88 Kate Lehman
Kate Lehman is an incredible painter who lives in both NYC and Paris. The last artist on this list was Nancy Guzik, wife of Richard Schmid. He called her work 'haunting', which I'm not sure fits. Perhaps it is to him since he knows the models, but to me, Nancy's painting is so joyful and full of life, it's hard to think of it as such. Kate Lehman, on the other hand, is haunting. Take a look, every work feels as if it's possessed by a ghost.
'Artist Eddie Rochat'
According to her website, Kate Lehman grew up in Paris where she developed a love of art at an early age. At fifteen, she attended L'Academie de la Grande Chaumiere. She then went on to L'Academie Roederer, and then ATEP Lecompte. Following this she moved to America, studying at the Minnesota River School of Fine Art, where she met a major influence in her work, Patrick Devonas. Lehman then moved to Brooklyn to study further at the Water Street Atelier under Jacob Collins and Richard Piloco. In the following painting, we also see a love and respect for Gustav Klimt, that carries into her other works:
'Hommage to Klimt'
'Eloise Eonnet Sea Wife'
If art is a visual poetry, Kate Lehman reminds me of Emily Dickinson. She tackles many of the same issues, especially the angst of death. Her work reminds us that life is fleeting and we're all just ghosts in physical form. Even her choice of materials - painting on copper, sculpting with rice paper. You wonder how long they'll last before tarnishing or coming apart.
'Woman in Black'
In all her interior compositions you feel the presence of someone there - like how the green chair turns toward you in 'Salon'. You know you're in someone's house, you know that's where he or she always sits. Everything in this picture rests in profile except the chair. We're supposed to focus on it, but why, unless there's a reason? The effect is uncanny and unsettling, and it makes the work genius.
In this article (Art Collector, 2006) Kate says she loves to paint insects because, "They are just such nice and beautiful little things. There are so many amazing insects - butterflies, moths, beetles that have amazing coloration and very detailed designs on them. I want to show people how beautiful these living things can be. Most people generally don't appreciate it or find them worthy of attention. I choose my subjects for aesthetic reasons, but also to show a respect and appreciation for nature."
All of this makes sense and I believe it - but if you scroll down to look at her paintings of insects - they're not full of life (although they are full of color). They're pinned and framed in cases, and even the glass has cracked. Again, time has moved on, and what we get to see and enjoy are only ghosts - memories of lives past.
In her treatment of time, death, and decay, Kate Lehman is fearless. She stares back defiantly at these things, just as she stares at you when you open her web page. She finds love and nostalgia in everything she paints. This treatment gives her work a power and presence that turns everyday objects into talismans, a studio into a temple. I look forward to seeing what she paints next.
Kate Lehman was gracious enough for an interview for this blog. Here's the transcript:
1. You work on copper and brass, and I'm curious about the process for doing that, plus the chemicals you use for patinas - one green and one brown. And, is the copper treated in such a way that the rest of the panel will keep its color, or are these works destine to all turn brown?
"I use cold patinas made for sculptures originally. There are some that are like paint and show up right away. Others you need to wait for them to show their colors. I put wax on them to seal it but I do believe they still change a little with time."
2. Your rice paper faces are ghostly, and I'd like to know what idea or feeling you wanted to express when you made them.
"I was very inspired by paper sculptures when I saw the work of Gzregorz Gwiazda. I wanted mine to have a lightness to them it took me a little time and experimenting to figure out what glue and how to display them."
'Water Street Hallway 2'
3. What do you like about Gustav Klimt and do you try to incorporate any of his lessons into your work?
"I love how he mixes traditional technique with abstract as well. I adore Egyptian art; I think that it’s probably some of my favorite art all together. Klimt was very inspired by them and borrowed a lot."
4. I'd like to know more about some of the schools and ateliers you went to - there's very little information online about them. To start, what was art school like in Paris? On your website you wrote you were dissatisfied. Was it too post modern and conceptual?
"Yes schools in Paris were and still art just conceptual. They don’t teach the craft of painting and sculpting which is what I wanted to learn."
5. What kind of work did you do in film, and what did you take away from the experience?
"My father was a documentary film maker so I learned a lot from him. I did editing pre computers when You had to physically splice the film and sound and look at it and modify it until it was to your liking. I also worked in film transfer. I realized that the business requires so many people to get the final piece. I realized that I would want to do it all."
6. What did you learn from ateliers, from artists like Devonas, Collins & Piloco? Are there any little pointers or rules that stick in your head when you paint?
"Patrick was so encouraging but the most important thing I learned from him was to trust myself. That as artists we are all different. The importance of being inspired by old masters or contemporary painters but not to try and emulate them. You can never develop yourself to your full potential if you try to be like someone else. There is only one Ingres, Klimt, etc. He is continually experimenting with new things which is so inspiring.
"Through Jacob I learned the blocking in and also things that were more important to me such as color and brightness when he told me one day “Don’t worry about the color, focus on the form”. I realized then that I would not sacrifice color over form, even though I tried to do what he said, at the same time I respected what I needed."
7. What kinds of things do you worry about when you compose a picture? How do you get to a composition you're comfortable with?
"I hated painting for a very long time because I was trying to do things in a traditional way. Having an idea then doing a study then doing a color sketch before starting a painting. One day I decided to let the painting have a voice. I realized that it was ok to be inspired by a model or object and that I didn’t have to have it all figured out. The day I accepted that that’s how things worked for me I fell in love with painting again."
8. What advice would you give to young art students?
"I would tell them to trust themselves. It’s important to listen to your teachers and try to do what they are showing you. But they are there to help you develop as an artist. And we are all different and something that works for one person will not for someone else. I would encourage them to study with as many artists they admire as they won’t get everything from one person. They will learn many different things and in the end they use what works for them. In any case that’s what my experience was."
9. What do you tell someone who says art doesn't matter?
"Well that’s a hard question. I have always been moved by art whether that be painting or sculpture but also nature. Noticing insects, animals or dried leaves on the floor. Nature is a great master to me. Words don’t come easy to me which is why it took me so long to respond to you as well. I became a painter because it’s a different way to express one self and in my opinion one that needs no words. I cannot explain why I choose to paint certain things it is more instinctual. But one thing I know is that I paint because it fulfills me in a way that no other thing or person has. It is a need and a profound connection that I can’t live without. Everyone has a different experience and opinion but to me Art is so important. Art has also allowed us to peek into human history."
'Golathus & Phasma'