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Art & Life with M. Louise Stanley

Today we’d like to introduce you to M. Louise Stanley.

Louise, I do not live in your area and can’t fill in the neighborhood so I’ll close my eyes and jab, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
My earliest teacher was my father who took me landscape painting as a child. Growing up in So California I visited the Huntington Library and Museum on my bike to check out the ‘next page’ of their Guttenberg Bible each month. My second year at La Verne College, a Brethren teachers’ school, the dean of women called me to her office with complaints about by motor scooter and the nude drawings on my dorm room wall. I had been commuting to Scripps College for life classes. This sealed my fate as an artist and taught me to fight for my art! Later, in 1968, at the end of graduate school at California College of Arts and Crafts I joined four women to paint in the Oakland Cemetary. We called our paintings ‘Bad Art’ and purposely set out to break the rules of our teachers. Putting something in the middle of the page we chanted, “take that Ms. Posey!” Rebelling against the tail end of the AE movement we made small narrative watercolors painted as badly as possible. Through this play (under the influence!) away from the pressure of ‘the Academy’, the seeds of my style and content were sewn. During the early 1970’s I became involved with the emerging ‘Women’s Movement’ and joined a group of nine women artists for weekly ‘consciousness raising’ sessions. Within this supportive environment my work developed and I learned skills that would support my career: photographing work, resume writing, public speaking and teaching.

Beginning in the late 1970s I taught, led workshops, lectured and exhibited across the U.S. Due to an allergy to oil paints I moved to acrylics (kicking and screaming) and had to quit university teaching. I survived selling my etchings, teaching in my studio and in 1994 I began leading students and friends on many ‘Art Lover’s Tours’ to Europe. I now teach drawing and water media painting at Berkeley City College and continue to lead an active ‘studio’ life. I presently live in the Emeryville Artist’s Co-op, a live-work complex of over 58 studios, 90+ artists.

Over the years I have received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (2), Fleishhacker Foundation, Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation (2), Pollock-Krasner Foundation, and John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2015).

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
My first personal assessment was in the fourth grade: “There is no magic in my mark!” Early on I knew my painting would be about ideas, the paint would tag along. My work follows in the tradition of history and narrative painting documenting current and fictitious events using myth and allegory. The human condition, modern day romance and political issues are often explored. Voyeurism, a longing to ‘be someplace else’, and a sense of places and events remembered are recurring themes. Humor is the catalyst and a bridge to darker, more troubling issues. In my youth I wanted to make paintings people would gag and cry in front of until I saw two women doubled-up laughing in front of my work. Joyce Kozloff commented at my PS1 show in New York, “God, lulu, your work is so American!” I can live with that.

In 1981 I developed a character who inhabits my paintings as the ‘Archetypal Artist’, my alter ego. She is the equivalent to Alfred Jarry’s Pere Ubu and the narrator in paintings focusing on the artist’s predicament. Wearing red and white striped shirt and green Capri pants, she has metamorphosed into Athena, wounded Chiron, played to Pygmalion, and accompanied the Three Fates. I strive for that precarious line between the downright silly and the sublime, perhaps in order to sabotage both extremes, but more often just to see if I can pull it off. The cross-referencing of classical mythology and current events gives my painting a longer shelf life.

Recent paintings are based on research gathered during my travels, the transformation myths of Ovid, sainthood, the cult of the Virgin and current events (Columbine, the homeless, #metoo). I keep an ongoing series of sketchbooks full of gouache and gold leaf studies after the ‘old masters’. Standing in front of the actual painting, tracing the steps an artist has traveled, is my way of owning the painting and the closest thing to having a conversation with a dead artist.

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
Biggest challenge at the moment. Filling out this $%^^&&**(() box. Time, money, space, inspiration, fear of success, fear of failure… too many challenges. Pick up the brush and get lost in the work, get interested and the challenges fade away. Life gets in the way of art.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My website: www.mlouisestanley.com

Recent exhibition: San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum. ‘Jewish Folktales Retold:The Artist as Maggid:’
Sept 2017 – Jan 2018 Short video:

Currently exhibiting: Peninsula Museum of Art ‘Consulting the Oracle’. Paintings by M. Louise Stanley
July 29 – October 7, 2018. Address: 1777 California Drive, Burlingame, CA 94010 (21 works on paper).

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Kim Harrington

Getting in touch: BostonVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

5 Comments

  1. Susan Milano

    August 21, 2018 at 2:55 am

    Lulu Stanley….artistic genius. Your fantasy life as revealed in your work never ceases to amaze and delight me. Carry on my friend. Carry on.

  2. Therese Lahaie

    August 21, 2018 at 4:25 am

    My neighbor Louise Stanley, (all her friends call her Lulu) has a bumper sticker that says “well behaved women rarely make history”. A perfect Lulu summary.

  3. Susan Leibovitz Steinman

    August 21, 2018 at 6:45 am

    Fabulous artist!

  4. Jack W Stone

    August 21, 2018 at 11:09 pm

    I’ve known Lulu for years – solid as a rock.

  5. Elizabeth Sher

    August 22, 2018 at 10:39 pm

    The best most under-rated (except by all who know her) artist of her generation! and beyond all that she’s funny! So glad you helped publicize this true American Treasure!

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