At the age of thirty three I began to recover memories which altered my perception of who I am and the family in which I grew up. Since this time, my creative work has been inspired by the development and transformation of identity.
My painting process is like a return to my childhood habit of staring at wood grain and discovering odd faces and figures. Recently, I have combined this process with very basic drawings of a central figure combined with writing about my intention. Each painting begins with roughing in the focal point and brushing light and dark hues in various directions creating nebulous forms. Standing back from the canvas begins the search for lines, shapes and forms that connect with the primary character. Imaginary yet recognizable imagery begins to appear. The painting continually transforms through color and brushstrokes, creating an organic and abstract composition. I create texture by scratching through the surface with toothpicks, brush handles and altering the thickness of paint. Childhood symbols are always a part of each painting: windows, crooked houses, ladders and misshapen geometric patterns.
My goal is to create a colorful cast of characters in a performance of their own self-discovery.
“Lisa Bartell’s art work struck me immediately. One cannot easily say why a work stands out as being sensual and why it moves the onlooker in a way that prompts them to say “I just have to have that.” I believe that one’s response to her art is at a visceral level where it is not so much cerebral as it is an attraction at a gut level. Having said that, I believe Lisa’s art is not only beautiful in its own right with color and texture but meaningful as well. It is not literal as just a pretty figure or flower but rather it is more abstract where one assigns meaning based upon what one brings to the work each time you look at it. It is what Bruno Bettelheim said about fairy tales for children. They are meant to be scary on many levels and yet beautifully written to keep us enchanted such as “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Hansel and Gretel”, just two examples. Children take from the story what they need depending upon their developmental age to work out fears and allow for resolutions of their fears when they are ready to do so in their unconscious minds.
So it is with art where one simply responds to a piece in different ways depending upon the day. Lisa’s art is like that. If you want to be simply entertained by just taking in the color, whimsy and texture it is there for you, and if on another day, you may want to interpret the way a particular figure is juxtaposed with another or why a flower is bent so out of shape that it no longer resembles a flower then that is there for you as well. This is the reason that I have been drawn to Lisa’s art. It is both beautiful and intriguing at the same time with nuance that allows her art to endure never getting tired or stale just as the Grimm fairy tales have intrigued young readers, as well as old, for so many years.".
Susan Antaki, Collector
Lisa Bartell lived in Upstate New York for nine years until her family moved to the land of RC Cola, Moon Pies, Jimmy Dean Sausage, the Cotton Carnival, Elvis Presley, the Blues and "Whites only" drinking fountains. The land was Memphis Tennessee. Bartell’s early interaction with southern racism and southern icons, combined with a challenging childhood, gave her a strong empathic and somewhat humorously sarcastic world view.
Bartell was always interested in becoming an artist, attending the Memphis Art Academy as a teenager. She went on to study painting and drawing at Temple Universities’ Tyler School of Art, earned a BFA at Kent State University and an MFA at the University of Memphis. Bartell began her career as a graphic designer and illustrator. She has taught art at the elementary through college level. In 2002 life events compelled her to return to subjective painting.
In her oil paintings, Bartell explores the theme of self-identity and how life events can suddenly transform inner reality making our relationship to the world temporarily illogical. Bartell gives expression to this by painting a cast of odd characters and unknown creatures living in an abstract trans-formative world. They seem to be misfits who defy the norm of what we expect life to be. In her creative world, figures are whimsically elongated and distorted. We are introduced to unknown entities like the "Elephant Frog". Bartell’s paintings have been impacted by Chagall’s fantasy paintings and Modigliani’s African influenced figures. While she gets inspiration from other artists, Bartell decided years ago to avoid an intense study of their technique. “When I look too closely at another artist’s paintings, I lose myself and my intention.” Bartell paints expressively, using bold color, varied brushstrokes and texture. Symbols of childhood are found in all her paintings: windows, ladders, crooked homes and lopsided geometric shapes. Her work is open to interpretation. As one collector stated, “It is not literal as a pretty figure….but rather it is more abstract where one assigns meaning based upon what one brings to the work each time you look at it.”
Bartell is currently working on a series of paintings titled, Living Above the Noise which further focuses on the development of childhood and social identity.
"Lisa Bartell is a f...ing genius!!!"
Hope Alexander, Collector