My Hero: Artist Laurie Lipton

When I came across Laurie Lipton, I was just absolutely blown away by her work. It is rare for me to come across an artist whose technical skills and content are equally brilliant, drenched in my favorite type of macabre loveliness. After spending some wide-eyed time poring through her work, I scream-Tweeted at her in all caps: @laurielipton – YOUR ART IS SO INSPIRING AND AWESOME. I’M IN AWE OF YOUR WORK. JUST SPEECHLESS. THAT’S ALL I CAN SAY. And I fanned her on Facebook. Because that is what fellow artists do when they are star-struck by such juggernauts of talent.

Watch this terrific video of her explaining the reasoning behind some of her pieces – which makes me want to give her a gigantic hug to thank her for “asking the questions rather than answering them”. Her inspiration surfaces through her sense of social responsibility and appropriate outrage towards the media and society which is so delicately expressed in shades of black, white and gray. Her quiet artistic aggression appeals to me as a feminist and her work’s sharp social commentary is nothing short of brilliant. There are artists and then there are smart artists…and Ms. Lipton is a smart one. Her tools of choice are mostly charcoal and pencil on paper for her art but she also has lovely commissioned color pieces. One could spend hours gorging on her gallery drawings – they are like a 7-course gourmet feast of artly awesomeness.

When you are done viewing this clip visit her gallery at God, if I could amass a mere FRACTION of her talent by my life’s end, I would be ecstatic.

According to her website,, she was born in New York and began drawing at the age of  four. She was the first person to  graduate from Carnegie-Mellon University in Pennsylvania with a Fine  Arts Degree in Drawing (with honours).  She has lived in Holland, Belgium, Germany and France and has made  her home in London since 1986. Her work has been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the USA.

Lipton was inspired by the religious paintings of  the Flemish School. She tried to teach herself how to paint  in the style of the 16th century Dutch Masters and failed. When  traveling around Europe as a student, she began  developing her very own peculiar drawing technique building up tone  with thousands of fine cross-hatching lines  like an egg tempera painting. “It’s an insane way to draw”, she  says, “but the resulting  detail and luminosity  is worth the amount of effort. My drawings take longer to create  than a painting of equal size and detail.”

“It was all abstract and conceptual art when I  attended university.  My teachers told me that figurative art went  ‘out’ in the Middle Ages and that I should express myself using  form and shapes, but splashes on canvas and rocks  on the floor bored me. I knew what I wanted: I wanted to create  something no one had ever seen before, something  that was brewing in the back of my brain. I used to sit for hours  in the library copying Durer, Memling,Van Eyck,  Goya and Rembrandt. The photographer, Diane Arbus, was another of  my inspirations. Her use of black and white hit me at the core of my Being. Black and white is the color of ancient  photographs and old TV shows… it is the color  of ghosts, longing, time passing, memory, and madness. Black and white ached. I realized that it was perfect for the  imagery in my work.”

Is There Art in Suffering?

The subject of suffering has been covered by artists, writers, singers, and poets since the beginning of time. The suffering I’m talking about is the basis of masterpiece, the breaker of hearts, and the mover of souls. I believe there is art in suffering, but it’s not the duty of the artist to merely say “look at this suffering”…I think it is equally the co-duty of an artist to help end suffering. To be genuine and truthful in one’s art, I believe the artist should have a meaningful experience in which they closely examine that particular ethos. The suffering of others is more graspable, more deconstructible and more serviceable than our own. As an artist I’m developing a growing hunger for “the transformative experience”. Ironically enough, I wasn’t prone to these overt desires to help others in my community until I (ta da!) left Catholicism. Maybe Jesus Christ, Ghandi, or St. Vincent will analogously tear out of me in an altruistic flurry of chaos – like the chestburster in Aliens – but in a good way. Call it the existential anxiety of a heretical believer, but whether or not these experiences reflect in my own art, the fact is that I’m getting anxious to partake in meaningful encounters that will benefit the less fortunate. As I view the world through the eyes I have now, I think a louder understanding of what matters begins to ring in my ears. Ecclesiastes 1:18 states it well: “For in much wisdom is much grief; and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”

I recently took a step toward quelling this (oxymoronic) “selfish need” and I’m going to shamelessly plug it here. I signed up for The Greater Chicago Food Depository’s 26th Annual Hunger Walk in Chicago. It takes place on Saturday, June 25th, 2011. The Hunger Walk is an annual 5K (3.2 miles) event to raise funds and awareness for the Food Depository’s work in Cook County and network of 650 agencies (food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters). The Food Depository covers the overhead expenses for the event so all funds raised can be divided amongst the agencies to help supplement their budgets or, in some cases, serve as their entire annual budget. This is the largest one-day anti-hunger event in Chicago that brings together all of Cook County.

My fundraising goal is a modest $275 but since I’m kind of a newbie, I see this as the shallow end of the “doing good” pool where I need to step in rather than dive in. So, if you read this and would like to do me (and the hungry others) a solid favor and donate to this great cause, you can do so here.  And thank you = )


Good Cause-Related Resources:


Suffering-Related Resources: