Photos by J. Alan Paul Photography
“What do you do with a 500-pound table that is more sculptural than functional?” asked Brandon LaPlante. This was a real dilemma that the local artist had to come to terms with regarding his body of work, which includes sculpture, furniture, paintings, drawings and murals. Rather than limiting himself to one medium, LaPlante has chosen to pursue all of his passions and from September 15 to November 11, you can visit his studio space in West Acres where he currently serves as the artist in residence.
Brandon LaPlante is originally from Crookston, MN, and spent many a summer day on the shores of Lake Superior. Before starting a family, his mother was also an artist. She liked to paint landscapes and animals on saw blades from the scrap yard. “My mom’s always been kind of a scavenger. I got that from her,” LaPlante explained. His mother was supportive of LaPlante’s interest in art, which became apparent at an early age. “I have been making art, or ‘marks, noise and mess’ I like to say, ever since I learned how to use my thumbs,” the West Acres Artist in Residence laughed.
After high school, LaPlante went on to study at MSUM where he trained in classical figure drawing. However, LaPlante was exposed to sculpture in his last semester and received meaningful feedback on his work. Up until that point, he had been hearing the same critique over and over again. “I had too much contrast,” LaPlante explained. However, instead of trying to change his style, LaPlante chose to embrace the critique. “I thought, I’m not going to let anyone else spin the narrative. I’m going to embody contrast. Contrast defines me. Everything that I do has it, so rather than trying to change it, I’m going to use this as the inspiration in all that I do,” he said.
Adventure, Wonder & Curiosity
LaPlante earned his BA and immediately went on to pursue yet another passion when he left the day of graduation to tour with his progressive rock band, Sleeping in Gethsemane. LaPlante discovered that travel inspires his senses of adventure, wonder and curiosity. Since then, he has visited 47 states and 27 countries. “The purest and most fulfilling artistic endeavor I’ve taken part in is writing and composing music, recording it and performing all over the world with it,” he shared. LaPlante likes to go abroad during the colder months, but spends his summers in Fargo. “Winters are a good time for me to decompress and to get re-inspired. Then I come back to Fargo—I’ve developed a community here,” he said. It is this strong support system that makes him want to return year after year.
“I thought, I’m not going to let anyone else spin the narrative. I’m going to embody contrast. Contrast defines me.” – Brandon LaPlante
West Acres Residency
In his studio space at West Acres, LaPlante displays a wide variety of two-dimensional and three-dimensional work. There, viewers can see pencil drawings, oil pastel paintings and even an award-winning sculpture. However, perhaps the most impressive pieces are his furniture, ranging from utilitarian and functional to sculptural in design. LaPlante would describe these pieces as “different materials interlocking, contrasting each other in a way that heightens each one of them rather than taking away from them,” LaPlante said.
It’s true. LaPlante manipulates his building materials so that all of the parts interlock, eliminating the need for bolts, nails or screws. His favorite part of the process? “I love the problem-solving. That part is really fulfilling for me, which is why I generally only do one of everything because there are no more problems to solve after you’ve already finished building it once,” he said.
The utilitarian furniture, LaPlante made for his own apartment; the sculptural furniture, he made for an exhibition at The Rourke Art Museum last year. For this exhibition, he was to be the solo artist. LaPlante soon realized though that with his sculptural furniture sitting low to the ground, the walls would look empty. Jonathan Rutter, director of The Rourke, then encouraged LaPlante to select an artist to be featured in the show alongside him. LaPlante chose photographer and printmaker Cameron Seibold for this purpose.
The table near the back of his space at West Acres, LaPlante was commissioned to make for Fargo Startup House. This was years before he began experimenting with interlocking design. “The dining table is something that I’m very proud of,” he said. Although he has always loved minimalist modern architecture and interior design, LaPlante only picked up the skills he would need to manipulate stone, metal and wood later in life. In the beginning, he would select the materials and come up with a design, then collaborate with others to make his vision a reality.
All of LaPlante’s furniture is made out of reclaimed materials. Let’s take his coffee table, “Brother Butterfly” for example. LaPlante found the two limestone slabs in a field and held onto them for years before turning them into a table. “I sat with them for years stacked up against the wall in one certain way and was never able to figure out what to do with them until I moved them and had them set up so that they looked like the wings of a butterfly.
Near his studio at the south entrance of West Acres, LaPlante is painting a temporary mural for the beautification of the mall. “Whenever there is an un-leased store, they close it up with a sheetrock partition wall,” the Artist in Residence said. This wall has acted as a blank canvas for LaPlante. “With planning, prepping and painting, I’ll have over 500 hours into it,” he revealed. Because he has been working on the painting during business hours, many curious shoppers have walked up to LaPlante and started conversations about art. “I’m really proud of it and I’m excited that it will be up for as long as it is,” he said.
“I love the problem solving. That part is really fulfilling for me, which is why I generally only do one of everything because there are no more problems to solve after you’ve already finished building it once.” – Brandon LaPlante