Grantee:  Laura Ortman
Native Ancestry:  White Mountain Apache
Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.
Award:  2016 National Artist Fellowship
Discipline:  Music
Web Site:

Laura Ortman was inspired by her adopted grandmother to learn violin at a very young age and when she excelled with her playing she was invited to join the St. Louis Youth Symphony. After graduation from the University of Kansas with a BFA Laura immediately moved to New York City to begin her art career. She started out as an installation and performance artist; but with her talent and skill at music, she began recording her own compositions in her apartment on a simple 4-track cassette tape recorder. This artistic evolution changed her focus from a visual artist to a musician.

As she shifted from installation art to music, Laura took up more instruments and began experimenting with her singing and playing. Today, she still records on her 4-track and with the variety of textures from all the different instruments she plays—from the small, earthy sounds of the Apache violin, all the way to the bass chords of an amplified piano—she creates an emotive picture of environments in sound. Ortman describes herself as a sculptor of sound and atmosphere.

Ortman writes and composes various types of new and challenging music that crosses categories of genres, moods and ideas—both culturally and experimentally that bring innovative arrangements to the medium. She has composed countless scores for independent filmmakers and has an extensive list of performances and artistic collaborations in the breath of her career. She continues to record on her 4-track tape recorder, making pieces of music that simulate isolated, ambient sounds from environmental surroundings.

The fellowship provides additional support for Ortman’s various ongoing projects including albums, tours, unique Native American soundtracks of New York and Santa Fe, and a video collaboration with various artists including former New York City Ballet principal dancer Jock Soto (Navajo).

I want to release my recordings out on vinyl with my own artwork on the covers, and to continue traveling as a musician all over the world presenting solo or collaborative music, film/video projects, dance, art and new media projects that feature Native artists from an array of backgrounds, places and lifestyles, including New York City where I live and work.
~ Laura Ortman