Tea and Light: A Lunch Hour with Laura Hughes

Laura Hughes began teaching at Marylhurst in 2010 as an adjunct professor for our department of Art and Interior Design. At the beginning of this month, she was highlighted at our Faculty Tea for her previous and current art installations.

Hughes plays with light and color as they already move through and exist in a given space.Currently she has an installation in the skylights of the Hawthorn Commons Room, right next to the cafeteria. Her piece there is called Angles of Incidence, and it involves stripes of colored gel paint in the skylights to play with the natural projection of the light that filters into the room.

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“What are just the ordinary visual elements–residue–in our everyday lives that we’re used to looking at in a certain way and how can we play with that a little bit differently?” Hughes ponders.”So getting into this project I was really struck by–I was really excited to get to do this project with the grant–especially because the skylights in the Hawthorn Room are so long and narrow.They produce this particular kind of almost, like, tube effect, and you don’t really see them until you’re right under them.”

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“So I thought ‘This will be perfect!’ and I originally proposed I think, a lot angles, shapes. Often when I propose a project I’m kind of on the right path, but it’s not until I get there and start to create it that I know what I’m gonna do. And so here I ended up responding more to the architecture and made stripes.”


Referring to the subtlety of this project and of many of her others, Hughes says, “I like the idea to have art-work that’s not always talking. You know? It just kind of shuts up for a while and you don’t really notice it, and it can come back and just be full of notice-ability.”

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Among her influences for her work, Hughes lists accomplished artist James Turrell, specifically referencing his Skyspace at the University of Texas. In Skyspace, Turrel also orchestrates color with natural light to disrupt the normalization of an ordinary visual element.  

 As with her piece in the Hawthorn Room, much of Hughes’s work is based in light and space and can be an incredibly delicate, sometimes imperceptible addition to a place. Like a sunset, it’s something that chameleons into the background of our lives. But also like a sunset, when the timing and the colors and the shadows are just so, her work can dash brilliantly through a room, enchanting all that is ordinary.


Faculty Teas are held to spotlight the innovative and creative work of staff members. They are a function of the UFC’s  Faculty Innovation and Excellence Fund grant, and are meant to showcase the recipients thereof.