I did in the figures."

Although not officially a member of the BTA, Palmer has, in a sense, become its biographer.

But she uses the paint brush or the sketching pencil, instead of pen or typewriter.

She often can be seen at BTA rehearsals off in a corner, recording her impressions.

"It's been a very nice collaboration in the arts," she said. "I work in the dance studio with (the) Ballet Theatre or when they are working onstage in rehearsals.

"Occasionally, I'll sit in the wings during a performance as well. I use simple materials in the studio, because I try to be a good guest, and then I'll take it back to my studio to add the flourishes.

"Some drawings take on their finished character right there in the studio," Palmer explained, "and others I take back, and then I'll see something in it, and I will transform it some way, by adding other colors or other lines."

Working with the BTA has had a positive effect on the rest of her art. "The movement that I have used for quite a while in my landscape paintings and became known for has a very obvious source" in the ballet troupe, she says.

Palmer's style shows influences of Chinese art, European Impressionism, Picasso's later work, and Alexander Calder. Her work attempts to show the emotions and feelings of the dancers, rather than concentrating on a literal translation of the human form in the dance.

"The creative ideas float in and appear as visuals, abstracted from the stuff of experience," she said of her artistic approach. "I find their meaning and form in my artwork. With one foot in abstraction, the other in realism, I compose music for the eyes."

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