Lisa is a local artist from Melrose. Her work will be on exhibit at the Melrose Arts Festival from April 26-28, 2013.
What legacy do you hope to leave through your artwork?
I rarely think of a legacy. I live and work in the moment, and art is what best takes me into Now. It doesn’t matter what the form is—dance, music, drawing or glass—if I’m immersed, I enter that eternal present where I feel the open-ended creativity of existence and am, as the Sufis might say, annihilated. Art is a deep well. Without it, we might all dry up and blow away, spiritually. What should an artist hope to accomplish? Some of my art has an environmental message, but will it make people stop chopping down the rain forest?
I want to create art that will make someone stop and want to go into it. Art is transformative, but you have to let yourself get inside it, and it inside you. Appreciators of art often do this quite well. The very best way, though, is to make your own art and explore your own relationship to this mystery experience. I think my work as a teacher—one who opens the door for people to do their own creative work—may be my most important legacy, if it in some way brings people into their own experience deeply and thoughtfully.
And yes, I would still like to help save the rain forest and coral reef. I’m still learning how art can influence social change.
How have your surroundings changed your artistic visions and connection to your work over the years?
I have traveled a lot, and in my dreams I’m always traveling. Amazing places…. I’m also always dreaming about constructing buildings or climbing around in them. These are my surroundings. Then, there are the homes and buildings where I create commissioned work. A commission is always in some way about relationship: to the people there, what I feel of their essence; to the architecture of the building and how I can honor the “thereness” of a place; how I can expand it and—literally, in the case of glass, shed light and color upon it. Over the years I have come to accept that because of all these places I visit my work is consistently inconsistent; it contains multitudes. Each gives me something new to bounce off of as a designer, an artist. It’s a new place to travel.
How has your experience in painting influenced your current creations in glass and mosaic?
Glass was an accident. I wanted to be a sculptor before I painted, and before that a puppeteer. Later, I became a dancer…. It’s all part of a whole, whereby the medium itself isn’t sacrosanct; it’s just the current vehicle. I still think of myself as painting when I design for glass. Like paint, glass is a liquid, just one with a high freezing point.
I was mostly an abstract painter in art school. When I was invited to apprentice in a stained glass studio, sketches I’d intended for paintings became stained glass instead. The glass—availability of colors and textures, limitations in how it can be cut, the line between each piece—adds its elements to the final product. I love the freedom of painting, but I love the gemlike, constructed qualities of glass and its architectural arts context. Stone has mass, texture, and wonderful, solid presence. Rock of ages. Mosaic, as I choose to do it, is looser and allows more freedom than leaded glass. It brings me back a little closer to painting, which I still miss.
What influences the shapes and patterns in your work?
When I sketch, I let my hand move in a way that’s akin to automatic writing. Things somehow appear on paper, often inspired by music. I keep my senses open. There’s both surrender and thoughtful intention. I recently designed a peacock window and started by sketching my idea of a peacock. Then, I went to Youtube and watched videos of extraordinary peacock dances, then went back to work with more of that feeling, those details. There are legions of artists who are indebted to the photography of National Geographic, and I’m one of them. I also walk in the woods first thing every morning.
What role did art play in your life as a child?
My mother had great respect for the arts. I spent a lot of time staring at the art on our walls. My parents were appreciative of my creations. My father thought I’d grow up to be an artist, but he expected I’d have a husband to support me. I was a product of my culture that didn’t see art as a serious vocation. Teachers and students in school knew I was an artist before I did. It didn’t occur to me until I was twenty that I might actually make a career of it. It seemed too good to be true.
What advice would you give to emerging artists?
Follow the energy. Be very aware of the physical and emotional sensations that accompany an idea. Let them speak to you. Also notice any voice in yourself that attempts to quash that impulse; it’s probably not useful. Don’t worry about how you’re going to manifest your idea. Once you’ve committed to it, you’ll find a way. From there, allow the surprises, accidents and intuitions to continue to shape your project. Trust them.
The only valuable thing you have to contribute as an artist is your unique vision. If you have a wonderful mentor who supports your exploration, you’re fortunate. But the process of art making is one of trusting your own authentic inner voice. You’re the boss.