Friday, August 13, 2010

Liz Lawliss Jorgensen and Jenifer Palmer-Lacy

"Our job in this lifetime is not to shape ourselves into some ideal we imagine we ought to be, but to find out who we already are and become it.
If we were born to paint, it's our job to become a painter." - Steven Pressfield, The War of Art.

This week's visit takes us first to the beautiful home studio of Liz Lawless Jorgensen.  Jorgensen's studio space is every artist's dream, with a studio space detached from her house, another workspace inside, and a third easel set up outside with a blank, large scale canvas propped upon it, waiting for the next creation.  Jorgensen is a native of the desert.  She lived in Palm Springs and Indian Wells before moving up to Yucca Valley eight years ago.  Jorgensen worked for eighteen years as a graphic designer in the low desert, with clients like Sun World, the Palm Springs Desert Museum (now the Palm Springs Art Museum), country clubs and other corporate clients.  Her experiences as a graphic designer helped her utilize her artistic talents in many different ways, from painting murals, designing ads, logos, and even creating museum shows.  One museum show she designed and created work for was an exhibition about the wind turbines at the Desert Museum in the 90's.   Most of what Liz has learned about drawing and painting she learned on the job, while working as a graphic designer.  She did not study art in school, although she did have one painting class in college that was influential.  While working as a graphic designer and raising her children, Liz did not paint much on her own.  It was in 1996 that she was finally able to do art for art's sake.    

Liz is well traveled, and has a passion for ethnic people and tribal costumes.  She has had a strong connection with Africa ever since childhood.  Even though she has never visited Africa, it is a life-long ambition of hers to travel there.  When she was about four years old, she remembers dreaming that she was sitting on a river bank with her arms crossed in front of her, and as the dream progressed, she realized she was in Africa.
Jorgensen's passion for Africa is evident in her paintings.  The first artwork she remembers doing in Junior High had zebras in it, and she remembers doing pen and ink drawings of other African wildlife.  Now she loves to paint African people.  Her watercolor paintings are skillfully rendered portraits, landscapes and birds.  She carefully researches the costumes and other details, because authenticity is important to her.  Jorgensen's acrylic paintings are vibrant contrasts to the careful detail of her watercolors, where the figure is treated with more freedom and exuberance.  When you look into the faces of the people she paints, Jorgensen wants you to believe you are seeing her, looking through their eyes.

Like many of the artists we have met on this blog, Jorgensen does not limit herself to painting alone.  She also has explored sculpture, and has created a series of carved concrete lizards.  Each lizard is carefully mounted on a rock in the most convincingly lifelike manner.  Jorgensen explained that her family seems to produce two artists every generation.  She knew she was an artist from an early age.  Liz is one person who seems to have succeeded in being who she was meant to be, and her work clearly shows it.   This will be Jorgensen's first year on the Art Tours, and I encourage you to drive the few blocks from Hwy. 62 to have a look.  Jorgensen will be showing the second weekend of the tours.

Our next visit today was to the homestead cabin studio of Jenifer Palmer-Lacy.  Jenifer will also be showing the second weekend of the art tours this year.  In addition to being a painter,  she also makes papel picado, which is Spanish for "cut paper" or "perforated paper."  Cut paper is a traditional Mexican folk art, as well as an ancient art form in China and Japan.  Jenifer cuts the paper by hand with an exacto knife, and most of her cut paper pieces are portraits of people.   The other impressive feature of Palmer-Lacy's papel picado is the size of her pieces.  Not knowing much about papel picado or of Palmer-Lacy's art, I was expecting small, delicate works of cut paper, but she had several pieces that may have been 2 or 3 feet across.  Palmer-Lacy spray paints many of her finished papel picado works, which is also a departure from the traditional art form.  In the traditional Mexican art form of papel picado, the artists would use scissors and fold the paper to cut the designs.  More recently, a hammer and chisel are used to cut tissue paper, and several sheets of tissue may be layered and cut at one time with this technique.  It is a treat to see one artist's own twist on this traditional art form.
In addition to her papel picado, Palmer-Lacy is also a painter, working in acrylic and luminous paints.  (Luminous paints will glow in the dark.)  Her paintings mostly focus on the desert landscape, and are done in plein air.  Palmer-Lacy usually begins her paintings with prisma color pencils.  Once her drawing is complete, she will use water to darken the painting before adding acrylic paint on top.  Jenifer grew up in Houston, Texas, and even though she began her college education in Idaho, she actually did not complete her degree until she was 52 years old.  She earned her BA in art and interdisciplinary studies from Cal State Dominguez Hills, and has gone on to earn her Master's in humanities.  Her house in Joshua Tree, which is not far from her studio, was a gift to herself for completing her degree.  Palmer-Lacy is not a full-time resident of Joshua Tree, but does manage to come out on weekends from the home she shares with her husband, a musician, in Silverlake.

Jenifer currently has a show of her work at the Adult Center in Griffith Park, and it will remain up until the end of August.  For the Art Tours, Palmer-Lacy is planning to have live music in addition to an interactive piece of art.  Visitors will have an opportunity to contribute art of their own to a "Peace" banner made by her son, Charlie.  There is much more to Palmer-Lacy than her art, as I discovered today.  She is an accordion player, and worked as a disc jockey for Pacifica radio in Houston for ten years.  Jenifer is also a newcomer to the art tours.  I am excited to welcome both of these fascinating artists to the Hwy 62 Open Studio Art Tours this year.
written by Karine Swenson

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