Arts & Culture

Artist Lena Rushing shares unique view of the world at Steynberg Gallery in SLO

Artist Lena Rushing describes her paintings as ‘unconventional’ and hopes her work elicits some kind of response from the viewer, even if it’s disgust.
Artist Lena Rushing describes her paintings as ‘unconventional’ and hopes her work elicits some kind of response from the viewer, even if it’s disgust.

Madness and genius often occupy the same brain space and, for an artist, that space can bleed onto canvas to the delight and horror of those who gaze upon it.

It’s said that, “If we had no eyes then we would be unaware of the existence of color. What if we are missing an entire aspect of everything simply because we do not have the organ to detect it?”

When Lena Rushing looks at the world, she detects an aspect many cannot see — then she helps the rest of us view it by putting her visions on canvas and into her three-dimensional art. Her work, and the unique pathway she follows to reach it, will be on display at the Steynberg Gallery in San Luis Obispo in the exhibition “Methods of Madness.”“ Rushing is showing 25 to 30 pieces, including acrylic paintings and mixed-media shadowboxes, along with booklets presenting her creation process, or, the method to her “madness.”

“I know that the pieces that I do are, er unconventional, so I thought ‘madness’ was fitting to go along with the methods,” Rushing said. “There is definitely a lot of madness in my method. When I’m working, I’m completely absorbed in the art and totally manic.”

Like the images in Rushing’s work, her method goes beyond the expected.

She takes reality and translates it into the abstract; she is that person inside our heads who paints our dreams when we sleep. She talked about her approach to a painting she sold in February, “Eat Your Heart Out,” that depicted two girls at a table eating a bloody cake.

“During this time, I’d been using twins in my paintings to repre sent dichotomy and decided that a painting exploring love would be the perfect occasion to continue with that,” she said. “I had one of my favorite models, Christine Brocco, pose licking fingers and devouring an orange. Once I’d de cided on what to paint, I ran down to the grocery store and purchased packets of powdered strawberry flavoring, which I then mixed into the paint. That painting smelled like fresh-baked strawberry cake for a month.” Rushing said she wants her art to evoke emotion in those who view it, and it’s OK if that emotion goes to the dark side.

“At best, I hope that people see it and feel like they can relate to it,” Rushing said. “At least, I hope that they feel something, that it stirs something up, even if it’s disgust.”

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