Lisa Rosenstein

Washington, D.C. | by April 17, 2011

I recently had the plea­sure of vis­it­ing Lisa Rosen­stein in her work­space at the 52 O Street Stu­dios build­ing.  I worked with Lisa on a two-​​artist exhi­bi­tion in 2010, but this was the first time I had actu­ally been in her stu­dio.  52 O Street was con­structed in 1917 and served as a ware­house for com­pa­nies such as People’s Whole­sale and Decca Records.  The four story build­ing was con­verted into art stu­dios in 1979 and boasts over 50,000 square feet of space over four floors.

Lisa met me at the front door of her build­ing and guided me up a series of wood stair­cases (com­plete with the req­ui­site creaks and groans) to her third floor stu­dio.  Upon enter­ing the space, the first thing the vis­i­tor will notice is the sun­light stream­ing into the stu­dio through a wall of large, east-​​facing win­dows.  The high ceil­ings and ample light lend her stu­dio a feel­ing of spa­cious­ness that belies the 15 x 15 foot dimen­sions of the room.  Two of the walls are cov­ered with fin­ished pieces of var­i­ous sizes, while the wall oppo­site the win­dows holds a large piece (over eight feet across) on which she is cur­rently work­ing.  Two work­benches hold the tools rang­ing from paint brushes to trow­els as well as a plethora of var­i­ous found objects rang­ing from string to bro­ken pot­tery shards.

The sec­ond thing the vis­i­tor will notice is the fact that her pieces are over­whelm­ingly white.  As we sat down to talk over tea and bis­cotti, I asked her about the notable absence of color.  Early in her artis­tic career she used a very col­or­ful palette, evi­denced by two smaller pieces hung on the brick wall between two win­dows.  She found as time passed and she strug­gled with life’s var­i­ous chaotic moments, hon­ing in on the color white allowed her to work in a more thought­ful, almost med­i­ta­tive way.  By work­ing in white Lisa forces the viewer’s eye to focus on the tex­tural ele­ments of the piece, as well as the shad­ows that move across the can­vas as the light changes.

Inter­est­ingly, she doesn’t view her­self as a Min­i­mal­ist artist, nor does she strive to strip her pieces of per­ceived nonessen­tial ele­ments.  On the con­trary, she weaves a per­sonal nar­ra­tive into each of her pieces though care­ful place­ment of found objects on the can­vas.  What appear at first glance to be squig­gles of rope or lines of but­tons are actu­ally mark­ers that denote the pas­sage of time or events in her life.  I asked her what type of peo­ple tended to pur­chase her work.  She laughed and said she sells to a lot of ther­a­pists and psy­chi­a­trists.  Given the Rorschach-​​like qual­ity of her pieces, that is easy to understand.

Lisa’s work takes time to digest and she freely admits her work doesn’t appeal to all buy­ers. That led us to an inter­est­ing dis­cus­sion on how up-​​and-​​coming, non-​​gallery rep­re­sented artists work to get noticed in DC.  Lisa is an avid believer of just “throw­ing one­self out there” and par­tic­i­pat­ing in as many juried oppor­tu­ni­ties as pos­si­ble at local gal­leries.  At the same time, she noted that artists in DC have really taken mat­ter into their own hands over the last sev­eral years by host­ing their own events like home shows and pop-​​up gal­leries out­side of the more tra­di­tional gallery sys­tem.  Lisa’s use of the inter­net has also opened a whole new world of options to self-​​market, and her online pres­ence has led to sales and com­mis­sions as far away as California.

Before I said my good­byes, Lisa gave me a sneak peek at a piece she is work­ing on that rep­re­sents a new direc­tion for her.  On the far wall of her stu­dio is an eight foot sheet of butcher paper cov­ered in what could most aptly be described as a knit­ted spi­der web.  She care­fully detached a sec­tion from the paper and allowed me to touch.  While the mate­r­ial looks flimsy, it actu­ally is quite resilient to the touch, and I found I could bend the web­bing with­out fear of caus­ing a tear.  When fin­ished, her “big net” as she calls it will be her first full-​​fledged expe­ri­en­tial piece, mim­ic­k­ing a cacoon that envelopes the viewer as they walk inside it.   I’m already mak­ing plans to return to see the fin­ished piece!

For more infor­ma­tion about Lisa Rosen­stein, visit her web­site at

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  • Kathryn Sandberg says:

    Great inter­view! It is so easy to become engaged in Lisa’s work, which is full of com­plex­ity and magic — one can not help but fall into her web of con­nec­tions — no mat­ter how many shad­ows in our lives, Lisa’s work reminds us of life’s beauty

  • JOREN says:

    I like your author’s take on it Isabel. I’d been to one of her open stu­dios; and I’ve seen Lisa’s work in a recent show­ing — it’s get­ting quite gripping.

  • Cazare Ieftina Poiana Brasov

    Truly when some­one doesn’t know after­ward its up to other view­ers that they will help, so here
    it happens.

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