Lisa Bartlett – Mixed Media Artist – Columbia, MO
Once upon a time I was searching the fabled internet for local galleries and arts shops where I might be able to beg and borrow a few inches of wall space to fill with my own artsy offerings.
I wasn’t have much luck. My town is slightly dry in the art department. On a different day I was listening to the radio and heard a commercial for VoxMagazine.com. That’s a site that features local happenings, you know the type.
The first chance I got I went to the Vox place, clicked on Arts, and voila. I found. Spare Parts Gallery. Off I went to see what they had to offer. Lucky me. A mere 30 minutes away lives a heartbeat of a college town, The District which includes small shops, galleries, music, restaurants, wine, cheese, and other cultural brick-a-brack
Spare Parts Gallery is a tucked away spot on the map where you can find all kinds of joyous things. Paintings, sculptures, drawings, installments, jewelry, vintage clothing and more. I don’t just love it because they were kind enough to hang a couple of my very own drawings (that’s mine, there in the middle), but when I first walked in it won me over with an overwhelming feeling of good vibes. I can’t explain it, but to any of you who are of the artistic persuasion will understand.
From the moment I found Lisa’s work online, and then saw it in person, I was hypnotized by the endless stories and possible histories every part of every piece could have. The combination is overwhelming.
Most of the work I have seen is collage, so that’s what my impressions are based on. Collage is taking lots of bits of existing treasures and putting them together in a way that tells a tale, gives the world a unique perspective on visual and often mental stimulation, or simply celebrates the life each element has lived before becoming a work of art.
I can make up almost anything in my own mind about her metal and wood pieces, sometimes far from what her original intentions might have been, but I get the impression she likes that. To each her own when it comes to how we see her art.
Collage doesn’t mark Lisa’s only corner of the art world. Read the interview below to get a full range of mediums she enjoys to work with, and so much more. It’s just that it was the collage that caught my eye, and then it was the woman who captured my attention, and the artist who has inspired my already undeniable need to make art.
I also appreciate Lisa’s involvement in the local art scene. It’s a thriving one in the town she calls her second home, Columbia, MO. Tens of thousands of college students each Fall make that creative community even more lively. There are many talented folks, so it’s saying something that she has been featured in different businesses, galleries, shops, and other venues around town.
It’s not an easy feat to get your name and your work scene in a thriving art arena. However, his is a woman who works hard at her craft, at her business, keeping up with her family, and still keeps a foot on the ground to make sure art doesn’t become a causality of our modern throw away culture…but then again, if you toss out your old photos and clock works and wire and metal and other good stuff, we will always have a Lisa Bartlett on the horizon.
Most of the information I might try to coax out of you about your education and other juicy details can actually be found in your Etsy.com profile. So I will focus a little more on other things.
Cid: Where do you call home these days?
Lisa: I have 3 homes- pretty good for a poor girl! My first home is where I sleep, in the country, where my husband, 3 kids and dog are. We are all very busy and use this place as dumping grounds! It’s in Hallsville MO. The second home is my studio in this fabulous modern old converted warehouse http://www.orrstreetstudios.com I’m in really good company!
My third home is Spare Parts Gallery, a funky indie gallery and vintage furniture shop. My three fabulous partners and I opened the doors in May and we’re doing great! I love interacting with people. Most everyone is happy in an art gallery. http://www.sparepartsGallery.com
Cid: How many years have you been on this planet? And how are you feeling about that magic number?
Lisa: I think I have been here in spirit for many millenniums. I remember being an Egyptian about 2000 years ago. In this lifetime I am 47.
Cid: When you were growing up, did you feel that your creativity got you some special attention?
Lisa: No there were six kids. We all got beaten just the same! But I did sing and dance in the 6th grade talent show, to Marvin Gaye’s Heard It Through the Grapevine with my four friends. Being the only white girl in the mix got me extra attention!
Cid: As an artist, do you think people see you in any certain stereotypical way?
Lisa: Yes I think there is that Bohemian tag that artists get labeled with. As artists we naturally question the world around us. I don’t mind though, I strive to stir things up.
Cid: Do you feel there is a stigma or blessing attached to being an artist amongst the “normal” people of the world?
Lisa: Definitely blessing. I’m the luckiest girl in the world!
Cid: Your pieces I have found online are collage and sculptures made from abandoned items like pieces of metal, photos, etc. What first captivated you about found objects?
Lisa: I owned an antique store for many years and was enamored by items from the 1930′s and earlier. All items were made to last and also be aesthetically beautiful. This premise carried over into even the most rudimentary piece of hardware. Because most of these items are obsolete in our techno age, I find myself collecting and salvaging them for future use.
Cid: How do you build a story or personality around each piece that comes together from things the rest of the world has tossed aside?
Lisa: I like to tell stories, I like to create personalities but sometimes the work evolves and it tells the story to me. I am just the scribe.
Cid: I have looked at all of your available pieces on Etsy.com. I read through your descriptions only after I have processed each one on my own. Most of the time I am in line with what you have described. However, a few things don’t fall in place, like this one, She Plays the Fiddle Like a Mad Woman. The first thing I saw was a Samurai Warrior..:) Do you appreciate it when people have their own interpretations, or do you want them to see what you see?
Lisa: Oh a Samurai. I love that. I think that I can only make a suggestion when I title a piece. If someone interprets an artwork differently than I intended it must mean that I have engaged him or her in some way. One quest I am on is to make people want to delve deeper into a subject. How they do this is of no concern. Just that they do.
Cid: How would you describe for us the work you are doing now?
Lisa: I am a maniac when I work. I have four stations in my studio and bounce between them. They may be covered in any one of the following mediums or crafts: painting, recycled leather purses, hardware jewelry, found object assemblage, graphic design stuff, reconstructed jewelry, polymer slabs, collage, gilding lilies etc . . . .I just finished four paintings in a new “Urban Garden Series” the work is abstract but evolving. I’ve started to incorporate imagery in to them. Who knows where this will go.
Cid: This is a quote from your Etsy bio:
“I have been doing art for some time and have opened an Art Gallery with three fabulous partners in downtown Columbia, Missouri, Spare Parts Gallery. Please visit us anytime in person or on our website Spare Parts Gallery I also have a working studio in the Orr Street Studios complex.”
What’s it like to bring your art making lifestyle into the world of being a business co-owner?
Lisa: You know it is the best of all worlds! I am able to sustain my art career through -guess what? Selling Art!
Cid: Do you get into a theme or idea that you have to do do do do do until it’s out of your system? If you do, how would you describe that feeling?
Lisa: I’ll do a series of five or six related things then put it aside. I’ll sometimes revisit the series five or six months or years later. I’m comfortable with certain themes. Some themes I’ve focused on in the past are, blues musicians, the urban garden, powerful women, houses, . . . . .
Cid: Following up on the last question, you have written that you would like to make apiece everyday in protest of the wrongs of the world. You also say that kind of endeavor takes too much energy. I agree. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with all the ideas, emotions, and thoughts about life and the world that you want to put into your art, but just can’t get it all done? When you are doing a piece like Body Count, do you ever get let down that it might not have the impact on people the way you want it to have?
Lisa: I listen to Democracy Now and it only takes a few minutes to get enraged for some injustice or another. I did think about doing “wrong of the day” artwork but It’s hard to try to do everything. As far as viewers taking notice of a cause depicted in art, and it impacting them in some way, I do think there a sense of okay “the message is noted”. That’s good enough for me.
I feel like I live my life in snippets, with three kids. a Gallery and an art studio, life gets in my way often. I try to make the best of every moment though. Life is a learning adventure even if you’re just sitting at the bus stop, look around and take it in.
Cid: What do you think will happen first, you will stop caring, you will run out of ideas, or you will run out of motivation and energy? Or will do you see yourself making your art that expresses your view of the world all through your life?
Lisa: In the nursing home you will see me and my friends doing the usual nursing home crafts but we will knit monsters, our paint by numbers will be outside the lines and in wrong colors, we will make assemblages out of geriatric supplies! We’ll have to sneak in the wine!
Cid: How would you describe the art community where you live and are you a part of that “art scene”? Do you attend gallery openings (that aren’t in your own gallery), craft shows, check out the latest offerings of local talent, and hang out where the creative community gathers?
Lisa: Oh wow funny you should ask that. I’m actually “arted out” at the moment. Just this past weekend I had to haul art to a two day Bank exhibit, shuffle 7 pieces in a community rotating art program, take work to hang in a gallery with all my studio partners, change out our show at Spare Parts, attend an art opening and do some networking at an arts festival. And I missed a bunch of stuff. We have a really good arts scene.
To top everything off The Office of Cultural Affairs just hinted to me to join their board of directors and I just couldn’t bite! These are the folks that handle all the arts funding. I’m bummed cause I just can’t do it.
Cid: What are your very favorite treasures and objects to find and use in your work?
Lisa: My most treasured possession is this box of photos I got at a rummage sale where these girls were just pitching their Aunts stuff they thought was junk. These photos were in the trash. The girls didn’t know that line of the family so they pitched the box. It’s a family history in photos from late 1800′s to the 70′s. I create visual stories/adventures with the pics, and give them all names. Right now I’m doing a large canvas collage of Ursula Smith leaving home. What would a very smart, young black woman in the 1930′s do with herself? She wants to travel Europe and study music.
Also boxes full of old hardware.
Cid: How would you define collage, not the technical definition, but as an artist? How does the experience of making a collage differ from painting or drawing?
Lisa: To me collage is like doing a puzzle. You have these pieces to fit together. It takes way more patience to do a collage, you search and search for the right image, then it’s too small so you search and search more.
Cid: How does technology effect, enhance, or hinder your creative thinking?
Lisa: Having a background in computer aided design is a plus. I am able to use my camera and computer easily.
Cid: If you use a computer as a tool in your work, what kind of software do you prefer?
Lisa: I use Photoshop the most.
Cid: Hypothetical question: You are an inventor, what product or tool would you like to invent and put on the market that would benefit the creative community?
Lisa: How about a robot to produce all my ideas, do the physical labor. Like an extension of my brain with hands!
Cid: Have you ever sold a piece that you wish you had kept in your personal collection? And the flip side of that is there a piece you would like to sell but you just can’t part with it for personal reasons?
Lisa: Just last night I was saying I wouldn’t have any of my own artwork to ever do a retrospective. Lately I have been selling paintings as soon as I do them. I have to sustain my art business by selling work but sometimes I want things to hang around a bit.
Cid: Have you ever done a piece that really stands out in your mind that gives you confidence that you do have skills and talent as an artist? And after you did that “masterpiece” was it hard to get started on a new project for fear of not recapturing that same satisfaction or same quality?
Lisa: Yes, exactly. It’s good to do “mindless work” sometimes till the mojo comes back.
Cid: A lot of us spend time on-line now looking around anonymously at artists’ work from around the world. It’s a safe way to sit in our own home and soak up techniques, ideas, and methods, even find new tools and materials to work with. Do you think it takes away from the gallery experience and change the way people think about art these days?
Lisa: No people still love to come into a gallery and get the tangible feel. I do find myself Googling stuff like “weird art” etc . . . cause I love to see the crazy stuff out there.
Cid: Advice? What would you say is the number one thing (in your opinion) that is a contributing factor to an artist’s success either in terms of personal satisfaction or commercial?
Lisa: For personal satisfaction I would say just doing art everyday contributes to success. For commercial success you must in some way promote yourself everyday.
“He who has a thing to sell and goes and whispers in a well, is not as apt to make a dollar as he who climbs a tree and hollers.” –unknown
Cid: “Being an artist isn’t who you are; it’s just another thing you can do for money.” I personally disagree. How would you respond to that comment?
Lisa: Yes I disagree too. I would be an artist no matter what. But since I need to make money, I would rather do this.
Cid: What plans do you have for the future? Any new mediums or areas of the artistic world that you would like to explore?
Lisa: Everything, but especially fused glass and silk-screening. I hope to work with some artists who have dedicated space for these mediums. I can’t get even one more thing into my studio!
(Spare Parts Gallery is no longer operating. The artists are thriving with other projects.)