In the Studio with Lee Gainer, an Interview with Cara Ober

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acrossFromMamaMarias_leeGainer_1_860Across from Mama Maria’s, 2013. Acrylic on Hand-Crafted Cradled Panel.

Lee Gainer is a painter who examines how memories are constructed and recalled. She is part of the studio residency at the Arlington Art Center in Arlington, VA. She also writes the Art Blog called Peek, which has featured a different visual artist every weekday since February, 2008.

Cara Ober: Can you tell me more about the process behind the work in the new exhibit? They are acrylic on canvas, but look like layers of intaglio. HOW do you do it?? What materials do you use? They are very unique looking and that’s rare these days.

Lee Gainer: I have a multi-stepped process that originates from snapshots, digital or actual prints. I digitally convert them into line drawings and, once I have several converted, will resize, cut, paste, and layer them into a new composition (using Photoshop). I print this design out on bond paper and then layer that with carbon paper on my support. I will draw the image to transfer it and then I paint it using acrylics, golden fluid and heavy body mixed, to be specific. I will use different amounts of water and loads on the brush to create various line weights and levels of opacity within the lines. Even though my painting style is controlled, I like to allow the brush to “dance” a bit and to represent the movement of the hand vs. simply tracing a line.

blueberrySyrup_leeGainer_860Blueberry Syrup, 2013. Acrylic on on Hand-Crafted Cradled Panel.

Cara Ober: I am also curious about the subject matter and content of the work — are they based on your own views? Do they depict the passage of time? Do you work from life, photos, photoshopped images?

Lee Gainer: I work from photographs in the beginning. I have an affinity for the unstaged, amateur snapshots we all take on vacation and during birthday parties and the like, moments and events we try to document and remember. This interest was influenced by several things: my grandma’s cruise catalogs, home movie nights (back when you had to set up a projector, it was a big deal), tourist trap brochures and theme park maps (which I collected as a child), and the Kodacolor photographs in my parents photo albums. These images are very honest. I believe that we make them to act as catalysts for recall even though there are other factors that play into what makes the eventual memory, such as perception and expectation. It is this mental process that I want to present visually by layering content and creating ambiguous areas that the viewer defines with their own recollections. It becomes universal and familiar at the same time.

crystalCove_leeGainer_860Crystal Cove, 2013. Acrylic on on Hand-Crafted Cradled Panel.

CO: How long have you kept a studio at the Arlington Art Center? Can you tell me about the spaces and community at AAC? How has the location affected your work?

LG: I’ve been an AAC resident for almost four years (times flies). The spaces themselves are great: good light, clean, they always impress visitors. The community is very supportive. There’s 11 other residents I can bounce ideas off of and we all get together regularly. In fact, we have an opening in the program now. If anyone is interested, they can find details at Did I mention we are a ½ block away from Starbuck’s? Then again, isn’t everything these days?

magicMountain_leeGainer_1_860Magic Mountain, 2012. Acrylic on on Hand-Crafted Cradled Panel.

CO: What’s your favorite thing about being a DC/VA-based artist?

LG: I have access to museums and many cultural events, most of which are free. We are just day trip away from Philly, Baltimore, and NYC, so there’s always lots of good art to see. Also, eating MD crab is a must each summer. Nothing like a messy newspaper covered table with a pile of empty crab shells and fingers that taste like old bay for three days. When I do indulge, I take my camera and snap pictures on the sly of other folks enjoying themselves. Painting fodder is nearly everywhere in metro DC: the zoo, festivals, galas, parades, protests, etc.

girlsNightOut_leeGainer_860Girls Night Out, 2013. Acrylic on Canvas.

CO: Can you tell me about any upcoming shows or projects you are looking forward to?

LG: I don’t have any shows on the schedule but I am waiting to hear back from several galleries. I should say hoping to hear… I know many artists can relate to this position. I do have an open studio event coming up Sat., Nov. 2nd from 6 – 9pm concurrent with the AAC’s opening reception for Fall Solos.

*Author Cara Ober is the Editor at Bmoreart.

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