Monday, September 24, 2018

Interview with Artist Lex Lumiere

Credit: Lex Lumiere
Love Is My Religion

Exploring the heart and mind of an award winning New York City artist and photographer

Lex Lumiere is an award-winning photographer and artist whose work in photography, oil painting and mixed media thrusts social boundaries. Her art is known for being politically charged and infused with themes of environmentalism, activism and spirituality. Lex deliberately chooses subject matter that has the ability to move the human spirit, and strives to challenge people to think differently about the world around them.

Originally from Houston, Texas, Lex spent her summers in her grandfather’s photography studio, training in classic lighting and darkroom photography. She grew up there until Hurricane Katrina destroyed their family’s 50 year-old business. Lex relocated to New York City to pursue a career in photography and fine art. Manhattan has served as a muse for the past five years, many of Lex’s pieces, including “Soul Doors,” a collection featuring the doors of Historic Harlem churches and a series of paintings like the "Oracle," inspired by the Oracles of Delphi in ancient Greece have been created here.

With a degree in Business Management and over ten years experience in luxury apparel. Lex specializes in fashion photography, visual branding, social media promotions, and consulting for independent artists, models and eco based fashion apparel. She is often hired to photograph and create artwork for corporate collections, hotels and office buildings. She also consults for independent artists, musicians, and models. She is a winner of the International Library of Photography’s Editor’s Choice Award. Clients and exhibitions include Neiman Marcus, Hermes, Sikkema Jenkins & Co, Hilton Hotels Co. Children’s Museum of Houston, PPR, H&M, Juicy Couture, Liz Claiborne, and the Olympic Auction in Italy. Lex is also the Fashion Photography Examiner for NY and a regular contibutor to several social media publications.

Upon meeting Lex Lumiere, it is easy to mistake her acute observation of you as shyness. Lex takes a moment to absorb your energy, while she is paying attention to everything in the room at once. Yet when she looks at you with her light brown eyes, she makes you feel like you are the only person in the entire room. The faint scent of her Magnolia lotion lingers through the air, only adding to her mystery. She reminds me of a wise owl perched high up in a tree, silently observing her surroundings. I get the distinct feeling she sees right through me, to the core, with her artistic eyes. The best words I can think of to describe her are; humble, calm, centered, peaceful and very intelligent.

Lex sips on her green tea as I begin to explore the depths of her heart and mind hidden from view.

Q: Who does your art appeal to?

A: People who buy my art tend not to be concerned with coloring between the lines. They aren’t intimidated by mainstream opinion. The subject matter I spotlight is sometimes considered controversial.

Q: What makes your work controversial?

A: My art has become more and more politically charged as I have developed as an artist. I began exploring new avenues of creative expression outside of my comfort zone. Earlier in my career I was mostly concerned with human rights and I did a lot of work with different charities. Giving back to the community creatively was my main focus. A large percentage of my work is still charitable, but I try to work in areas where I can have the ability to make people think differently about an issue. I’m disappointed when I go to an art exhibition and don’t feel personally challenged by the subject matter. I think Art should be politically charged. It has to be. To me, that is Art.

Q: Give me an example of one of your more controversial art pieces.

I completed a creative project centered around the plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero, called “Love Is My Religion.” It is a self portrait literally photographed at the Cordoba Project 45 47 Park or Park 51. The concept came to me because I feel love is a universal truth, a bridge between all of our world cultures and religious beliefs. I was inspired in part by the love I have for my own circle of friends who have spiritual beliefs I respect and learn from, even if different from mine. It is exciting to be passionate about seeking spiritual truth, so I am not afraid to 'church hop' with friends and spend the day seeing the world through their eyes, even if their vision is completely different then my own. Ignorance breeds hatred and there are a lot of people passing judgments without actually taking the time to educate themselves and read; the Bible, the Torah, the Quran. Instead of taking the time to get to know and understand someone with a belief system different then their own, they just get angry. Anger is the perfect 'divide and conquer' strategy to make war acceptable, to justify killing 'our enemies.' I am questioning through imagery, who exactly is our enemy? Hatred is our enemy, resentment is our enemy, bitterness is our enemy, unforgiveness is our enemy. There is one spiritual tree with the many roots of Abraham. If we destroy any of the roots of the tree, it will effect the health and well being of the entire tree. We are connected whether we like it or not. Love is the only cure for hatred. In part, Love Is My Religion is also a tribute to the admiration I have for Mother Theresa and her quote;

"If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive."

Q: What made you become an artist?

A: My mother is a Reiki master. I was raised in a holistic home environment and I am, without a doubt, spiritual. I think that spirituality allows one to tap into their creative currents. I found that I could express my thoughts and ideas in other ways than words. So, artistry has run in my blood since I was a child. I started learning about the art of photography at a young age. My grandfather is one of top 50 Kodak Craftsmen in the world. He’s an expert in photography. He started our family business and I spent entire summers in his darkroom. I grew up under his wing learning lighting. I started studying art as soon as it became available to me. Being creative became a positive outlet for me to manage my mothers relationship with my stepfather, it was in a word, abusive. Rather than turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with the pain, I turned to art and creative expression.

When I was 18 and an Honors Art student, I had a teacher, Ms. Tata. She was an immensely positive force in my life. She pushed me creatively. She made me look at art – at everything – differently. We are always creating with our own a sense of perception. Wherever we are, we’re on one specific plane. But how would this scene look from up high? Or down low? I started experimenting with distance and depth, and that’s when I started winning state competitions. Before my 19th birthday I signed with my first agent, Remo Mario Trentini, an Italian painter whose work is in art collections around the world. Shortly after I began exhibiting solo art shows, creating and selling original works of art. I was fortunate enough to learn from true masters in their crafts.

Q: Is it true your favorite art teacher, Ms. Tata was upset about 'Love Is My Religion'?

Yes. Ms. Tata, she was quiet upset with me for creating Love Is My Religion because she thought I was making fun of the Catholic nuns. Which I was not. I thought her response at taking offense to the piece was odd since she is an 'art teacher' and supposed to be the most open minded person I know. Besides the fact we have been friends for 19 years outside of the class room. Tata had also just spent a week at my home in New York City because she and her student had received awards at Carnegie Hall for Excellence in Art. I am still very proud of her, she is an excellent art teacher. When I was her student, she really pushed me to break the rules of photography and think outside of the creative box. The impact she has had on my life, as a creative mentor and as a friend is something I am truly grateful for. Even though I respect her opinion, at at the end of the day I had to stand my ground and be true to myself; my art, my vision. People have their criticisms, their opinions, it is something you get use to when you create art and exhibit your artwork to the public. Create anyway. Exhibit your artwork regardless. People may love it, people may hate it. Let them be stirred emotionally, at least you know then that your creative messages are sinking in.

Q: What inspires you?

A: I’m usually inspired by books I read and articles about people doing good deeds. I have a soft spot for hometown heroes or an animal who rescues their owner. Real life stories that warm the heart inspire me. I’m a sucker for TV shows about community awareness and service to others, like Extreme Home Makeover and Secret Millionaire. Political issues inspire me, charities inspire me. My mother and grandmother (recently in remission from cancer) inspire me to continue learning and growing. They taught me the fine art of resilience. My mom is always attending some class or lecture, my grandmother too. She is 78 and just finished taking a hardware class to learn how to take apart computers. So when I hear someone say, " I don't like" I tell them about my grandmother and disarm their excuses about being too old to learn. (Laughs)

Q: You’ve worked all over the world. Do you have a favorite city

A: No. I just want to travel more, photograph the world through my eyes. Actually, I would really like to shoot a series of semi nudes of celebrities involved in international charities. The concept for my idea centers aroung polarity, extremes. Once the images are complete they could be autographed and auctioned off for their specific cause.

Q: Any specific celebrity in mind?

A: It would have to be someone bold and not too modest, like Angelina Jolie-esque.

Q: Is it difficult for you to complete a project and move on to the next?

A: (Laughs) No. No way. You have to know when it’s done. I consider myself lucky that I’ve always been able to finish what I started. There is so much talent out there, and lots of artists will not share that talent because they are afraid of being vulnerable to criticism. They want a art piece to be perfect and they lose track of the original intent for the project. Someone will always have something negative to say. You will never please everyone. You have to please yourself. And if you can’t do that, then you have to just give yourself a deadline (Laughs again).

Q: Describe how you feel when you’re working.

A: I feel great. It’s a cathartic process for me. Most people have a vice, a specific way to deal with stress. Some people smoke, drink, get high, spend money, have sex. When I’m bothered or upset, I need to focus on what it is that’s making me uncomfortable – what I want to get out of my system – and then I extract that and pour it into my work. Having an artistic outlet kept me out of trouble growing up. Of course, all of this is after I usually spend an hour meditating by the brook, on the beach or in the shower.

Q: Don't you run out of hot water when you meditate in the shower for an hour?

A: No. I am a water baby, I love the water hot or cold. It's peaceful to me. Comforting.

Q: With the continuously changing technology involved in any visual field today, artists are constantly training in order to sustain, let alone advance their craft. This seems like a great field for someone like you, who clearly loves to learn.

A: Ah, yes. My ever-present “Inner Geek.” It explains why I am attracted to other 'pretty nerds.' (Laughing) I do love to learn, I enjoying shooting pictures and creating concepts for creative projects. However I hate to clean up images and do touch-up work. Just like if you hate to cook, I am a fabulous cook and will cook a four course dinner for you if you tell me what you want; wine, candles, the works. Just don't expect me to do the dishes afterwards. It's not going to happen.

Q: Tell me about your latest creative project.

A: The project I am just now wrapping up is titled, RISE: Evolving from Slavery to Presidency. It is a multi-media and photographic retrospective, a tribute to the African American Male in regards to overcoming so many historical obstacles to be triumphant. I grew up in the South, which has a history steeped in racism and redemption. I have studied black history for years and Harriet Tubman is one of my heros. So this project for me is very special because when I was young, and before I was born my family had problems with the KKK. The Klan threw bricks through my grandparents place of business, I was driven into the center of a rally as a child and these memories, memories of men in white robes of hatred have stayed with me my entire life. I photographed the first series of RISE in Harlem with a model from Chicago. The second series will be shot in New Orleans. The RISE images give a sense of reaching beyond current human rights limitations. In reaching for our dreams no matter what 'reality' surrounds us in this moment. If we remain faithful through tests of hardships and abundance, our dreams will manifest in time. Barack Obama, as the nations first black President, is the manifestation of a long held dream. Whether or not we support his political viewpoints, it does not change the simple fact that we are sharing a historical moment in time, which also includes artwork created during this time period.

Q: When are you exhibiting RISE?

A: I am having an exhibition of my artwork at the Chelsea Gallery on Friday, Nov 29th, 2011 from 7-11pm which includes a preview of RISE.

Q: How do we attend?

A: Well you have to write me a letter telling me just how much you love me and my artwork. Based on the quality of your writing style, grammar, punctuation, use of flattery, etc. The top ten winners will receive the magic password to get past security. You can message me here on Broowaha or on Facebook for details.

Q: Well I better start writing then.

A: Yes. The competition is fierce so you better get in line. (Playfully snaps finger)

Q: Oh, your not shy, you are a sassy southern bell.

A: (She responds in a thick southern accent) Who me? I do declare, whatever do you mean? (Laughs)


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Connoisseur is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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