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Artist With a Wild Imagination

For local artist Laura Ball, inspiration starts at the San Diego Zoo.


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Celia, 2014, is a watercolor and graphite on paper

When watercolorist Laura Ball paints an elephant, it’s not just an elephant. There’s a crocodile eating a green peacock atop his back, a bison skull inside his ribcage. Splashes of color and fine detail set the pachyderm in motion, battling a rhinoceros. In Ball’s fantastical universe, animals live, eat, and procreate in violent entanglement. But the rabbit hole doesn’t end there for the San Diego-based artist whose work appears in galleries from New York to London. Animals are stand-ins for the subconscious. Creatures represent subterranean impulses of the human mind.

The L.A.-born artist and her husband chose San Diego in 2008 for its landscape, climate, and outdoor lifestyle. Ball meticulously studies her subjects, photographing endangered animals at the San Diego Zoo. A Northern White Rhinoceros named Nola at the Zoo’s Safari Park—who’s one of only five left in the world—appears in several of Ball’s paintings. Although she’s not emotional by nature, Ball says watching species literally die out elicits a deep sadness she pours into the work. This month, Ball will have a solo show at Roseark in West Hollywood. To see one of her works locally, visit Sparks Gallery March 1–April 29. 530 Sixth Avenue, downtown

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