Looking into Laucharoen: An artist in our midst

Natalie Sweet, Staff Writer

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“It’s absurd how so many students still don’t know about Mr. Laucharoen’s prolific career as an amazing artist, despite the fact that he’s been at the school for so long,” Amrita Acharya ‘18 said.

Unbeknownst to many students, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, and drawing and painting teacher Prawat Laucharoen is also an artist who has his own studio in downtown Manhattan and collaborates with artists all over the world. 

This year is Prawat’s Laucharoen’s last year teaching at the school. After retirement from teaching, he plans on traveling all over the world, and creating new projects or joining an artist’s residency, he said.

Laucharoen’s peaceful presence will be sorely missed on campus next year, Curator of Student Art Kim Do said. Do has been friends with Laucharoen since they entered the school together in 1985.

Laucharoen has been interested in art since he was a young child, he said. Growing up in Ratchaburi, Thailand, he remembers being obsessed with drawing in lower and middle school, more so than other kids his age.

“When most kids finished homework, they always ran outside to kick the football, but I stayed inside to paint pictures,” he said.

The first time his art was recognized as something truly special was in his sophomore year of high school. “I carved a lotus leaf out of wood and a little frog out of the same piece of wood,” Laucharoen said. “The headmaster took the sculpture and put it on a television show, and soon enough, the producer asked to buy it.”

Laucharoen’s projects aim to bring people from different corners of the world together to collaborate, he said. His most recent proposal, titled “Global Issues in Sentences,” plans to bring together printmakers from different parts of the world to work together on a piece about the environment, he said.

Other pieces by Laucharoen highlight his strong connection to his Thai heritage. For example, in a large exhibit at Chulalongkorn University, he displayed his ties to his native home by illustrating five proverbs he recalled from his childhood through sculptures and prints. Titled “The Proverbs My Brother Taught Me,” this exhibition has been presented in the United States as well.

Though Do has seen many of Laucharoen’s pieces, one of Laucharoen’s shows in Manhattan that was particularly memorable to Do combined sculpture and printmaking, he said. “In one piece, a sculpture was hung from the ceiling and it scratched lines in the etching plates,” he said. “Then, he made prints from the etching plates and hung them on the wall next to his sculpture.”

Laucharoen’s pride in his culture has inspired many of his students as well. Since Ryan Eastep (12) is half Thai, he appreciates taking a class with Laucharoen, the only Thai teacher at the school, Eastep said.

Laucharoen’s work is very prominent on campus too. This past fall on the Fisher balcony, Laucharoen used acids that would evaporate on plates and leave marks in them, and then created a series of prints using these plates, Do said. At the same time, Laucharoen and Do collaborated to create photo silkscreens and paintings, Do said.

By showing the process of how his art is created, Laucharoen expressed his vision to inspire others to do the same, Do said. “I learn constantly by his example about how to be creative and not have so much ego in my artwork,” he said.

Laucharoen’s talent and experience is very evident in class, Bradley May (12) said. “Whenever he’s showing me how to do something, his art is always the example, what he’s able to do in five minutes in incredible,” he said.

Another aspect of Laucharoen’s art that is particularly memorable is its practicality, Paul Wang (11), who is in Laucharoen’s Ceramics 1 class. “In his demonstrations to our class, not only is he always experimenting, but his art serves a practical purpose,” Wang said. “For example, he uses the cups and pitchers he makes in class for everyday purposes such as pouring and drinking.”

“His work is certainly his own,” Do said. “Though the word ‘unique’ is overused in art, there are not many other people who combine printmaking and sculpture the way he does.”

Aside from being an incredibly talented artist, Laucharoen is also an excellent teacher in and out of the classroom. By putting an emphasis on staying focused during class time, Laucharoen pushes students to create their best possible art, Eastep said.

“Though he tries not to help us once we get started, I appreciate that he lets me explore what I have in mind for my piece,” Eastep said.

Ari Moscona-Skolnik (12) shares Eastep’s sentiment. “Laucharoen is a very invested teacher, and his attitude is centered around the fact the the class is a space for kids to enjoy art,” he said.

As Laucharoen’s students move into higher level art classes, his increased encouragement for the students to pursue the art they want to create is noticeable, May said.

“In ninth grade, when I was in Printmaking 1, he would teach us about a certain art style and we would try to mimic it,” May said. “Now, we make projects from our own ideas, and he guides us through them, which has a sense of freedom to it.”

Many students feel that Laucharoen is a very approachable teacher in different ways. Outside of Laucharoen’s artistic teaching, Wang especially appreciates how Laucharoen shares his own passions with the class, because it really shows how much he cares about the students. During one class, for example, Laucharoen showed Wang’s class a documentary about terracotta soldiers, which was very enlightening, he said.

“He is such an amazing person,” Wang said. “I feel like I have learned so much from his teaching in and outside the classroom setting.”

Acharya, who first met Laucharoen when he was a substitute for her drawing and painting class, appreciates the time he put into talking to the students. Together, they started the Tea Club, a small group of about seven seniors who met in Laucharoen’s office to make tea out of herbs on his tabletop stove during the break period, she said.

Laucharoen looks back on gatherings with students such as the Tea Club as the highlights of his teaching career at Horace Mann. “I remember a small Christmas party we had right before break; it was filled with great conversation of just about everything and anything,” he said. “These kinds of friendships with students and teachers allow us to learn, teach, and grow from each other.”