Lea Basile Lazarus

I have spent the last two years 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. The house structures might interact with figures or more recently have replaced them. These structures symbolize a safe place or an expression of one’s personal identity. They also represent people within a community that stand strong and unified. Yet, this community that appears so strong, can be broken and suffer turmoil within. The frenetic marks that emerge are conversations, unrest, and passionate expressions of desires or beliefs.

The audience will determine the meanings, which become 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.