Throughout the history of art there have been artists who have struggled with chronic illness or addiction. From the Greeks to Van Gogh to Modigliani in more recent times, illness has played a part in the growth and stimulation of artists.
Erik M. Lauritzen was one of those courageous artists. A photographer, Erik suffered from polycystic kidney disease his entire life. Erik was born in Illinois in 1953, but later moved to California with his family when his father took a position of Professor of Art at California State University, Northridge in 1960. Both of his parents, Martha and Fred, were gradu- ates of Cranbook Academy of Art in Michigan. They recognized Erik’s artistic and musical talents early on, encouraging him in the arts. He graduated from San Francisco Art Institute with a B.F.A. in 1977, and from California State University, Northridge, with an M.F.A. in 1980. He became an accomplished artist who exhibited his work consistently from the mid- 1970’s in galleries throughout California and Nevada and in cities across the continent. Most of his work is now archived at the University of California, Santa Cruz, but his photographs are also in well-known collections throughout the United States, including the Kresge Art Museum in Lansing, Michigan, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Johnson Museum in Ithaca, New York.
Erik held a position as Professor of Art at Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Nevada, where he was an excellent teacher. Students loved him for his acute criticism. He could dissect an image and explain in minute detail both its merits and flaws. Erik’s career as a photographer and teacher was cut short in 2007 when he died at the age of 54. He had lived 50 years longer than the doctors had predicted. Despite his debilitating disease, he managed to maintain a very high standard of teaching and a consistent drive for photographic excellence. He was a functioning artist who created numerous portfolios and thousands of images.