A PRESIDENTIAL APPOINTMENT

BY ALAENA HOSTETTER | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s great-granddaughter, artist Laura Roosevelt, wanted to move back to her hometown of Dallas and launch her art locally, she did it in a grand fashion.

In the fall of last year, the trained studio artist found a townhouse in the prestigious Uptown area and made the space into a home-base gallery for her decades-long passion, calling it LR Art House.

“I picked this area of town because it reminds me of the Upper East Side in New York,” Roosevelt says. “I wanted to be able to walk to the grocery store and my favorite restaurants, just like in New York.”

It’s no wonder Roosevelt gravitates toward a New York feel; she has lived in the Northeast since graduate school. After growing up in Dallas and attending Ursuline Academy, she left for undergrad in Ohio and grad school at NYU in the Big Apple.

What resulted was a career in the studio as well as in auction houses, and dealing artwork to clients all over the United States, via a gallery in Aspen and Sotheby’s in New York. “They really helped hone my eye. At an auction house, you’re being exposed to so much art— the greatest of the greats,” she explains.

Along the way, Roosevelt developed her own studio practice, taking it up a notch after her children, who range in age from 24 to 30 years, left the nest.

“I got back in the studio with a vengeance and worked my tail off to develop my own language on the canvas,” she says. “It’s one thing to be trained academically and another thing altogether to develop a great eye and put down your mark with confidence and assurance that what you’re doing is good.”

It came together in the form of large-scale, layered paintings on canvas and board, petite paintings on canvas and stone, and sculptures in brushed steel and cast bronze. Her aesthetic is calm and balanced—inspired by nature and her travels around the world.

“I’ve been working on this for years and years, and I’m just beginning to reap the fruits of my labor,” Roosevelt says.

One of the series Roosevelt is most proud of is her Historic American Pop, a body of work directly inspired by the historical documentarian Ken Burns and her love of history. Roosevelt is close to Burns’ work since she serves on the board of directors of his Better Angels Society.

“That exposure to Ken— who’s America’s storyteller—and the way he uses images to create his films inspired me to think about how I could use similar imagery in my paintings,” she says.

To make the pieces, Roosevelt starts with a selection from one of her abstract paintings. She transposes photoshopped historical images on top, then applies more layers of paint.

Canvases featuring Abraham Lincoln and her great-grandmother Eleanor Roosevelt hang in her studio in Fair Park. “I love history. We have to figure out ways to keep history alive and present in our culture,” she explains.

The work is making its rounds and has been exhibited twice in the FDR Presidential Library in New York state, in 2015 and 2016, at the Aspen Institute, and most recently, in 2017, at the Gensler corporate offices here in Dallas. Roosevelt will be showing the series again locally in 2019, with new work featuring her great-grandfather.

For those who can’t wait for a public viewing of Roosevelt’s work, she welcomes appointments at LR Art House. Plus, there may be many more opportunities to see her work as she grows her online presence and nurtures local collaborations with showrooms, interior designers and architects.

So far, Dallas has welcomed her home with open arms. “I’m delighted to be back,” she says. “I love it, and the reception has been amazing.”

Alaena Hostetter is a Dallas-based journalist who writes about all of her favorite things: art, design, culture, music, entertainment and food.