Artist Profile: Lola Baltzell and Susan Leskin

Lola Baltzell and Susan Leskin, Opening Reception March 6, 2020,  Galatea Fine Art

Plus One

Broken/Healing

Written By Clare Asch

Upon entering the center gallery at Galatea Fine Art, one is greeted by a richness of visual stimuli. The two-artists sharing the space are Susan Leskin and Lola Baltzell. Leskin works with burnt paper, ink and fluid acrylic paints. Baltzell uses highly textured encaustic paint with an emphasis on surface and visual rhythm. What unites them is an interest in process.

In her artist statement, Baltzell quotes Virginia Wolfe’s To the Lighthouse.  “I am terrified of the blank canvas. Where to begin?” — that was the question at what point to make the first mark? One line placed on the canvas committed her to innumerable risks… .”

Baltzell’s paintings are done in highly textured, bold pigments. She uses bullet casings, dress making tools, dental cleaning tools to create texture in the encaustic paint. She also embeds torn pages from foreign language books that she has picked up on her travels. In New River Train, tiny paper fragments with text on them, peek out from behind the thick encaustic paint. This results in a surface that looks mysterious and alluring. In the center of this painting there is a thickly painted expressive line with round, organic forms growing outward.

Baltzell_From the Shore_1_and_2, encaustic_10 sq inch

Lola Baltzell, From the Shore 1 and 2, encaustic, 10 x 10 in.

Many of Baltzell’s paintings are done in pairs, thus the title of her show, Plus One. From the Shore 1 and From the Shore 2 are one such pair. While both paintings work separately, they are even more powerful together. Baltzell, who is from the Midwest, mentioned her interest in Bluegrass music. The pairing of many of her paintings is like a bluegrass guitar and banjo duet where the two instruments work together to complement and elaborate on the harmony.

Susan Leskin’s title for her show is Broken/Healing. She describes her abstract shapes as being “ambiguous – not quite human, not quite plant or animal, but fully alive… .” In her artwork the organic forms appear to be pulsing with life. Her use of the fluid acrylic paint, burnt paper and ink create a strange alchemy.

Leskin_Susan_BrokenHealing_Mixed Media_36 x 26 inches_2019

Susan Leskin, BrokenHealing, mixed media, 36 x 26 in., 2019

In the piece that gave the title to her exhibition, Broken/Healing, interwoven, organic shapes resemble broken branches. They remind me of branches, because of their color, but they also call to mind the image of hands reaching out in an expressive manner. The shapes look organic and vulnerable, but appear to be morphing into a new configuration that belies their vulnerability.

Another collage, Life in the Bones, is also made up of organic shapes; they appear to be morphing into ambiguous forms that recall hands, plants, sea creatures and birds. This structure floats against a subtly painted sky. The image appears broken, but on the verge of becoming something new. As Leskin notes, “the process of healing may start with desperation, evolve into courage, and gain strength with tenacity. Things (people) are not always restored to their previous configuration. Sometimes they look different. Sometimes they are better.”

Leskin’s atmospheric, linear collages and Baltzell’s brightly colored, rhythmic abstractions, show two very different approaches to life and art making. Their singular vision and personality make for a particularly lively exhibition.

Lola Baltzell, Plus One and Susan Leskin, Broken/Healing March 4 – March 29, 2020. Visit Galatea Fine Art at 460 Harrison Ave, #B-6, Boston, MA 02118, 616-542-1500. Gallery hours: Wednesday – Sunday 12 -5pm and by appointment.

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