Lea Basile Lazarus received her BA in Art Education from The College of New Jersey and her MFA, with a concentration in Printmaking, from the School if the Art Institute of Chicago. She has been teaching for over 20 years. After teaching art for 16 years in Winnetka District 36, Lea retired from public school education and is currently at Beacon Academy, a Montessori High School in Evanston, teaching Visual Arts. Through her years of teaching, Lea has worked with Chicago public schools on collaborative social justice art projects. She has been a recipient of a Teacher Fulbright trip to Japan, spending three weeks abroad learning about Japan’s culture, art, and education system. And through a non-profit organization called Do Your P'Art, Lea was sent to Africa to visit Ghanaian schools and villages. These experiences have affected the images that she has created over the years.
Lea has been a printmaker for over 40 years. Currently, she makes monotypes, a one of a kind print, which incorporates multiple layers of colors, shapes, images, and textures, and paper pulp paintings. Three years ago, she fell in love with the paper making process and uses this process to create exciting, colorful paper pulp images. Lea exhibits her work throughout the Chicagoland area. Over the past few years, Lea has had one-person shows at1100 Florence Gallery, Evanston, The Center of Halsted, Chicago and Lill Street Art Center, in Chicago. She has also participated in a two-person print and poetry shows at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center and the Evanston Public Library.
My current body of work reflects the awareness and power of strength in numbers. People have gathered together to express concern for issues that conflict with our community's beliefs and rights. There is a sharp sense of wanting to belong and to be proud of who we are, but also the need to embrace our differences and provide a safe environment in which we all can live.
As reflections of these concerns, expressive figures, text, and symbolic houses have become integral parts of my work. Words weave in and out of my images, sometimes hardly recognizable, other times up front to be read loud and clear. The house structures might interact with figures or more recently have replaced them. These structures symbolize a safe place or an expression of one’s personal identity. They also represent people within a community that stand strong and unified. Yet, this community that appears so strong, can be broken and suffer turmoil within. The frenetic marks that emerge are conversations, unrest, and passionate expressions of desires or beliefs. The audience will determine the meanings, which become individual and personal.
As I have moved through this body of work, I have found that using pigmented paper pulp and contemporary printmaking techniques have been an effective way to express my ideas. Even though I have been a printmaker for many years, I was immediately attracted to the process of making images using contemporary handmade paper techniques. Like printmaking, this process has allowed me to work on several images at one time, moving from one to another, layering different stencils, colors, and ideas. Paper pulp painting is spontaneous; I am actively engaged in the process. My entire body is always moving, from mixing pigments in paper pulp, to cutting stencils, to making marks or writing words with syringes and turkey basters with the gestural movement of my arm. The mental and physical energy it takes to think, move, and react to the images that are emerging is what makes this process so exciting and invigorating. Over the past year, I've incorporated some of the paper making techniques in my printmaking, getting some exciting results. Exploration of these materials and contemporary processes has allowed me to express artistically my feelings about our fundamental needs: to belong and to feel safe.