Lisa Eshleman Foster
Sometimes I am embarrassed when people ask me what I “do”. Why should I be embarrassed? I don’t know. Do I have to feel bad when I answer “I paint?” No. Of course it’s usually followed by the well meaning question, what do you paint, or maybe what medium do you use. I never know how to verbally answer that question because, well there are so many answers, and I don’t want to waste time.
To me it has always been more important to create than talk about what has been created. But not talking or discussing my work could be seen as an ignorance on my part. It’s not as if I do not have a dialog in my mind about what I am doing, it’s just that I don’t write it down, nor think it’s really important. However, speaking, reading, thinking are all part of the higher order of being that we human’s practice and as I get older, I believe that I should start saying something about what I am doing. Probably, because, if I die, the words put to my art will be somebody else’s, and not mine. Who knows? I don’t know if anyone will ever look at my work when I am gone, but someone will have to move it from where ever it is at that point.
Art comes from deep within. It is inspired by what I see, what I read, what I hear. I have no, none whatsoever wish to
imitate realistic scenes, although all visions are real, as dream are real. I use my camera to capture images in life, which satisfies my need for realism. It is far more exciting to be unconscious when painting. I paint in a trance often brought on my music. I do not do drugs ever ( I hate the smell of pot) or any other mind altering substances (booze) when working. To me that would be false. I cannot use drugs or alcohol because I do not like clouding or cluttering my brain.
I have way more dreams than artworks and have many projects in mind that I will never see to physical fruition. If I was better at photo shop, and maybe I will learn, I will create these other worldly images as proposals for major sculpture projects. My art is not just painting on canvas or paper, it’s three dimensional, which is why I like acting. Acting is just another character to create, or rather interpret, as the writer is the one who created that character in the first place.
I use enamel paint because it is glossy and shiny and I like that.
I do not limit myself with only acrylics on canvas, because I do not like being limited.
Creativity is being free.
Not all of what I make is nice to look at nor does it have some significant meaning.
Why do I feel worried about showing my work? I used to be so bold and not care what I did nor what I showed. Maybe I was more of a show off then. Maybe it’s because I am worried that people here in the hodunk podunk town of Newport will react like most people, that OH MY GOD, look at those dicks and tits…what is that. She is nuts, stay away from her. Really I still don’t care…but I am now a teacher, yea, I did all that work and never got a real job, only for one year, which I totally loved, and had to “resign.” Ha ha the principal is now resigning, or leaving. It hurt me really a lot and I never got a job after that. But back to art.
What are the kids going to say when they see all the nudes? But none of this work is realistic, it’s all people from another place. And I have been painting people for a long time now. My first models were when I was in 5th or 6th grade, what a great opportunity. I have loved life drawing ever since and thank Fred Keller for teaching me how to draw the body. He thanked me by teaching him how to let go.
I love painting with enamel, it’s stinky and smooth. These people that I paint come from me seeing people. Looking at everyone. Looking at everything. An artist must LOOK at things. Everything is interesting in nature. But not everything is interesting in man made objects. Just like music. There is really shitty music out there and there is really good music. I listen to music when I paint. It influences me, I am sure. But I also listen to music when I run and exercise. It keeps my legs moving. The people in my pieces are related to each other and I look forward to seeing them all together.
I’ve been thinking about everything.
Maybe they are boring.
I would rather put paint on paper than words on paper. I am unhappy with the paper that I am using and must find a better, more shiny surfaced paper. When I finish 100, I will get new paper.
I would like to work on canvas, but at the moment, there isn’t much room. First I will finish the oil painting clouds, which aren’t that great. I should work on them longer, but they are really just flighty clouds, those that have never been seen, not meant to be lingering. However, in paint, they don’t move. I am not good with oil paint, it takes too long to dry. But I do like that fact that it absorbs light. Acrylic is so plastic, enamel is perfect, but it stinks. It’s like painting with syrup. Enamel on canvas cracks, so I use acrylic on canvas.
I work on at least 10 pieces at a time. Right now I have about 9 portraits going and 5 books. The books are made of shiny catalogs, so the enamel is great. I also have the sculpey people and the images from the lake. They will be the borders between the families in the show.
I would like to make enough people to walk around at the floor level. I will have to get busy with that, at the moment, I don’t have the room as I have all the portraits on the big tables. I am lucky to have the apartment where the kids lived. When the weather gets warmer, I will use the bedroom part, but it is unheated and way too cold at the moment. Besides, Harry has all his junk in there, which is OK, because it’s so cold.
Maybe being an artist is worthless. I have been on another planet for my whole life.
I love paint. I love watching it go onto the paper. It’s slimy and sticky and colorful and shiny. Sometimes it goes into the right place to make a nicer image, sometimes it messes up. I love it either way. I could eat paint. I love paint, I love putting it to paper and other things.
Some of these images are people from the past and some from the future. These people are part of a family tree. I cannot wait to see them all at once to decide who is who. I paint them with the idea that they are in the same family and use similar traits with in them. One is a family of losers, some have nice hair and others have bucked teeth.
One may be depicted as a baby in one painting and then that person is grown up in another. All these people are inspired by real people who I have seen.
If you turn the sound off and just watch the people on TV commercials then you will get the point of the people that I have painted. They are telling a story without sound and it’s so much more interesting than listening to the crap they are spewing. Watching.
It’s really fun to stare up into the sky when it is snowing.
Seeing the Northern Lights for real was awesome. I decided to go outside instead of to bed, so I got all bundled up and drove down to Prouty Beach, but it was too right. As I was turning to go towards Shattuck, I saw the first glimpse which was a huge glow in the dark looking cloud above the lake, and where Spates has that greenhouse. It was like a paint skin on one of my portraits, just a thinking spot but this was real in the sky! It gave me the chills. I drove up the hill on a very icy road and turned around, stopped, turned off the car and cursed that the lights did not go off immediately, which is a feature that I normally like in my car. There, hovering over the lake was the bright green cloud and then in the north sky was the curtain of lights, green with blue and a bit of red. Draped curtains. I listened and heard them, their greasy iron celestial sound. It was freezing cold up there, not in the negatives, but windy and I was glad to have all my gear on. I watched the lights move and tried to take a picture, epic fail and then I decided not to waste time and just watch the lights. I could see stars too, it was very neat.
They just hover there in the sky, like the paint hovers on the paper when it’s wet. I thought that I should go home and get Brian so he could see. I did, but by the time we got back, they were faded into the lights of Montreal. Which was sad.
There are so many things that I want to make but I won’t ever have time to do them. I admire people like Dale Chihully and Christo because they do these huge things without worry. I have no idea how I would even go about making my people in trees idea or the huge glass balls on the highway, except to ask Brian to help me with Photo shop and create huge photographs.
Doubts about it all:
I am so glad that my work has a consistency. I have been working as an artist for 55 years. Since I was 5, I knew that I was an artist.
Being an artist is being selfish, and singular. And different, and not thinking like others, being contrary, being weird or maybe off putting. I am all of these. But, there is another side of me, so does that not make me a real artist? I wanted children. I chose to marry a man who had no concept of art, but was a true individual and headstrong. I did not do art in the same capacity when I was married to my second husband. He was the opposite of the first husband. I tried to be “normal” but it is never “normal Good Housekeeping” for me. I could not do large paintings anymore. I was exhausted with taking care of the kids, and lazy from it because it’s nice to have kids and play with them and take them to the pool or to play practice, or preschool or wherever they had to go. I loved doing all of that. I made it a point to do ONE piece of art for the Small Works Show at New Arts Program and I did. I also made my Christmas cards and other cards for people. Creativity was always in me.
When I moved to Vermont and my second husband died, I immediately had a studio built onto the house that I bought. It was my dream house and with a studio, I had it made. I was rusty, but went to work! Unfortunately, I have not finished any acrylic paintings, because I love enamels more. I think that the ceilings are not high enough for me to do these canvas paintings. I would still like a larger studio so I could work on large canvases.
Now, I am my own worse enemy. I have never been strong enough to resist
en. I have a third husband, different from one and two. He is an artist, but not really because he doesn’t have a studio and his art is stagnant. He was in advertising which is creative, but for “the man” to promote shit that people really don’t need. Is that anti-art? I don’t know. Anyway, I try to encourage him to work in his studio, but he only does very intricate realistic paintings. I don’t really know his art head. He has a wonderful touch with colored pencils but someone must have told him that freedom isn’t art. But that’s his problem. And mine.
I don’t think that being in Newport Vermont will help me in any way. I too am stagnant, except for the fact that I create art just about every day.
It isn’t a contest. But I feel as if I am losing.
I have a heart of stone, so I think.
I would like to create an art show called Invasive Species Inspections at the MAC center. This would be an installation using a series of painted portraits (Ancestors), the “plein aire” paintings I did this summer and a series of oil skyscapes, which I am still working on called Clouds You’ve Never Seen. The term “art show” is one I use with expansive definition, as I find that just walking into a gallery to look at framed paintings is not enough for my optical senses. Nor can I ever decide which one of my paintings should hang alone. When I show my work, I always create an alternative environment within the gallery where I show. I have been showing my work in this conceptualized manor since the early 70’s. My love of theater, music, words and color are evident within the parameters of the space I fill.
I imagine filling the space within the MAC in three tiers, the highest being the Sky paintings, the middle band being the Plein Air pieces and all of that being above the Portraits, which represent the people looking at things (sky and paintings). These works would be side by side on the wall around the entire perimeter of the space. I will bind this together with sculptural objects and other things.
The entire show would contain at least 100 different artworks and take me about three days to install. If any of the paintings are framed, they would be done in a non traditional way. Most of the work could be hung with tacks. The room at the MAC center would be perfect for this installation, small and intimate. Each painting would have a price and be available if someone wanted to purchase it. Of course, I would also consider creating an installation in a home if a patron would want that.
The whole room can be seen as one project, or as many projects filling one space. I recently had a successful show at the Catamount Arts Center in St. Johnsbury using this method, which is illustrated in one of the pictures that is on the CD. This can give you an example of what happens when I combine the different mediums that I work with. It is an installation, an event, a show, a circus, or maybe a family reunion! I will create it with positive energy and it will be exciting and different.
My idea to show people looking up at art under skies is to illustrate that life here on earth is ephemeral or transient yet it is perpetual and everlasting because we know how to keep records. The sky is always moving. Life is always changing and ideas are forming Here in this room would be a quick glimpse of moving things chronicled as I perceive them to be in this particular family, captured and sitting quite still on the walls. Snapshots of life. It would be a fun show and I would be happy to do it at the MAC.
Monday's child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace,
Wednesday's child is full of woe,
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is fair and wise and good in every way.
I can't remember what day of the week I was born on, but it was my Father's birthday
I take photographs because I do not paint realistically. But my paintings are not really abstract because they all tell a story which you can plainly see within them. The books are a longer story, dealing with the same subject. I am doing Lux, which is about the falseness of rich people and how they think that because they wear a certain brand or pay mega bucks for a suit or shoes that they are better than anyone else. Why does that make them better? Anyone can spend money, it’s easy, it’s easier than learning to read or add or converse intelligently with others. It’s spending money, duh. Because they have more to spend, makes people think that they are better than others. Lux.
Passport is just a nice travel journal. Travel to other places, not even real. Why not?
Written for the New Arts Program catalog of Salon Exhibition of Small Works
When James asked me to write something for the 2007 Invitational Salon Exhibition of Small Works show at the New Arts Program space in Kutztown, I was flattered. Immediately I had an idea. I should have written it down then because now, ten months and a million things later, it’s not there. So I sit watching the snowfall on the first day of Spring here in Vermont thinking about what to me is the most exciting art show in the United States. It is not unlike the snowflakes swirling around, each one different, each artist different, beautiful, like snow. When the snow blankets the landscape, the world is at peace for a moment. When you walk into the Small Works show, you are in that world of a cloud, a space where you can loose yourself in the immediate surroundings. The art on the walls seeps into your eyes. You can’t stop looking at those intellectual decisions the artists have made. You ponder as to why this piece and not another. Time stands still, and an hour goes by. The snow is getting deep.
Time does go by quickly. This is the 18th year that James has invited artists from all over the country. I have had the honor to show in all 18 shows. My son is going to be 18, so I must have been pregnant at that first opening. And what openings! It’s very hard to see all of the art if you are there to see it on opening night. The works, hung salon style, and the people create an artwork of their own. It’s like being in a subway at rush hour and trying to read the map. Standing back, it’s a wonderful sight. Artists trying to find their work, wondering if it’s hung high, or low, who’s piece is next to theirs, people reading the program, trying to find just who did #55 and then going “OHHHH, yeah”, people meeting old friends and then going around back into Jame’s personal studio for refreshments.
This is the show to be in. I have said that it’s the best show in Berks County because it offers glimpses into the artists concentrated thoughts. There are usually over 100 pieces less than 200 square inches. I’m not sure how many of these artists usually work small, but I would imagine that not many of them do. That’s why this show is unique. I see it as one would look at a map, then zero in on a detail of where they are going; a blow up of an area to be explored further. Traditionally small sketches were done before a painting was made, but I don’t think that this show is about that. This show is about “Little Honeys”, those pieces of art that come from deep within an artist when they aren’t trying hard to make an artwork.
There is a difference between the conscious and unconscious creation of art. For any artist to be real, they must reach this point in themselves. If a person sets out to create a piece without soul, then that piece will come across as just that, a cold, dry and usually worthless thing to look at. Actually, creating within a given (size limitation in this show’s case) could be an artist’s nightmare. Who is it who gives orders to an artist? Fortunately, those artists who can’t accept the size limitation don’t have to hang work. Therefore, Jame’s criteria works. The salon style hanging of these little gems works. The art looks like fun, not work. This show works. This show is filled with art works that work. It is a must see for those who do art work.
Like the snowflakes outside piling up creating a most wonderful and beautiful environment, The New Arts Program Exhibition of Small Works is an aesthetically pleasing event that is worth showing in and looking at. Thanks James for creating this blizzard of art that we don’t have to shovel.
These portraits of people are endless. Every time I get a new paper, I see another face. Sometimes the image is created by a random paint drip, and others by who was painted before. This is a family tree, so people have similarities and they are visible. I can’t wait to see them all together, maybe I said this before.
So last night I had a really cool dream. As usual, I was living in NYC in the winter. The place in my dream was owned by my grandparents, but it is not a real place. It has a warm glowing amber light and fancy trim and a safe and mirrors. It is not Malba, but could be from that era. The streets are always leading out of NYC in my dream and I get lost going back into the city but quickly find my way. This time, I was looking for a new place to live because the apartment was too small for us-Brian and me. I walked around the streets and came to a corner where the sidewalk was whiter and there were more trees, as if I stepped away from the city while still in the city, which is what I wanted. I walked along the sidewalk and was looking for “For Sale” signs. I spied a small one at the base of a hill where there was a lone brick house at the top. It was definitely a “stock” image of a brick house on a hill but something was wrong with it, as if it were slightly askew or so out of place that it was unbelievable. It was tall, maybe three stories, but boxy and square. The path led up and no one was blocking the walk so I went up the sidewalk and entered the house, with no problem.
Inside was a lobby and a shop selling lots of neat glass bracelets and other things that I didn’t need, nor even thought were cool. Besides, I wanted to go and look at the house. The person in the store did not look up. The interior of the house was that pine siding, like at Roy’s house, but not nearly as nice. There were no stand out features of this lobby, just a white door with a simple knob which I let myself into, without even asking the woman in the store/booth. The store was like a subway token booth, enclosed.
When I went into the door, there was a living room with couches, none of this was big, it was a compact space, but very perfect for me, and I wanted to buy it and live there. In my head I was calculating how much money they may want (millions, as it was still in NYC) and how much I had (not very much). I looked into another room and there were two beds, kind of foot to foot with one person laying in the one closer to the windows, which were draped. There were fancy quilts on the beds and the person looked very old and skinny through the quilt on top of him. It was an old man.
I thought I better get friendly with the woman, but how, so I turned to go out the door again to ask her. She was not willing to speak to me at first but decided that I was not kidding her when I wanted to see more of the place. She acted very remote, almost that feeling you get when you don’t speak the same language and the other person has just given up even trying to understand your jesters and sign language. I think it was because I because I was not interested in buying any of the stuff in her store/booth that was within the lobby part of the house. The doors that I opened were behind the lobby, at the back of the house.
Finally she decided to talk to me, and told me that this place was her parents but she did not say if they were alive or not. She then said a very interesting thing, that the place had many many people living in it and that they were ghosts. I got scared, very scared, to the point of not being able to speak, the classic dream thing, where you can’t run or talk at the scary part. We walked into the living area and she was showing me the sofas and books and I was looking for anything interesting even though I was still scared speechless. At that moment, a woman dressed in 1940’s style, hat and all, came out of another door, that I hadn’t noticed to the right. She had some friends with her and was not threatening. She spoke to the woman who lived in the house and then paraded through to the lobby. I just thought that these women were people in the house and going out to the shop, but then she said that they were just some of the ghosts who were in the house. They were harmless, yet present always.
That was weird to me, however, I was not scared anymore. I continued to look around on my own because the woman was then preoccupied with going to the bedroom and taking care of her parents. The house was dark, dusty but had great potential as my kind of a living space. It had views of the city because it was on this hill, a high hill with nothing else built around it. I could see the river below and the streets, it was like flying high above the city, and it was winter so everything was gray and white with the steam from smokestacks wishing above the buildings.
I was still in the living room when the woman went into the back bedroom. The next thing I know is that an old man is walking into the living room. I thought that he must be the man from the bed. He was skeletal but harmless. He was followed by a woman who I assumed to be the woman in the other bed. They were both dressed in sleeping things, old long johns old nightgown, weird socks. I never knew if they were ghosts or not. The woman didn’t tell me and they did not speak to me.
Meanwhile, there were lots of other people in the room with me. They were all ghosts. I had never seen so many ghosts in one place and it was very cool. By then I was not scared and some of them even started to speak about themselves, although they were walking through, so it was not as if I had a real conversation with any of them. I then went to a hallway to the left of the bedroom, through a door and it was an extension built onto the side of the boxy square house. It was a hall of wooden doors, like that at a bath house, each one being a stall to change in. Each door had a brass number on it and I could see that it was probably bought from an old estate and installed at this house. There was no reason that changing rooms should be in a house like this except for a visual effect. It really didn’t make much sense because they weren’t really good closets, being very opened. I wanted to look inside one, but I didn’t want to make noise and attract the woman’s attention. She was not the friendliest person, but she was selling this place. I thought that maybe she didn’t even want to sell it. There were no ghosts in this part of the house. There was a big window at the end of the hall and these stalls that again overlooked a beautiful river, maybe the Hudson, which was frozen.
The woman went back to the lobby/store and I was left alone in the house for a few more minutes. There were still ghost people all around and I wondered if I could really live with that many people in a house with me. I went back out to the lobby to see what her store was really all about and then I noticed that I had missed it being a balconied lobby. There were two men at the balcony above her store and one was talking about being very sad and wanting to jump to his death because I didn’t love him. I didn’t even know him, but he looked like a ghost so I talked to him as if I did. I told him that it wasn’t worth dying for me and that there were many other people more worthy of his love. His friend said that it was too late to talk him out of it. They were in a corner in hazy white uniforms, very old fashioned, not of any era I knew, maybe even Napolianic, standing next to a tall shrubbery. The balcony was painted white with vines, as a set for a play.
I left these two fellows to go talk with the woman at the store. She showed me some elaborate beaded cuffs and other things that made no sense to me. I told her that I was interested in buying the place but in the dream, it never really happened because I left and went down the hill to meet Brian at a beach. The sun was setting and he was standing at the edge of the ocean. His hair was very silvery and he didn’t have shoes on. He was mad at me for some reason, I don’t think it was because of the house. I think it was because I made him go to this ocean resort that he didn’t like because he hates to swim and hates the sunshine. In the end, I was mad and threw a pair of shoes at him.
That was all there was to this dream. I loved that house and wish that I could own a place like that. The ghosts were so real, all dressed in period clothing, as if they stepped out of all the photographs that I have ever seen of people in the past. I don’t understand why I threw shoes, I wonder if it means anything.
Today as I was sitting in the gym waiting for the next class, I realized that I would like to own a building with a gym in it, not for exercise, but for the wonderful sized walls. Across from me were 5 or 6 panels that were the right size for the large paintings that I love to paint. The only reason that I don’t paint that size is because I don't have a wall that big and tall. To have 5 of them would be so good. I could work on large paintings as I work on my enamel paintings, which is at least 5 or 6 at a time. So now I think I will try to find an old building with a gym sized room. Can you imagine that? I can. I would make books in one end, enamels in one end, sculptures on one end, and even have a jewelry in another.
I look at my studio as a womb. I love going to it. The energy is positive and it is the only place in the house that makes me feel this way.
When I run, I think of things to do.
If I paint a self portrait, I will name it Conundrum. It depicts almost all the places that I have lived, with the exception of Hillside Lake, because it just didn’t fit anywhere. I may remedy this. The maps just worked out perfectly, the bottom is where I am at now and the brain is Pennsylvania, where I am usually in my mind. I am very torn and will probably be this way for the rest of my life.
I love both places for different reasons. I will not list the reasons at this point because that would be useless.
So I live with the fact that I will love both places and just drive a lot between the two places.
But, if I won the lottery or sold my house, I would probably move back for these reasons: To be near my grandson Clint, to be near my sisters, to be near my dad and Barbara who need me, to be near Johnny, to be near New York City and Philadelphia, to be near Annemarie, to help these people who are always helping me, to be near people who are not as retarded as they are up here and to be near my properties. And one more, to be warmer.
Now, weeks later, I am at lakeside, working a 12 hour shift. When boats come, my job is to inspect them for invasive species such as milfoil, spiny water fleas, water chestnut, asian clams, Hydrilla, zebra muscles or fernwort. I have found cob webs and grass because many boats so far are first launches. I love this job because it allows me 12 hours in nature, rain or shine, most of them just observing the water, clouds, loons, other birds and mountains of green. The best thing about this place is that I am alone with no phone nor internet to distract me. I bring my crate of supplies and try to paint all day. It’s plain air painting at it’s best.
Today as I was working I was thinking that drawing or painting is like writing, My brain thinks of scenarios and instead of writing words, I pick my colors to express the images my brain sees. Sometimes I have to work in my car because it is too cool or rainy or windy, but I prefer bringing everything out onto the deck of the little shack that is there. I find it curious that few if any people ever ask me about my work. They see me doing it, but maybe don’t know what to say or hate it so much that they don’t want to say. If kids are here, they come and look and like it and some ask questions.
These works that I do here are un-themed, just paintings for painting sake. As usual, I am working on a numbered set, a series of incidents in my life that I won’t elaborate on. Maybe some reviewer will guess. I often think that I would love to show my work but am always at a loss of how to go about getting my stuff out there. Being in Newport, dumbass place Vermont, is not a great venue, but I will stay here until at least my show at the MAC
So I’m running and I get this idea to collect 50 stones and color each of them with a different color nail polish, since I have about 50 colors. I will name this piece 50 Different Shades that Are Not Grey. I get back to reading Words Without Music by Philip Glass and what does he write about, but his girlfriend Candy Bergen who collected 50 rocks and framed them. Dang. What is it with my brain channeling stuff? Well, it isn’t as if I never had a series using rocks…going back to the small stuff show at NAP. I am still doing it.
I will call it avant guard maximalism.
I had a dream about Phil Glass, actually, I had two. The first was the night before the concert. I dreamt that had prepared lots of questions and he was interested in hearing them. I can’t remember this dream as well, but it was positive and helped me relax about meeting him. The next dream happened after the reception. The reality of the evening was that it was hard to get a moment alone with Phil because of the crowd and his status. I literally ran into him at the President’s house. He was standing with Joe Egan so I went right up and started to talk to him. We kind of had a good conversation going but he was being led around the room by his handlers. I told him about Rhuel Denny and my father and mother. He loved that story. He was laughing hard and he asked me questions and was starting to tell me a story, but again, the handlers and everyone wanted a part of him. Plus he had to go warm up and may have been late. I gave him the book that was written by a man who interviewed Bethlehem Steel workers about he demise of BS. Phil said he worked in the Sparrow Point plant, which did go out of business. He loved the book. People kept thrusting books into his hands to sign, but I was the only one who had read it! That’s how I knew about Sparrow Point. I had a million questions. Anyway, after the concert, we just didn’t have enough time to talk much. I ended up taking lots of pictures for other people, but didn’t even get one with me and him in it.
That night, I dreamt that our conversation was continuing in this crowd situation. As Phil got up to leave, he kind of summoned me, who was just there, to follow him behind this wall/corner. He was wearing brown shoes and slacks. The grass was green and wet. Phil told me that he was going to be re-doing Koyanisquatsi and that he would meet with me on June 27th to discuss the cover, which he wanted me to design. It was so real, in my dream I did a calculation and thought, well, June is far away, I hope he remembers, but he will. Phil Glass doesn’t just say things he doesn’t mean. Very cool dream. Before that segment, I dreamt about pouring rain flooding the field and putting my face in it. In reality, it poured rain so hard that day that the Yoder’s pool overflowed. What a life.
from Jim Clark;
"An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose."
I keep thinking of a statement but can’t think of anything except when I run, so maybe I should take a tape recorder with.
Ancestors…Going Way Back
Within this intimate space you will find over 100 pieces of work all completed within the last two years. They represent an ongoing study that I am pursuing dealing with humans; human history, humans and nature, humans and beauty, humans and ugly, yes, life. Having been an observer for over 60 years and a chronicler for about 55, I greet each day with enthusiasm and hope that I can see and learn something new. I transpose these visions/enlightenments into colorful vignettes which will eventually become a larger tale. The one you see here at the MAC is one of those books. I know that to some viewers this could be a bombardment of senses, overwhelming or difficult. It is not my wish to offend, we are humans with opinions. You may leave, it’s your choice. However, I may plead with you to stay, take a closer look, close your eyes and open them again. Take time to think about life and how it’s interesting from different angles. All my images come from life. This is my reality. Thank you for letting me share it with you.
Thinks and things that make you ponder
These words were from the show I had at the Catamount Arts in St. Johnsbury, VT called:
Curiosity-Then and Now: Paintings and Ephemera
Welcome to my show. It has been many years since I have taken the time to put my art work together on a wall, in a space, with some deliberation knowing full well that it will be visualized, scrutinized and maybe politicized (hopefully not) by the ever well, or not well meaning public.
First of all, I just want you to enjoy looking. I work with color, you can readily tell. At one time, I never used black or brown, but then I thought that they were colors also, so I tried. Mostly, I use rainbows and sparkles, glitter and shine. I try to bring dreams to the conscious world because dreams are real, aren’t they?
There is a narrow thread between reality and promise. The moment you realize. This is the moment you know. The double meanings, subtle hints, erotic questions. Those velvet torches floating through a landscape too briefly. Images behind two closed eyes, carried around in a head, firmly planted on a neck. They must be realized by the artist.
I want to soar, to never feel pain, to create my subconscious, to remember it all, to put it down somehow. I’m not sure why I want to share it, but the opportunity came along and I went with it. Real unreality. Unreal reality. Artists are ego.
You may see my work and think, “A child could paint like that.” Look again. I attempt to recall the direct simplicity and freedom of children not yet corrupted by a society telling them how something should be drawn or what color to use or what’s in style or matches the wallpaper. Children are innocent; these paintings should not be because I am much too old. Somehow, luckily, I haven’t forgotten about that innocence.
I strive for the raw, unfinished edge because too much art these days is gimmicky, slick, computerized, homogenized, pre-packaged, predictable, corporate schlock, likeable by millions. I’m not really interested in those votes of confidence. Life is too short and dreams can’t be stopped.
However, dreams can be recalled, shared interpreted, dissected and put aside. They are a renewable resource. My paintings are a physicalization of my dreams, my fantasies, my stories, my history, my poetry. By allowing them to hang here in this space, if only for one cold month of February, I am allowing you a forensic visualization of what’s inside my head.
Please come in and wander awhile. I’d be happy to see you smile.
Paintings: The seven paintings in this room have been done over a span of 31 years. The largest, Little Bull on a Plaid Ice Floe at Easter, is the oldest and is one of a series of paintings that I did in my little apartment on E. 11th St. in Manhattan dealing with UFOs. I look at my paintings as large drawings and whenever a gallery owner would ask me if I had sketches for my work, I would have to say, “No, I don’t work that way.” I paint directly on the canvas, no sketching, just working the paint and color until it tells a story. Of course, I have an initial idea in my head, a poem that I wanted to illustrate, a dream to bring forward or just a vision that I had while talking to someone or walking to work. I am curious about many things and it comes out in my work.
The viewer must notice that I have a central character who is orange and has a lizardy look. He is a walk in. Someone who takes over after death, but in a good way. The person who gets “walked into” becomes a vehicle for the original soul. So, if you never played the guitar and maybe somebody who did dies and walks into you, you will suddenly play a guitar. This is just a theory and a fictional character who shows up in my work. The other people around the room are just everyday people as seen by me in my travels.
I use imagery from alchemy, some biblical, some Pennsylvania Dutch and some just from what paint does when it mixes with other paint. I take a lot of stock mental images from nature, which is why I think I ended up in Vermont. The part of Pa. where I am from was beautiful until developers raped it and the long views were broken up by ugly tract houses and condos. Here in Vermont there is still a semblance of wilderness. There is clean air and water. Everyday, no matter whether if it’s in Burlington, Newport or Island Pond, the landscape sings. It is stimulating to me as an intense visual person.
I paint on unstretched canvas because it is very easy to store. It is also easy to paint on, I simply staple it to the wall, gesso it and paint. There is no stretcher to have to build, no frame to buy. If someone wants one in his or her space, I can install it with a custom frame, usually made of painted canvas or fabric. I would not want it to be stretched because the rough edges are important and the story goes to the edge. In this show, the smaller work compliments and tickles the larger stuff, so there is no need to put a boundary around them. I like to think of it as a huge quilt or set. A kaleidoscope of color.
Ephemera: These little things are like icing on a cake. Pretty on the first day, but funky later, when the good stuff soaks into the cake. The little bits and pieces in Alien Lunches are only important until they are eaten. They are nice to look at and are presented well, but poof, they could be gone. Christmas is Over is like that too. Pretty for the season, but then gone except for a few needles or hooks that fall into places that you have vacuumed many times. Fortunately, my ephemera are made out of plastic and glass and will stick around a bit longer than a Christmas tree. Maybe I should have named them Permanents, but they aren’t. They are like fleeting thoughts, the ones that go into the details of the larger paintings. Also included in the ephemera are very old life drawings, done when I was in college. Everyone else would be using a charcoal stick and pencil, and there I was using cellophane, fingernail polish, thread and needle, paper clips and anything else that was not traditional. I had excellent models and even more excellent professors and feel that I was very lucky to be there. I love the feel, the smell, the texture and to physically apply paint, which is why I feel old fashioned in this day and age.
By using enamel paint on paper, I can create a rubber like painting. In many of the books that I make, this texture is crucial to the overall assemblage of the story. My Pa. Dutch hex sign painter friends taught me about enamels and I only use the best. However, the best has been compromised in the recent years due to the removal of lead. I guess we all have to be healthier and live with vivid cadmiums of the past.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and look at my art. I’m sure that many questions can be raised. Artists can talk for hours about the why, what, when and how of their work, but I would rather take the time and find something new to learn. I like spontaneity. I like harmony, but feel that the energy that comes from an argument or debate is important also. Nature is volatile and exciting. Art is like the maelstrom shown in the lower right corner of Little Bull, swirling waters taking the everyday things along with waves of color into the unknown.
This show for me is like theater. You can look at it as a whole, or pick little parts to savor. This display can be overwhelming at times, as if the singer has an imperially loud but beautiful voice, as well as calming when intricate harmonies weave the lead voice into songs and stories. As humans, we were given the ability to become artists. It is something that if you are an artist, you can’t suppress. I am glad to be able to present my works and myself to you and appreciate the dialog that it may bring.
I would like to dedicate this show to two very important educators. First, Fred Keller, who taught and shared the joy of drawing humans and second, my father, Harry Eshleman who has passed his magic on to me so I may pass it to others. I would also like to thank my children, Roy, Jane and Harry and my third husband, Brian McCrae, all wonderfully talented artists.
Art has been evolving for over a million years. My work has been evolving for over 50 years now. I have had visions, ideas, colors, words, music, in my brain as long as I can remember. I learned to express these concepts at a very young age and have processed them into visible (or audible) vehicles that can be seen by the public. I have always been interested in the interpretations of what people say, but continue to channel along my own stream. This can be a smooth ride or like swimming against the current, which to me is more exciting and invigorating.
I work with much different media; acrylic on canvas, enamel paint on paper, sculpy, cement, nail polish, plastic wood, glass, fabric, yarn, metal, blood, hair, gold, oil paint, leaves, thread, stickers, glue, tape and so on. I also have been using glow-in-the-dark powders and pigments since before they were safe. When the lights go off, a new story emerges. I rarely tell people this, maybe I ought to, but I like people to discover things within my shows for themselves. I also like the idea of word of mouth spreading this “discovery” to others.
Over the years, I cannot and will not be satisfied by showing ONE FRAMED PAINTING. To me, it is not enough. I must do more. I must over do. I must do over. I am a maximalist. As a “prolific” worker, I enjoy putting the pieces that I make together in one cohesive event. By doing this, I give the viewer many chances of seeing something that they may not have seen at first glance, which to me, is exciting. Ah ha! There is more than meets the eye. There is always more that meets the eye, just take a better look. Each drawing, each painting, each item that I make is meant to pique the viewers imagination. I want the spectator to think of something different, something divergent, something novel. I like to think of it as entertainment for the mind. But I am serious in my creations, art is not a joke, it is a dialog or a continuation of a conversation.
I use dreams as well as realities for my subjects. My work is colorful, sparkly, unique, childish and ancient, hated and loved. I like to float, sink, mix and match. I wish to share this experience with anyone who dares look in on it. I am hoping to incite lively discussion with those who find the need to express in words what I achieve with paintings.
Copyright 2016 Lisa Eshleman Foster. All Rights Reserved.
No reproductions of any kind without permission from the artist.
Putting work up in a public place is a daring act because it immediately invites comments. I always am thinking of what to say about my work. I will try to interview myself:
Why do my paintings include people?
People are very interesting to look at and are very beautiful and different. I like relationships between people. I’m not going to write a book about it.
What is with all the weird things you use (chains, beads, paint skins, maps etc. etc.)?
These are everyday objects that would be with a person anyway. However, I use maps because they represent places that the person may have enjoyed. Maps are also a direction and are very very beautiful drawings in themselves. Maps are travel. Chains are something that binds, or continues. Glass is transparent and gives the world a different dimension. Paint skims, well, I don’t like to waste any part of the paint. They are inspirational in the start of a painting. Sometimes I build a face around one.
Why do you use zippers?
Zippers hide things, and reveal things. Objects within a painting make them more interesting and I always thought that the term 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional when it came to art was a misnomer. My paintings are there, they are 3 D because they are thick or not a photograph. Photography is more 2D because it’s flat. I take many many photographs and am very good at it. I don’t find photo realism interesting.
Where do you get your ideas?
In my head. I have a parallel universe inside my skull. Luckily it does not manifest itself as "crazy." I can not control these ideas and just seeing a certain color or shape or object makes me think of something that I would like to paint. I also have many many more ideas that I don't put to paper or canvas and ultimately forget. I also look at nature, read books and listen to music. I believe all creative people have this space in the brain. There are so many things that I can't do with my brain because of this creativity.
I always feel as if I must defend myself because I don’t paint realistically or “pretty” pictures. The gallery wants me to send some pictures in for them to judge before they hang them. This means that I have to frame at least 10 for this selection. I never have enough money to frame my art and I don’t really like framed work. The glass over a painting or drawing makes too many reflections. I do know that it is there to protect fragile work. I understand that, but then again, does it matter if something disintegrates? So, as I am “framing” my drawings, I am thinking, these may not be accepted because they are so weird. Then I think about acceptance and wonder who these people are that I want to accept something that I have put upon paper in my spare time. I make it to be seen, but does anyone really want to look at it? It certainly is no like anything else in this gallery, not by a long shot.
The way I am framing these drawings that I did at the lake last summer 2014, is to mount them on mirrors that have a gold frame. I paint the mirror with a transparent glass paint so that the mirror is not too much of a distraction. On those paintings that I need the viewer to see themselves, I won’t paint the mirror. Then I mount the picture onto of the mirror. I like it. Looks good.
What makes one painting better than another? That is hard to answer. For me, it’s within the composition. The paint, the story it’s telling. Of all the paintings at the MAC, there is a little one that I saw in the basement with masks and unusual things in an even more unusual setting. That was my favorite piece in the entire place. Most of the other work is just more of the same landscapes, poorly rendered people and not much controversial art. Mr. Yellow, who I always think should be called Mr. Purple’s work stands out because he uses sharp colors. Some of the winter landscapes in the gallery are awesome, because the artist captures how it is in the woods, but these are rare and I know people from school who paint like this. They take after the impressionists. Nice, but…
As an artist, I must support all people who do art because it is so rapidly disappearing from our culture. Not many people have the patience to sit with paints anymore. Not many people have a creative mind, most minds have been ruined by electronic media. I find this true for myself. I spend way too much time on Facebook looking at other people’s posts and pictures when I should be thinking, reading, gardening, exercising or just in my own studio creating something. I remember what it was like before all social media and computers, cell phones and even answering machines. I see why people love it, because it is lovable to get pictures of a new baby daily or to Skype someone who lives far away. But it is a waste of time. So, I have trained myself to go to my studio, and I did this years ago, instead of computer time, it was TV time. My mother discouraged us from watching TV, I do not really like it because there are too many commercials and I NEVER buy anything that I see advertised. Never have and never will. I like going to my studio. It's warm and it's mine.
When I was a teaching music the other day I realized that kids don’t really have lost the ability to be free. I rolled out a big sheet of paper and asked them to listen to the music and draw the images that were inspired by the music. I asked them to close their eyes as I played music from Beethoven. ( I did give them a background on B- some had heard of him! and others thought it was a Dog Movie) I asked them what it reminded them of, some said video games, others cartoons, and some identified the instruments. These were 4th graders. I was sad that not one said that they were inspired to draw something that was something unknown. I game them the markers and put the various songs, all by Beethoven. They got to work, but as usual, some were done in 5 minutes. I did not let them be finished, but three or four boys decided to act out and walk over the big paper and throw markers. The saddest part was the fact that the kids really didn’t know how to listen nor let themselves go into the music. I have been thinking about that for days. How could we get the students to get to the point where they can let their imaginations go, being influenced by music. I will say that about 85% of the kids got into it. The result was a large banner that got cut apart. I also got down on the floor and worked with them. Mostly they didn’t want to listen. They couldn’t stop talking and the music was not even heard.
When I did this with the 1st grade class they were much more receptive. I played Flight of the Bumble Bee and they really got into it although their drawings were not really creative either and they used lots of symbols from what I guess were video games.
Joe Egan always had a problem with me using the word, avant guard primitivism. It’s the only way I can describe my work. New, but very primitive. Not modernism, not conceptualism, not minimalism, not abstractive, maybe expressionism, but not really, isn’t all art expressive? The artist is expressing something or else there would be not painting, right? Avant guard is of the day. Primitive people are kind of un sophisticated, which is what I think my work is.
People who look at my work should spend at least 5 minutes in front of any one to see what it really looks like. People who look at art, should spend that much time in front of anything, unless it is really boring. Hopefully, people won’t think my work is boring, but to some it may be. If they come to see pretty pictures of cows and trees in autumn, then they won’t like what they see.
No reproductions of any kind without permission from the artist.
So I was cleaning my studio, just arranging the paintings, replacing older ones with newer ones and straightening out the storage. I discovered that I have lots of paintings and it’s always refreshing to see the ones that haven’t been seen for a while. My hand is still strong and the ones produced in 1977 can be compared to the pieces finished in 2015. I wonder if the public will ever see this art? I wonder the worth of all this creation. Is it all for naught?
Another thing I thought was that being an artist is very solitary. I go to my studio and put paint on paper, from my imagination. I am working on a series of portraits which I call family trees. Each person is related in some way. Each quirk or genetic trait carries from one generation to another. I will be exhibiting these somehow, ideally, on a huge tall wall in a tree form, but I may just have to group them by family.
With all these people around, I am creating an audience for me. They watch me paint the next person in their family, as a portrait artist of the 17th century would do. Is an artist really solitary if they are painting people? It is like being on stage, or creating a stage production, which is a group effort. Of course, these people can’t talk to me, but looking at them does give me ideas for what to do next or how to change or tweak it a bit.