The shared thoughts and artwork of Lisa Goren.
Lisa’s work will be on exhibit at the Melrose Arts Festival on April 26-28, 2013.
Q. The majority of your work is inspired from a visit to Antarctica. Have you always been interested in Antarctica? Why did you visit?
I was one of those kids who read a lot when growing up. For me, I just couldn’t get enough of the stories of Arctic and Antarctic explorers. Most of these stories were from the Historic Age of Exploration (or the late 19th and early 20th centuries). I have to say that I really didn’t encounter any Jewish women from NYC in any of the adventures and yet, I totally saw myself as being able to do the same thing. So, for me, I’ve always loved the winter and been interested in the Polar Regions. I didn’t get to go to Antarctica until I was in my 30’s and already had a very different career. Frankly, I didn’t realize you could actually go as a tourist. Once I saw that you could go, I saved up and headed South as fast as I could. I never thought of myself as an artist but I knew I wanted to paint the ice. So that was my beginning as both a Polar adventurer and an artist.
Q. How has experiencing and seeing Antarctica influenced your artistic vision?
Experiencing and seeing was a life-changing trip. The landscapes are not things you normally see, even in tough New England winters. It takes so long to get there (4 days) and it’s a fairly difficult journey (the sea is very rough) so that you feel like you’ve gone through a sort of decompression chamber by the time you’re there. In terms of my art, these views brought my artistic vision to the surface. I knew that I wanted to bring some of what I saw there back home.
Q. You have another collection of paintings inspired by Alaska. What drives your fascination with ice and these cold climate surroundings?
Really, I’ll go to any cold climate you offer to me! I love the light, the clarity of the air, and even the bundling up to experience the cold. After the birth of my son, it was really not possible for me to consider another Antarctica trip. Alaska was the first opportunity I had to get back to the cold. We went in the summer and to see the glaciers while the sun is shining and it’s fairly warm, was a very different experience.
Q. How has your experience and artistic focus on Antarctica effected your view of colors and light here at home?
Many people will disagree with me, but I’ve loved this winter. We’ve had a lot of crisp beautiful days that I have thoroughly enjoyed. I love walking in the Arboretum in Jamaica Plain and looking at the colors of the trees and the sky. Perhaps one of the things you notice in Antarctica is the unbelievable blues in the ice (at least I did). This is a color we just don’t see here naturally. And it’s possible that my trips have led me to see the color blue, in particular, in new way. Our winter skies in New England are stunning. So, maybe that’s something I’ve noticed more since I’ve been to Antarctica.
Q. What quality of Antarctica is the hardest to capture/reflect in your paintings?
Now that I’ve mentioned the blues, I’d have to say those are some of the hardest to capture. I think that there are many amazing photographers of the Arctic and Antarctica, but seeing those blues in real life is a very different experience. One other thing I noticed when I was in Antarctica was when we were looking at hundreds of elephant seals sunning themselves on the beach. The amount of browns could never be captured – it was just astonishing.
Q. Do you feel the color “white” even actually exists in the world?
As a watercolorist, you rarely (if ever) use white when you’re painting. Generally, the white is the paper itself – an absence of added color. To me, there were moments of brilliant white but they are mostly about contrast to the colors around them. It’s very rare for me to leave the paper just white because all of the snow and ice that I’ve seen has other colors of tremendous subtlety. So, do I think the color white exists? I’m not sure because so much of what we see is about what is next to it. It’s more about brightness, I think, than actual white. And, of course, any snow or ice is actually clear – the color we see is based on which light waves can go through it and which light waves bounce off. You could chop off a piece of that beautiful blue ice, put it in a glass and it would look like a regular ice cube.
Q. You are currently working on a series of 300 paintings of whale bones from abandoned whaling stations in Antarctica. Can you share more details regarding this project?
I have been working on my project of 300 paintings of whale bones from abandoned whaling stations for many years now. I’m not a particularly prolific painter – I’m only in the 30’s right now. I had no idea that when I was traveling to Antarctica we’d stop at an abandoned whaling station. But when we did, it was incredibly haunting. The bones were just discarded and left on the beach. As these stations have closed long ago, the bones will be left until the wind can erode them. The number 300 was chosen because at their lowest point, it was estimated that there may only have been 300 blue whales left in the Southern Seas (down from a population of over 300,000 – we know that number because that’s the number of blue whales “harvested” from about 1905 to 1965). This is a very slow recovery and I wanted to point that out with my paintings, I hope to raise awareness of these animals and the important struggle to keep them alive.
Q. You are planning to return to The Arctic Circle this September. Can you tell us more about this new project, “Open Water in the Arctic”? And what you hope to accomplish while there?
This September I’ll be heading to well above the Arctic Circle with an artist residency. There will be 20 other artists and scientists on a 3-mast sailboat and we will sail for 2 ½ weeks. This will be the closest I’ll ever have been to either pole (within 500 miles). In addition, the time spent with all these other well-established artists and scientists who share a fascination with the Polar Regions will be amazing. My project, “Open Water in the Arctic” is about continuing my work painting sea ice, which is different from icebergs in that icebergs come from glaciers (fresh water) and sea ice is frozen salt water. My paintings of pack ice are full of pieces of sea ice but there is less and less as the earth warms. I’m hoping my paintings will inspire people because they can see the beauty of this ice and, hopefully, learn the importance of trying to save it.
Q. What advice would you give to other emerging artists?
In terms of giving advice? Well, I’m not a full time artist. I’m a full time mom and I’ve been able to pursue my work in and around my other “duties.” I think what I’d say is that I knew that I’d always do interesting things, and go as far north or south as I could within the confines of a vacation here and there. I could never have imagined this upcoming trip, however. It’s too big to even have dreamt it. And so my advice would be, keep plugging away. Do what you love when you can. It’s worth it even if you don’t get a trip like mine – you’ll still have done what you loved, right?