Volume 16 • Issue 20 | October 14 - 20, 2003


Lisa Bean Artist Extraordinary

By Wickham Boyle

Lisa Bean with her artwork at her opening last month at the Cheryl Hazen Art Gallery, 35 North Moore. With her is Lou Sagar, who represents artists.

Tribeca has begun to truly hum with the influx of galleries some featuring cutting edge, very under-exposed work. Cheryl Hazen Arts has historically mounted credible, often gorgeous shows, and frequently focuses on women’s work, a rare event in the New York art world.

The current show, running through October 16 at the gallery at 35 North Moore St., is a young painter who brings a wild world to the forefront on sixteen dazzling canvases. Lisa Bean is a super chic, sleek beauty who is part Cherokee, part African American and a very devoted follower of Judaism. Bean is a mother, a long time wife, lives and paints in the south and comes north for excitement. She is a modern female Jean Michel Basquiate minus the eighties accoutrements.

Bean’s work is politics told in cartoon, laced with collage and decoupage. Her works are so multi-layered that a guided tour by the artist has an almost dizzying effect. Her signature work for the show called ‘Follywood’ features shadowy soldiers over taken by vivid Smurfs punctuated by postage stamps with a dual heading of ‘Birth of A Nation’ and Follywood woven into the canvas.

The painting is done in nursery colors, soft pink and baby blue, but the intent of the work is much darker. The work reveals a broad mix of social messages intermingled with pop icons, gaffiti, sometimes lush color work and figurative painting.

Bean’s work speaks to the beauty and blight of our society equally. She works on as many as five pieces simultaneously.

“I don’t sketch, the paintings start up in my head and then they find their way onto the canvas.”

For instance, she said, the painting with the children’s blocks, ‘Fine and dandy,’ uses words in layers that can be read across or up and down showing that there is so much texture to language and at the same time the words create artistic patterns.

Bean said she had a dream in which Basquiate came to her. After speaking with her you don’t doubt that many people, historic and real, come to her as her work reaches back to the gladiators, slaves, and forward to mothers and children of many generations. Here is the dream according to Bean:

“Basquiate came to me with a spiritual guide, they were traveling. He said: ‘Keep doing this, don’t worry. I have to make some calls. Clean out the studio. Just keep doing this.’ And he left.”

Bean has stayed her course since that dream continuing to use cartoons, layers, words, dollhouse furniture, blocks and sometimes fifteen layers of paint, extra canvas and adornment to create a finished work.

When asked what the most important theme is when a viewer sees the Cabbala, lynchings, child abuse and cartoons all in one painting, Bean doesn’t hesitate.

“The most important thing is the children. Children being safe and well-cared for will always be the thing that informs my work, will be my cause. If we don’t help them we can’t help ourselves.”

Bean’s deft techniques and ability to commingle character with concern renders the paintings uplifting even when the messages are sometimes stark.


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