When it comes to Laura Testé and her second career, the Bloomfield Township resident has clearly found the right fit. “I started out as an automotive engineer and plan to ‘go out as an artist,’” said the figurative sculptor, impressionist painter and poet.
Known for her bronzes identified with the female form in dance, Testé uses the lost wax method to cast her sculptures. She also writes ekphrastic poetry for each one to convey the deeper narratives of her figures.
Raised in Ohio, Testé earned undergraduate degrees in product design and mechanical engineering from Stanford University and an MBA from the University of Michigan.
California would become a source of inspiration for her sculptures on more than one occasion. Testé credits her respect for female athleticism to the Stanford rowing team, an experience that gave her an unwavering appreciation for the energy and grace of the human anatomy. Years later, it would be the galleries along California’s Highway 1 that inspired her to pursue sculpting as a full-time profession.
Southern France, where her husband is from, has become another muse of sorts. “His passion for France became my passion for France,” said Testé. Her oil paintings often capture the light, color and atmosphere of the regions as she creates textured scenes with palette knives.
Though her sculptures tend to get the most attention, Testé has been painting for years and she also enjoys the mechanics of poetry. Her trio of talents has a distinct advantage. “I have various projects that I’m working on at the same time, so if I end up getting stuck, there is always something else going on in the studio,” she said.
After the mother of three spent more than 20 years in the automotive industry, the time was right to make a shift. She and her husband were driving up California’s Highway 1 where they saw a number of statues in the galleries along the way. “My husband turned to me and said, ‘You could do that,’” said Testé. “He has a lot of support for me and he is my biggest fan.”
While Testé has only been a full-time sculpture for five years, she has come a long way in a relatively short period of time. For starters, she was selected as one of nine sculptors for an exhibition in Saint-Tropez, France. Closer to home, the Arthur Secunda Museum in Howell hosted a solo show of her VIM & VIGOR series that captures lithesome limb figures in mid-swirl with a bloom of fabric or a quiet gesture.
Her award-winning work is displayed in Reinert Fine Art Galleries in Charleston, South Carolina, J. Petter Galleries in Douglas, Michigan and Geca Galerie in Grimaud, France. Her pieces can also be found at laurateste.com.
The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum invited Testé to install her first life-size sculpture, Elyse et Le Chat, outside their front entrance for ArtPrize 2021, which runs through October 3 in Grand Rapids.
As Testé demonstrates, personal passions are definitely worth pursuing.
“People say, ‘If only I won the lottery…if only I had more time,’” she said. “If you’re not happy with what you’re doing, you are responsible for changing it. People sell themselves short thinking they can’t do something, but there are so many resources out there to show you how to do it.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Laurie Tennent