Monday, October 29, 2012

A Few Minutes with Wisconsin Artist Patricia Lenz

From the first I’ve been a big fan of Patrcia Lenz’s vividly intricate collages and mixed media pictures. In our first meeting I learned that she lives in Northern Wisconsin on the South Shore of Lake Superior, a wonderful setting for being an artist. To say I was impressed with her work is an understatement.

EN: What first attracted you to making art? 
PL: Prosaic: probably coloring books, making paper dolls. Also, my grandfather liked to encourage me to draw pictures using crayon and watercolor. Huge stained glass windows and art (mostly reproductions) on the walls of my rural church and in my elementary school.

EN: The detail in your work is quite impressive. How do you know when to stop? 
PL: I don’t. It’s collage. Huge challenge facing me as I add details which refer in some way to content. Everything that attracts me relates to my intention or inner story. I intend to make a strong, standing alone central image, but as the work progresses and I add more & more images I obscure that visual part. I start the work, I look at it, think about it, see if it’s what I want, and I find myself including so much that the original clear, basic, simple is gone. It becomes dense.

I have been extremely prolific, producing first ceramics, painting, prints, fibers, fabric printing and collage/appliqué, jewelry before I began to concentrate on generating flat collage, appropriated image and photo shop composition. Actually, since I am doing so many things—including time consuming work on developing Superior Council for the Arts programs, much of my work is preceded by pages of notes I take while reading—fiction, essays, weekly New Yorker, New York Times.

What I read factors into what I produce visually. In that sense, it’s narrative. I can’t always explain where ideas came from when images show up in my work. Sometimes your guess is as good as mine.

EN: What is your background? Did you study art in school? 
PL: Art school, yes. In addition to individual workshops, classes, I have undergraduate and graduate art degrees. The primary influence art school had on me was leading me to museums, galleries, art collections—I always feel energized looking at original art that is removed from me by space &/or time. Antiquities fascinate me. I don’t necessarily look for the idea behind what I see, just the images, compostion, colors—overall impact. And that changes. I do love the look of Dutch realist "vanitas" still life paintings, for instance, for the jewel-like color tones and the symbolism. Everything will pass and re-emerge... I don’t do rotting fruit, but I think about it.

EN: Who have been your biggest influences? 
PL: Besides my memories: biggest influences are things I see and store as I travel. I am an avid museum goer—ancient and modern art. I do a lot of drawing for reference, often focusing on one piece or detail. I rarely refer specifically to the drawings and studies in my sketchbooks, but it’s all in the storehouse.

EN: Can you describe your process for making pictures? 
PL: I collect images from photographs I have taken: pre-photo shop, I enlarged and copied images, recombining them with images appropriated from colored print pages. There is always a narrative running through my head as I find images that relate to my intention. I do a lot of selection and discard before I actually start the work. When I have it in my head, I work fast...the results, after combinations are put down, surprise me. Naturally, I see things emerge as the work is put down. When I do a final color print (Giclee on watercolor paper), I work back into it with pastels, paint, pencil, ink.

EN: Where can people see more of your art? 
PL: Art Dock, Blue Lake Gallery, Art In the Alley, Stone’s Throw, Bayfield. And the annual Duluth Art Institute & SCFTA annual Holiday members show and sale.


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