Fragmented and unified. Nostalgic and present. Personal and universal.
Lisa Foster's paradoxical portraits are visually striking with their rich colors and mosaic of textiles.
In her recent body of work, Foster combines painting and textiles in her two-dimensional works, revealing the contours and silhouettes of her patchwork female subjects.
Each of Foster's paintings begin as a form in her mind, which she acts out in front of a camera and then translates onto canvas. Her unique, recognizable style emerged after she developed an aversion to the smell of oil paints when pregnant with her first child. Her Nana, who she calls her first artistic inspiration, had been a quilter. The pregnancy provided the perfect opportunity to return to those familiar fabrics and incorporate them as a material in her work. Foster chooses the fabric pattern for each piece from 250-300 different fabrics on-hand depending on whatever catches her eye while sketching for a new painting. The reproduction fabrics that she uses are primarily from the colonial and civil war eras. Foster explains, "This was an aesthetic and conceptual choice. Visually they provide more of a folk, and historical feel in color and pattern." The fabric as a medium carries its own history, emotion, and context. Think back to the cozy, patchwork throws from your childhood...A quilt is a representation of identity, a source of comfort, a family heirloom, and a rebirth of materials. In resurrecting the historically feminine tradition of quilt-making, Foster has masterfully transformed a craft material into a unique fine art medium.
For Foster, the process of making art is just as crucial as the product. The artistic process was initially a means to cope with the Dissociative Identity Disorder that she developed as a child. After traumatic experiences left her fractured, the process of making art became a sort of therapy in her journey to becoming whole again. In 2010, her work began to drift into self portraits and then nude self-portraits. She explains, "The body of work I created [up until last year] provides a personal narrative to my life. It became a way to know myself better, a method of self-communication and healing. It was also a means to share what I had gone through and was struggling with, without actually saying it. I was simultaneously hiding behind, and revealing myself, through my work. It was a means of not being isolated by trauma. It was my path back to life."
Just as the act of quilting brings together fragmented pieces to create something whole, the act of painting and creating her portraits was similarly reparative to Foster's sense of self. As she patched herself back up with the pieces of fabrics, she simultaneously mended her own identity.
Foster's long process of self-realization has recently progressed her artwork from an introspective, self-portrait based approach to representing a broader female perspective. She identifies a shift in her work occurring in the past year; "Last year, the work I was making no longer felt imperative. I also felt uncomfortable with the nudity, which was new. Both of these were signs to me that I was either done being an artist or there was something else for me to make." The transition away from nudity in her work was attributed to a new discomfort, but more importantly, boredom. Nudity had begun to dictate a certain kind of expression, and she was ready to venture elsewhere in her work.
In the past year, Foster's work has grown to be more independent of her turbulent past. In her words, "My work is less personal now, it no longer feels burdened by my past and my story. I am using my body to illustrate the female form, and speak more broadly from there."