Maryann Lucas is primarily a self-taught artist. Though, she says, “artists like Michael Klein, Dennis Perrin and Ben Fenske offer workshops and I try to study with one of them every year.” The results are always stunning.
See for yourself at the Grenning Gallery at 17 Washington Street in Sag Harbor, where a new show is going up in time for HarborFrost next weekend. “Some of my work will hang in that show.”
What was the inspiration for the piece on this week’s cover?
Winter light and the comforts of home inspired “Tea with Treats.” For me, winter is a restorative time. The short, cold winter days mean I forego painting outside, and hunker down in my studio where I paint directly from life. Winter light is so beautiful. It’s soft and gray and, for me, highlights the shapes of things and celebrates form. So this painting is also about the shapes and forms of a table setting readied to provide warmth and comfort on a cold winter day. Pushing the table up against the window in my studio was done partly for compositional interest, but mostly to have enough light to paint the piece in the dead of winter.
Where on the East End do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. There are times when I’m driving along Long Beach, in any season, when I’m so overcome by the beauty of this place that I could cry. I’m overwhelmed by the weight of the gorgeousness. I think this is basically why I paint. I feel the majesty so strongly that I need to find a way to interact with it more than as just a simple observer. Painting is my vehicle for a heightened experience and relationship with beauty.
How has being primarily self-taught impacted your career?
My understanding is that during the 1970s—when I would have attended art school— the curriculum typically didn’t place much emphasis on classical training and traditional oil painting techniques. Since my interest lies in realism, I don’t think I missed out by not studying art formally back in the day. Life really has a way of working out and, happily, there are a lot of fabulous artists who did train formally at places like The Florence Academy of Art and The Grand Central Atelier with whom I have been able to study. My guess is that if I had graduated from an art school, I wouldn’t be as open as I am to studying with these artists today, and I would be losing out, because every aspect of my work is enhanced with each exposure to new information and ideas.
Where’s the strangest/most unusual place your work has appeared?
A few years ago, I got an email from a teenager who asked permission to use one of my paintings on his band’s CD cover. It was a painting of a woman in a sun hat, looking out at the ocean from her beach chair. I couldn’t imagine what appeal this painting could have to a boy’s band, but I told him he could use it. A few weeks later, he sent me a Photoshopped version of the painting. They had put a sort of fluorescent color over the image and added their band’s name, Tite Fit. Goes to show how you never know what others will see in your work. I thought the painting captured a quiet restful moment for possibly a young mother in need of a little alone time. Clearly not how those boys saw it!
If you could sit down to coffee with any artist from history, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I would want to sit down with Joaquin Sorolla, the master of painting figures in beautiful bright light. Mostly, I would want to pick his brain about the logistics behind his paintings. He painted very large canvases of horses in the water at the ocean—from life! There are photos of him painting at the beach with a little lean-to set up and a giant easel. He’s basically wearing a suit and tie. I would give anything to know how he pulled that off.
For more on Maryann Lucas, visit maryannlucas.com.