The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 19, 2008


Susan Lehotsky debuts as an artist

Susan Lehotsky, a West Street resident for about ten years, has studied and practiced fine art almost all her life. Aside from her teachers and immediate family, however, no one really

Susan Lehotsky stands before the first painting in the Gleason Library exhibit, which launched her interest in abstraction. It is called “Seated Figure,” done in pastels. (Photo by Anne Marie Brako)

knows about it. That is about to change.

Lehotsky’s first exhibit of abstract paintings and collages entitled “Improvisations” will be on display at the Gleason Public Library through October 31. Although she has painted almost all her life, this is not a retrospective. Most of the 29 pieces were completed in the last year, and represent a new direction and open approach for the artist. Nonetheless, she realizes most people in the community aren’t aware of her previous, more representational, work: “I haven’t been very public about it.” She welcomes the opportunity to share her current viewpoint with the community, and welcomes friends and neighbors to attend the reception at the library tomorrow, Saturday, September 20, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

Lehotsky describes her work as “organic.” She has a gentle palette, almost pastel in nature and true to natural shades. She paints with acrylic only, having left the toxicity of oils behind several years ago. She reuses scraps from her paintings to create the collages on display. The works are either unframed or have very natural and appropriate wooden frames.

Emerging as an abstract artist

Lehotsky, a Massachusetts native, graduated from Lowell High School. As a child, she developed a love for art from her mother and grandmother who both were painters.

“I started calling myself an artist in junior high school,” says Lehotsky. She had a teacher who recognized her talent and encouraged her to spend every spare moment drawing figures of other students. She excelled, and subsequently discovered that this long-time educator gave this student her first and only A+ grade. Lehotsky recalls, “The seed was planted for me that not only could I do this because I always drew, but also maybe I had some talent that was worth exploring.”

Lehotsky then attended the Massachusetts College of Art for a year. “The school totally didn’t work for me,” she recalls. “It was a very strange place in the ‘70s. There were still a lot of drugs and people having nervous breakdowns in the class.” Lehotsky decided that she didn’t want to be a professional painter but that creating art was something she wanted to keep for herself. She transferred to the University of Lowell where she earned a B.A. with a focus in Music and Art History. After graduating, she worked at numerous jobs, including layout and graphic design for a number of publications. After taking a course in the Alexander Technique, a method to change body movement and reduce stress, she became enthralled with the process and underwent extensive training. Today she works professionally as an instructor of the technique.

Creating art continued as a very personal and private interest over the years. Lehotsky pursued studies at the New England School of Art and Design, the Museum School at the Museum of Fine Arts and at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln for the past several years. Recent exposure to a modern dance form, Contact Improvisation, has inspired her to lose her self-consciousness and prepared her to embrace innovation. This new mindset prepared her to try abstraction in art, to be open to new things and resulted in the confidence and willingness to exhibit her artwork publicly: “I finally feel I have something to say.”

Finding inspiration at home

Lehotsky has always been able to draw representationally. She still sketches recognizable figures, usually in a class and often in black and white. She then uses the sketches as starting points for her painting at home in her south-facing living room. She also sometimes starts painting new works inspired by the lights and things seen and felt outside – not the landscape per se as much as the inspiration. “I work in the moment,” she says, “from the colors and shapes that are there. Just like jazz improvisation, it can be very different from the original theme.”

Lehotsky finds herself consumed by painting at times: “I go through spells when I can’t do anything but paint.” She goes through times when she just lets ideas formulate in her brain. Or she gets distracted by another hobby, such as knitting or her latest interest in preparing natural dyes from mushrooms.

“My husband says I’m visited by many muses,” she concludes. Her husband, Alan Lehotsky, has a more visible persona in town thanks to his public service record, particularly in the area of affordable housing. A married stepson works in Washington and will clerk for a Supreme Court Justice next year. The couple’s daughter, Elise, attended the Carlisle Public School and Concord-Carlisle High School. She is currently a junior at UMass in Amherst, majoring in psychology.

“She has natural artistic talent, too,” says Lehotsky of Elise, and adds that she hopes her daughter takes time to develop it some day. As Lehotsky has shown, it can sometimes take a lifetime. ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito