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 empathetic 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 and later 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 alter 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, The Mask Makers. This work focuses on identity in three ways: the development of childhood identity, how perceptions falsely define a social group, and the use of a literal mask in play.
Bartell lives in Durham, North Carolina with her husband Gary and her dog Dexter.