LUCY KALIAN: WITNESSES
COPLEY SOCIETY OF ART
158 NEWBURY STREET
MAY 17 THROUGH JUNE 17
by Elayne Clift
Lucy Kalian always wanted to be an artist. As a young child, she enjoyed sitting in the kitchen watching her Armenian female relatives mold edible shells to fill with food. The shells seemed to be sculpted, she recalled.
“I was always making things and everything I saw or heard excited me,” Kalian said. “I was unusually observant and highly sensitive. Every morning I woke early and went into the wooded valley between our home and a farm where my favorite fallen tree harbored my cherished pencils and paper. I had a deep sense of yearning and urgency that had to be confronted. Not much has changed.”
Approaching midlife, Kalian began taking art classes and attending art workshops. Then she discovered the Grand Central Academy in New York City, now the Grand Central Atelier in Queens. She walked in and immediately felt at home. “It was a life-altering experience,” she said. “I realized that I had to allow myself the time to produce a work of art, to unravel, observe, process the world around me. The Academy was a place to try, to learn, to think. It changed my approach and led me to what came next.”
After six years at the Academy, Kalian began her early work with a series of paintings that featured personified eggs conveying nuanced narratives. These were followed by small studies of trees and other artifacts of nature which she observed as she walked in the woods. Trees especially attracted Kalian because, as she explained, “they have experienced all the turmoil going on in the world. They’ve been through it and they are strong and wise. They have a sense of resiliency.”
Soon, she was collecting acorns, pinecones and more, feeling an urgent need to draw them as a way to reveal the changing ecosystem and to witness the human condition. That awakening led to larger works and her now recognizable graphite drawings, some of which are included in the exhibit “Witnesses,” running from May 17 to June 17 at the Copley Society of Art on Newbury Street in Boston.