Short Stories

Anita Lehmann’s world of wonder


What: "Studio Conversations: Short Stories"

Where: Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St., Mount Vernon


WHEN: 11am-6pm daily (except Tuesdays), through Nov. 28


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Painter Anita Lehmann quotes Catalan modernist, Joan Miro, that “drawing is attempting something beyond language and beyond representation.” She makes good on this promise, for to view her work is to fall into a world of wonder.

Lehmann is a teacher, an artist and an award-winning architectural illustrator. Her small works currently on display in Mount Vernon at Perry and Carlson Gallery—some only 5” x 5”—are great in impact. The exhibit, “Studio Conversations: Short Stories,” tumbles from monotype and drypoint to pastel, oil, to acrylic and from linen, panel, canvas to paper. Every composition is strikingly unique—even as each one is square. A few are monochrome, as if to step back briefly from a surfeit of color: black sheep, in “Mostly,” menacingly crammed into the frame (monotype/pastel), or the delightfully airy “Waggle Dance” (drypoint).

Lehmann disclaims any destination when she begins to draw and paint. She surrenders to the muse. If images of bowls look insufficient by themselves, she flies orange fish over them, as in “Go Fish” (oil). They are a favorite image, etiolated in “Fish Stories” (collograph/drypoint) and menacing in “Bucket List” (oil); and miniaturized in the daring, abstract composition, “Gone Fishing” (acrylic), where the vivid white field initially arrests the viewer’s eye.

A few works are dramatically formal. The elegant “Table Set” fairly screams “modernism” in black and silvery white, relieved only by four centered gestures of rust-red. “Backyard” is similarly realist, but informal. Its monochrome composition is balanced by a mustard-tinted tabletop (both, monotype/pastel).

When the artist turns her attention to furniture, as in “Conversation,” she puts a pillow in one chair just far enough from center to express an attitude—the companion chair being only half-present. And “Good House” is a charcoal drawing that evokes companionship with no more than a comfortable set of chairs, a table, vase and flowers.

The artist suggests that some of these small works are landscape paintings. In an otherwise abstract mauve and yellow pastel monotype Lehmann adds a fence line and calls it “Harvest.” But no matter how I look at “Land Rhythms” (also pastel) it remains stubbornly abstract, lovely with a sweep of sketched lines across floating ocher and khaki-green “pillows.”

“Dockside” (acrylic) is a bright composition of red hues, quartered by gunmetal blue and a dusty, white square. Not a boat in sight. “Painting the Wind” (watercolor) works for me, with a scrim of land over which sweep angular currents of violet and olive. And “Water’s Edge” (acrylic) is a beguiling study in Lehmann’s favorite shades of crimson above a few enigmatic indigo smudges.

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