Thank you to everyone who contributed to the success of my Ober Gallery show in Kent, CT- So much goodwill, good people, and some great sales! With much gratitude, KLS
KLS with gallery owner Rob Ober.
Composer Liz O'Neill & actor/producer Bill O'Neill / KLS & artists Clemance Gregory and Sergei Fedorocenko.
Boys' Powwow Ann Hume with Susan Dempsey, international woman of mystery
|Karen LeSage in her Lakeville studio.|
"It feels like the next level of maturity in my creative life," she said. Formerly known as Karen Stone, the artist restored her maiden name in January.
This next chapter is indeed an evolution for her style, which has always been focused on the area's natural terrain. Using oil paints, Ms. LeSage translates the interplay between light and color in marsh reeds, fields of wildflowers and mountain views onto the smooth surface of birch panels or lighter and more texture-rich linen and canvas stretched over the wooden frame. She finds her subjects as she travels around Litchfield County, the Berkshires and the close-by New York pastures, searching for that certain, idyllic piece of time when a view is, in her words, "having its moment."
Like the one weighted instant when a flower blooms, bursting open for the first time, Ms. LeSage's pieces expose the same glow in those reeds and trees. Seizing upon that momentary flash, essentially an intense natural color illuminated by sunrise or twilight, lends the paintings a gossamer quality. The color palette, brushed on in sometimes raised strokes, blends in such a way that it seems one shade gently merges into another.
"I'm very drawn to minimalism and have the temptation to do abstract," Ms. LeSage said, referring to the contrast between the new pieces and her earlier, more realistic work. "I think that we're all craving simplicity in our busy lives, so in these compositions I was able to explore that."
In earlier paintings, trees were actual trees, painted more or less as they appear to the human eye. In the new work, trees are the softly blurred impression of what the eye sees. The artist will often return to the same spot throughout the seasons, investigating the seasonal changes. Ms. LeSage paints outside first, before returning to her home studio where she reworks a piece on a larger scale. While the second version does not vary in color or basic structure-examples of the pairings can be seen at the Ober Gallery-the central theme of simplification is more clearly articulated.
"I feel like I'm collecting light and color and bringing them back to my studio to play with," Ms. LeSage said.
The cool basement space, purposefully kept sparse, is both her studio and her son Elijah's music rehearsal room. Off to the side stands Ms. LeSage's old Pearl drum set from her days of playing in bands in New York City. During her painting process, one piece hangs on the white-washed walls near a table covered in tubes, brushes and palettes, framed by a window on the opposite wall.
There is another studio upstairs for a separate vein of Ms. LeSage's creative work. Seated at her Singer sewing machine in front of a bay window overlooking her bungalow's front yard, she creates custom-made dresses for her fashion-minded clients.
The design of the summery, garden-party dresses remains basic with variations in the skirt, neckline and detail like a tie at the waist or pockets. However, the fit, achieved through a muslin form matched to the individual woman's form in the European couture tradition, distinguishes Ms. LeSage's products from area boutique offerings. The 1950s and 1960s vintage fabrics also contribute an air of classic style.
Despite her growing success and past accomplishments in the clothing design industry and an instinct that she would work in the arts professionally, Ms. LeSage jokes that she never planned her career as it has unfolded. Born and raised in eastern Connecticut, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Art degree in fine art and couture from Massachusetts College of Art in Boston. Her next move to New York City seemed the logical choice for someone interested in pursuing fashion. Her first job, however, proved to be incompatible with her work habits.
"I missed my scissors," Ms. LeSage explained with a laugh. "My hands had to be on it, because that's how I create."
She found a better medium for her designs in the costuming world, working for the Metropolitan Opera before forming her own business. She created clothing for different spheres of the entertainment world, from television to music, including building an entire wardrobe of costumes for a pop signer's concerts. Ms. LeSage collaborated with stylists, either co-designing or refining an initial idea and then constructing the pieces. She incorporated props and even multi-media aspects.
"I [became] known for being able to make the unusual," she said.
When her son was born in 2002, what had been a weekend activity became a full-time occupation. She left her clothing business, moved to her country home and focused the creative energy into painting. Since her first show at the Hunt Memorial Library in Falls Village, she has participated in group shows and sold out two solo shows. The first, held at John Harney Real Estate offices in Salisbury, benefited the Housatonic Child Care Center, which Ms. LeSage credits as giving her the opportunity to nurture a painting career. The second was held at the Chaiwalla Tea Room in Salisbury.
"I'm as amazed as anyone," she said of her growing following among local and New York City collectors. "I consider myself a student of painting."
When asked about her inspiration, she has several answers and revisions that emerge later in the conversation. The obvious is light and color as they stand out as recurring ideas. Yet, as Ms. LeSage explains, the ideas of light and color are only the tangible "whys," not the "whats." The initial spark evades step-by-step rationalization; rather it's an awareness that simply appears, demanding to be put onto canvas. She said, in fact, that she feels unwell when she is not able to create. She also recognizes the moment of inspiration in her son.
"It's an impulse that's very pure," Ms. LeSage said. "Then it's just a matter of executing it and following up on it."
For more information on Karen LeSage's work, visit the Web site at www.karenlesage.com. The Ober Gallery is located in the Village Barns in Kent and can be reached at 860-927-5030 or online at www.obergallery.com.
Thank you to everyone - over 120 people!- who attended the opening reception in Great Barrington. My heartfelt thanks also to the stellar staff of Sanford Smith Fine Art.