Laura Palermo is the talented local artist behind our newest art exhibit, Paintings for a Purpose. Her beautiful nature-inspired work features marine animals, including sea turtles rehabilitated by our Sea Turtle Rescue Program. Get to know Laura and find out what inspires her to raise awareness about animal conservation through her artwork:
Why do you love to paint wildlife, especially sea turtles?
I am an animal lover! I’ve always loved animals ever since I was a kid. I was always trying to get my mom to let me adopt anything and everything. I had ducks, dogs, guinea pigs, cats, and newts just to name a few. When I first moved to Charleston I was fishing on a boat off the coast of Sullivan’s Island when I encountered two sea turtles. It was love at first sight!
What is your favorite thing about sea turtles?
My favorite sea turtle fact is that they have magnetite in their brains. This serves as an internal magnetic compass to help them navigate around the world. It also helps the females make their way back to their natal beach to lay their eggs.
What is your background in art?
In 2012 I graduated from Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, with a degree in Studio Art. While I was in college I spent 5 months studying abroad in Florence, Italy. I filled my schedule with art classes and got to travel around Europe to experience and learn from some of the best artists!
What mediums do you use?
I tend to paint with mostly acrylic paints. Sometimes I’ll change it up a bit and do some watercolor pencil paintings or wood burnings.
What is your creative process?
This might sound strange, but most of my creativity is a result of my research. I think it is very important to research your subject before painting it, and the more I read about the animals, the more ideas I get for paintings. Listening to music also helps get the creative juices flowing; you can sometimes find me dancing around my studio while I’m painting.
What inspires you?
Learning the stories behind each declining or endangered species is my biggest inspiration. My goal is to help raise awareness through my artwork, and my pieces are often accompanied by a short story about conservation. Being able to help educate others about our threatened species is a very stimulating and rewarding opportunity.
Why have you decided to partner with the Aquarium and donate a portion of your proceeds?
In addition to helping raise awareness I have also been donating 10% of my profits to the Aquarium’s Sea Turtle Rescue Program. The South Carolina Aquarium does a fantastic job of helping educate people of all ages about the importance of conservation and I couldn’t imagine my donation going to a more fitting organization. Every little bit helps!
What was your favorite part of spending time at the Sea Turtle Hospital?
I really enjoy listening to Kelly talk about all the turtle patients’ different personalities, and learning about each individual sea turtle’s rescue story. A lot of my sea turtle paintings are titled after the patients at the hospital and I share each sea turtle’s story with the paintings in order to help people understand the struggles the turtles are facing.
What is your favorite part about living in Charleston?
I have three favorites- the friendly people, the marvelous art scene and the beautiful architecture.
How has living near the water influenced your artwork?
Well I never came across any sea turtles while fishing in Pennsylvania. It’s strange how sometimes the little experiences in life can turn out to be so influential. If I hadn’t seen the two sea turtles while fishing off the coast of Sullivan’s Island a couple of years ago, I don’t know what I’d be painting today!
What do you hope will be the result of your Paintings for a Purpose exhibit at the South Carolina Aquarium?
My goal is to help raise awareness about conservation. I hope my artwork will attract people’s attention, teaching them something new. Perhaps they will take a piece home with them and continue to share the story and promote the importance of conservation. And maybe the next time they are walking on the beach and see a piece of trash, they will pick it up and save an animal’s life.
See examples of Laura Palermo’s artwork on her website here. Experience Paintings for a Purpose at the Aquarium now. This new exhibit is included with Aquarium admission or membership.
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