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Dandelions are masters of survival. They evolved about 30 million years ago. Some of them can reproduce without fertilization and they can clone themselves with about 1” of root. Their flowers are the first indicators of spring and alert the honeybees and the infamous Pearl-Bordered Butterfly. They contain anti-oxidants-good for your liver. They grow in crevices and push through city sidewalks. Walls and kids disperse their seeds.
Lisa stated that her current paintings involve her curiosity into what the next world will look like when this one ends. After spending a Saturday afternoon at the gallery with Lisa and her paintings, I realized that the all the paintings conspired to answer her question. In my observation, nature was the dominant force. We both agreed, “nature always wins.”
Dandelion’s roots sink deeply into the earth. The metaphor of the dandelion’s tenacity was literally in two paintings, Make a Wish and Ten Seconds and Counting. In Make a Wish, there is a band of dandelions grounded and endeavoring to stand erect in an asphalt ground cover. Rendered to appear in natural light, each stem is contrasted with illumination and shadow in the afternoon sun. Lisa added that the transparent geometric shapes indicated the caustic environment. In “Ten Seconds and Counting”, a solitary seedling declares itself below a canopy of dripping paint. The plants still seem to prevail under their formidable environmental adversity.
The vine motif and “signature line” that Lisa has developed, interpret line as a prominent element. The vines ballet their way across paintings like “The Future of Paradise Past”, and swirls and curls set off small floral paintings like Specimen for the Uninitiated, and Les Jardins Pendus. Lisa’s “signature line” is achieved by adding paint to a strip of mat board and applying the line to the canvas with a quick “tap”. She said this method creates a line that she could get no other way. A true example is the organic, viscous line that drips off the beak of the bird in the portrait - Prelapsarian Dream.
Nature is the obvious symbolic imagery in Lisa’s paintings. Most of the work combines flowers, vines and birds of various species. Lisa’s vigilance, and responsibility for the depiction of her ideas, reminded me of the doctrine of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Even though her work is reductive in imagery, her study of nature, spiritualism, allegorical references, and glimpses into other worlds, are reminiscent of the PRB’s. As with Lisa’s dandelions, the PRB’s included details of weeds pushing through cracks in the wall. The PRB’s influence of poetry is also paralleled in Lisa’s work. A Cause for Wondering, gained its title from a poem by Martha Ronk, a poet that Lisa had collaborated with in the past. This painting’s multiple arch-shaped stalks, against a tower of cumulus clouds, forms a naturally sacred Mandela ready for meditation and queries.
As I reflected on Lisa’s paintings, I thought that man was keenly absent from her work until I revisited the first painting of this series called A Bird For Zosimus. Lisa described this painting as a dedication to the pagan historian named Zosimus. He was known for recording the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. The portrait of the bird is surrounded by a crown of thorns. This iconic crown is a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus “king of the Jews.” In retrospect, one of the symbols for man was created from the very start of this series. And as that story laments; there was a death followed by a resurrection.
whitehot gallery images, click a thumbnail.
Sandra Vista is A freelance journalist in Los Angeles.