About - Lorraine Lawson

Artist’s Statement

The studio is the magical place where my vision and interpretation of the world take shape. I create abundant, abstract, textural works inspired by the interaction of culture, history, architecture, artifact, travel, and nature.

The wear and tear of the everyday, the breakdown of architecture and place, the evolution of culture, the way water flows through the earth inspire me to capture their essences and create art somewhere between representational and abstract.

With paint and encaustic mediums I explore watering down, thickening up or suspending to ‘disturb’ layers or elements that explore a sense of time, memory, and place. I appropriate and evolve visual symbols, like the African Sankofa to invite lyrical and meaningful ways of expressing life.

The Japanese notion of Wabisabi, embodies the appreciation of honoring that which is broken, and acknowledging time worn surfaces and beauty in imperfection. This concept is key to my practice. My art is the product conveyed by years of observing. My quiet dedication to the exploration of techniques that express my view is tireless.

LORRAINE LAWSON 

By Dewitt Cheng Art Writer, and Curator.


The American visionary painter Albert Pinkham Ryder, famed for his moody, nocturnal seascapes, wrote, “When my father placed a box of colors and brushes in my hands, and I stood before my easel with its square of stretched canvas, I realized that I had in my possession the wherewith to create a masterpiece that would live through the coming ages. The great masters had no more. I at once proceeded to study the works of the great to discover how best to achieve immortality with a square of canvas and a box of colors.” The contemporary art world has become big business, with links to fashion and entertainment as well as its own stock market, with its peculiar boom-and-bust cycles. Investment, of course, will always be part of art collectors’ thinking, but in the digital age it has become too powerful a factor, predominating over expression and aesthetic quality. A pendulum swing toward Ryder’s purity is needed—although not perhaps to the degree that famously unworldly visionary, sleeping on a rug in his dusty, cramped studio amid stacks of paintings.

The Bay Area artist Lorraine Lawson, whose rather more ‘kempt’ studio sits on a leafy street in a semi-industrial part of Campbell, in Silicon Valley, creates abstract paintings that prioritize creative self-expression. Combining the gestural calligraphy of traditional Asian painting, as well as Abstract Expressionism; rich, saturated color palettes that often evoke the California landscape; and collaged elements scavenged from various sources, Lawson’s paintings are indisputably personal—one of her collectors declared, “I see your hand in every piece you do”—despite the influence of “the great,” e.g., painters like Mark Tobey, Richard Diebenkorn and Robert Rauschenberg.

Combining the spirituality and even the poetic/literary quality of Asian calligraphy with the collage aesthetic of Western modernism, Lawson’s paintings capture the welter and confusion of contemporary life while reaffirming its ambiguous and fugitive beauty—fugitive, that is, except through art. ‘Cannery Row”, a recent work in subtle grays (reminiscent of Jasper Johns), comprises four rectangles, seemingly butted together, although painted on one canvas, since each panel could stand on its own, the ensemble resembles a puzzle or a photo album. A Japanese Zen enso (a hand-drawn circle symbolizing enlightenment through non-attachment, the universe and the void) in the largest quadrant is balanced elsewhere by stenciled letters, scribed/drawn chain-link-fence grids, and painterly scraping and scumbling. Lawson’s skillful balancing of shape, color, and texture—what she calls her “organic sense”—makes this ‘centerless’ composition cohere into meaningful unity.

“So Many Rules” has a similarly somber palette of grays and ochres comprising a subtly organic color scheme invoking earth and stone, like the analytic cubism of Picasso and Georges Braque a century ago; composed of vertical bands interspersed with floating letters and words—including DICTIONARY, a sly homage to the artist’s father, whose admonitions are quoted in the title of “Look It Up”—the work synthesizes disparate elements into a painterly depiction of contemporary consciousness, the floating world of media imagery, memories, and the elements of daily life. “If Walls Could Talk” similarly juxtaposes painted enso circles, scribed X or chain-link forms, and old, yellowed 1937 newspaper clippings, including an ad for a San Francisco real estate firm.

Lawson: “When I travel, I collect (mostly discarded) things and save them in my studio until a story ensues … My passion is the urban landscape, time-worn surfaces, the history implied using discarded ephemera. I create stories that leave the viewer embracing life gone by through my sometimes deliberate, but often experimental process.” If some of Lawson’s work resembles scripts and manuscripts, other paintings like “Changes,” “Changes II,” “Pompeii Ruins,” ”Past and Present” and “Stories to Tell” forsake calligraphy and typography for rectangles of radiant color reminiscent of the shimmering, ethereal forms of Mark Rothko, The rich color harmonies and richly weathered fresco-like surfaces might stand as metaphors for persistence through time. Lawson’s Asian-Inspired series like “Black Magic” and Sushi!” pair brilliant color harmonies with ideograms or other borrowings from Asian culture, celebrating the mixture of cultures here on the eastern edge of the Pacific Rim; several works also include adinkra symbols from western Africa, that convey traditional wisdom.

The imprint of personality and temperament that we call style may be considered out of fashion in some artistic circles, with the very idea of individuality seen as outdated, or a fantasy. This profoundly anti-aesthetic position which denies art history (and human culture) has led to the current hostile takeover of art by fashion, marketing and business. However, there seems to be an emerging trend in this age of easy digital reproduction for authenticity, emotion, uniqueness, and commitment — for slow making and slow looking.

In his essay, “Kalliphobia in Contemporary Art; Or, What Ever Happened to Beauty?”, the critic and philosopher Arthur Danto traced contemporary art’s fear of beauty (i.e., kalliphobia) back to the Dada artists of a century ago, who revolted against the corrupt, hypocritical societies that ostensibly worshiped beauty (and duty, and king and country), but had subjected them to the appalling and pointless horrors of the Great War. The great satirist George Grosz, for example, pictured German culture as ”ugly, sick and mendacious.” Contemporary art continues that Dada spirit of revolt, but reflexively, without the ferocity of the Dadaists—and with the approval of an art market addicted to the shock of the new. Superficially absurd art is now accepted ipso facto as meaningful and important; it’s a decadent climate in many ways. One artist recently told The New York Times, that beauty and seriousness are “perhaps the most shocking tactics left to artists these days.” The seriously beautiful paintings of Lorraine Lawson come from struggle and conviction; their hard-won beauty eschews the facile cynicism that has poisoned the art world in recent years. Looking to “the works of the great” as Ryder did, but stubbornly hewing to her own vision and path, inspired by the example of her great-grandfather, Gustave Flasschoen, an esteemed Belgian artist and illustrator, Lawson demonstrates that painting, though hard work, demanding commitment and discipline, is not only still viable, but infinitely renewable.


A Sense of Place

Exhibitions & Awards/Group Shows

Selected Solo & Group Exhibitions

2017

Fall National Juried Exhibition, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, Novato, CA

Artist Alliance Group Exhibit, Oceanside Museum of Art, Oceanside, CA

Altered Book and Book Arts Exhibition, Marin Museum of Contemporary Art, Novato, CA

"Art of the Spirit",  O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

"Dreamscapes",  O'Hanlon Center for the Arts,  Mill Valley,  CA

2016

Solo Exhibit,  "A Sense of Place",  Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA

Solo Exhibit, "Scratching the Surface", Manna Gallery, Oakland, CA

Bay Area Women Artists, O'Hanlon Center for the Arts,  Mill Valley, CA,

"Bold", O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

"Sign of the Times",  O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

2015

Los Gatos Museums Gallery

Annual Member Show, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

Art of the Spirit, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

Delta Gallery of the Arts, Brentwood, CA

Saratoga Rotary Art Show, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA

Los Altos Rotary Art Show, Los Altos, CA Group Exhibit,

“Oscar Night” J'Co's Place, Los Gatos, CA

Group Exhibit, Gallery 85 Vernon Davis Foundation, San Jose, CA

Featured Artist, J Hettinger Design Showroom, Alamo, CA

2014

Statewide Painting Competition, Triton Museum of Art, Santa Clara, CA

Member Show, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

Winner of the Annual Spring Obsession Poster, Ironstone Vineyards, Murphy's CA 

Juried Exhibit, "Red", O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

Discover Art League Open Studios, Brentwood, CA

Allied Artists West Group Exhibit, Town Hall, Los Altos Hills, CA

Saratoga Rotary Art Show, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA

Los Altos Rotary Art Show, “Fine Art in the Park”, Los Altos, CA

Featured Artist, J Hettinger Design Showroom, Alamo, CA 

"Soulful Expressions". Gallery of Dreams, Campbell, CA

Solo Exhibit, "Reflections", Gallery on Second, Brentwood, CA 

"All Figured Out" Juried Group Exhibit, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

"Luminous Worlds" Art of the Spirit, Juried Group Exhibit, O’Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

Spring Obsession Art Show (Open and Themed division) Ironstone Vineyards, Murphy's CA Annual Spring Obsession Poster Award, Ironstone Vineyards, Murphy's CA

2013

Allied Artists West group exhibit Los Altos Hills Town Hall

Saratoga Rotary Art Show, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA

Solo Exhibit, “Discovery”, Sculpterra Winery, Paso Robles, CA

Solo Exhibit, “Elements”, Gallery on Second, Brentwood, CA

“Rethink It” Juried Group Exhibit, Gallery 85 Vernon Davis Foundation, San Jose, CA

2012

Solo Exhibit, “Reflections”, Sugey, Sudwich, and Carney, Los Gatos,CA

Bay Area Women Artists’ Exhibit, O'Hanlon Center for the Arts, Mill Valley, CA

Saratoga Rotary Art Show, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA

"The Journey" Juried Group Exhibit, Gallery 85

Vernon Davis Foundation for the Arts, San Jose, CA Solo Exhibit

“It's My Nature” Granite Rock Design Center, Cupertino, CA

2011

Saratoga Rotary Art Show, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA

Spring Obsession Art Show (Open and Themed division) Ironstone Vineyards, Murphy's CA Solo Exhibit, Marriott Hotel, Santa Clara, CA

Solo Exhibit,” Zen” Avalon Yoga, Palo  Alto, CA

Solo Exhibit, Cinnabar Winery, Saratoga, CA

2010

Triton Museum Annual Artfest Juried Show 2010

“Surface Tension/H20, Bay Area Models Center, Sausalito, CA

Juried Group Show Los Gatos Art Association, ,Los Gatos, CA

 Saratoga Rotary Art Show, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA

“We are Family” San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA

Juried Group Show, Bargetto Winery Stockton, CA

2009

Saratoga Rotary Art Show, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA

Juried Group Show Los Gatos Art Association

Los Gatos Museum Touch My Heart Juried Event , Los Gatos,CA

Triton Museum Annual Artfest Juried Show

Invited artist to render my interpretation of Santa Clara County Poet Laureate Nils Peterson selected poem by the Museums of Los Gatos

Sequoia Art Association Juried Show, Redwood City, CA

Triton Museum Annual Artfest Juried Show

Pacific Art League Juried Show

Artist’s Magazine Annual Art Competition

Saratoga Rotary Art Show, West Valley College, Saratoga, CA

Los Gatos Museum Touch My Heart Juried Event , Los Gatos, CA

Memberships

Los Gatos Art Association

Los Gatos Museum

Allied Artists West

Women's Caucus for the Arts South Bay Area Chapter

Arts Guild of the Delta

Resident artist/mentor for at risk foster youth in Santa Clara County





Copyright 2017 Lorraine Lawson
email: lorrainelawsonfinearts@gmail.com    

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