The Spirit of Community, works by Lea Basile Lazarus
Opening night reception photos for artist Lea Basile Lazarus’ solo exhibit, The Spirit of Community.
The Spirit of Community Artist Statement
I have been deeply affected by the outcome of the 2016 Presidential Election. I have attended two Women’s Marches, the Science March, and two Immigration Marches. We, the community of people who gather at these events, are peaceful, but strong. We stand united in causes that we feel passionate about and this stance reflects our own personal beliefs and values.
I have spent the last 18 months creating a body of work that reflects the awareness and power of strength in numbers. People have gathered together to express concern for issues that conflict with our communities’ beliefs and rights. There is a sharp sense of wanting to belong and to be proud of who we are, but also the need to embrace our differences and provide a safe environment in which we all can live.
As reflections of these concerns, expressive figures, text, and symbolic houses have become integral parts of my work. Words weave in and out of my images, sometimes hardly recognizable, other times up front to be read loud and clear. My figures have stepped off the paper and onto the wall, speaking out, not specifically identified, but representing us all. My figures stand united and strong, embodying the depth of concern that is being felt around the world. The house structures might interact with figures or replace them. This shape can symbolize a safe place or an expression of one’s personal identity. These structures also represent people uniting together to become a strong community, a force that seems unbreakable. Yet, this community that appears so strong, can be broken and suffer turmoil within. The frenetic marks that emerge are conversations, are unrest, and are a passionate expression of a desire or belief. The audience will determine the meaning, which becomes individual and personal.
As I have moved through this body of work, I have found that using pigmented paper pulp has been an effective way to express my ideas. Even though I have been a printmaker for many years, I was immediately attracted to the process of making images using contemporary handmade paper techniques. Like printmaking, this process has allowed me to work on several images at one time, moving from one to another, layering different stencils, colors, and ideas. Paper pulp painting is spontaneous; I am actively engaged in the process. My entire body is always moving, from mixing pigments in paper pulp, to cutting stencils, to making marks or writing words with syringes and turkey basters with the gestural movement of my arm. The mental and physical energy it takes to think, move, and react to the images that are emerging is what makes this process so exciting and invigorating. Recently, I have begun removing paper pulp from the wet surface, “tearing” the wet pulp and creating interesting negative space that has added depth to the meaning of the piece. Exploration of these materials and contemporary processes has allowed me to express artistically my feelings about our fundamental needs: to belong and to feel safe.
Mound Town. Mound Town originated from an obsession with building snowmen and a continued obsession of using vinyl and found objects as an art medium. At some point I found myself needing to break away from the standard snowman concept and own it. From there I realized that I didn't have to wait for snow to create because if you look, mounds spring up everywhere - during every season. It has become my mission to profile these pile ups of debris found in the corners of our world one mound at a time. But their life span is fleeting and in order to capture these mythical creatures in their natural environment I have to act fast.
If I can point to some kind of internal influence or artistic guidance when creating mounds it would be equal parts Jim Henson, Maurice Sendak and nature artist Andy Goldsworthy.
Skate Sculptures. In the same spirit as the mounds, I pluck unique pieces of driftwood from the rivers, lakes, oceans, and forests that surround me and give them a chance to shine in a new light. I am most interested in pieces that have their own style, flow, and attitude.The wood finds their wheels and together they are uplifted. As a kid who grew up in the heyday of skateboard culture this is also a way for me to honor both the wheel and the wood.
Feb. 28, 2017, Recollection examines the notions of race and culture we encounter growing up in the United States. Shared through reimagined learning tools and remembered narratives, this work explores how we collect these formative ideas about identity and commit them to memory. This collection of work from artist Ben Blount includes letterpress prints, handmade books, and various interactive elements. Photo of Ben Blount by Yvette Meltzer