(posted on 3 Sep 2011)
Modern Serenity By Dan Shaw
You might call Karen LeSage’s work Abstract Impressionism, for her canvases are explorations and evocations of color, brushstroke and light. She explores and contemplates the rural landscape in a way that is both singular and universal. It is her study of light, form and open space that makes these paintings at once familiar and revelatory.
In the plein air tradition, she begins each painting outdoors- “collecting light”, she says- then returns to her studio where she can approach her subject from a more abstract perspective, working intensely with the colors she's seen and their dialogue with one another. To make sure the paintings remain representational, she will consult her young son, Elijah. "I'll ask him, “what do you see?’ If he says ‘a field’ or ‘mountains’, I know I am within the range. I am interested in minimalism and color-field painting, but want these to be recognizable as landscapes."
The real world informs but does not intrude upon LeSage's work. There is an implicit understanding between the artist and the viewer that she is liberating us from our prosaic way of looking at the world. She presents the serenity of the rural landscape in a modern way--the soul of Henry David Thoreau crossed with the eye of Mark Rothko. These transcendent landscapes are both traditional and avant garde: They are literally and figuratively a breath of fresh air.
Dan Shaw was a founding editor of the The New York Times Sunday “Styles” section, features editor of House & Garden, and deputy editor of HomeStyle and O at Home magazines. He writes for publications that include Elle Décor, Martha Stewart Living, House Beautiful, O: The Oprah Magazine, Real Simple.and Berkshire Living. He regularly writes the “Habitats” column for The New York Times Sunday Real Estate section, and is the co-founder and co-editor of Rural

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

Deborah and Rev. John Carter red dots
KLS with Cathleen O'Halloran. (We're both wearing dresses from her 2006 Spring Collection)
Leone Young with the painting: "Chris Morley's Tamaracks" JD Hotchkiss (a la Tennesee Williams)
KLS with artist Don Bracken The imminently kissable Steve Glassmaster.
KLS and psychotherapist/workshop leader (and good bud!) Wendy Shami
(posted on 23 Aug 2011)
Litchfield County Times May 21, 2009
In Lakeville, Light Moves
Karen LeSage in her Lakeville studio.
Karen LeSage in her Lakeville studio.
"Ethereal" and "mysterious" are words often used to describe Lakeville painter Karen LeSage's compositions. She has been dubbed the Northwest Corner's Coco Chanel and the "It Girl" of regional art. Though she has traded her New York City designer uniform for the more casual attire she wears while painting in her basement studio, Ms. LeSage's creative expression has grown into a unique and delicate take on the New England landscape. The Ober Gallery in Kent is featuring Ms. LeSage's most recent work in a solo show running through June 11.
"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 The Ober Gallery is located in the Village Barns in Kent and can be reached at 860-927-5030 or online at

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.

KLS with Jeff Andrews & Anne Granfield KLS with artist/illustrator Robert Andrew Parker
Rose Carlson, assistant & Laura Reid, gallery director. KLS with some of the best & brightest.
KLS with artist Don Bracken. KLS with collectors.
Young talent.
My folks, who came up from Mystic for the opening- they rock for that! KLS with Rinker Buck, Hartford Courant
KLS & BFF Kimberly Rock KLS with Marilyn Kalish, Vault Gallery.

Parties & Openings

Karen LeSage at the Ober Gallery in Kent

Rob Ober likes to hold his openings on Sunday afternoon, which is why they have such a leisurely quality. Nobody seems to be rushing off to the next activity, so they linger and spend time studying the art. And Karen LeSage‘s abstract impressionist canvases only get more interesting and profound the longer you look at them. They’re on view until June 11.

Rural Intelligence Parties and OpeningsRural Intelligence Parties and Openings
Gallery owner Rob Ober and artist Karen LeSage Karen LeSage is flanked by Anne Granfield and Jeff Andrews.

Rural Intelligence Parties and Openings Rural Intelligence Parties and Openings
Berkshire Botanical Garden trustee Susan Dempsey and Hartford Courant columnist Rinker Buck; Sean McElroy & Noelle LaMuniere, who run McElroy Scenic in Sheffield.

Rural Intelligence Parties and Openings Rural Intelligence Parties and Openings
Kent Alley & Lauren Fiacco; Karl & Laura Munson with
Kimberly Rock of Real Memories.

Rural Intelligence Parties and Openings
Mabel Walker and Gudrun Duntz

Rural Intelligence Parties and Openings Rural Intelligence Parties and Openings
Set designer Chris Pouler and architect Abeth Slotnick; Elijah Stone (LeSage’s son) and Toby Pouler.

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