By Lisa Deaderick
The San Diego Union-Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) All of the portraits in B.J. Lanes’ new exhibit “Memoirs of the Heart,” include a poem. The pieces were created from 1978 to 2020, with the poetry being the newest pieces in this exhibit.
The first experience B.J. Lane can recall having with art, happened during show-and-tell at school when she was 7 years old. Another girl stood before the class, presented a painting of a road runner that she’d created on a piece of drift wood, and said she was selling it for 10 cents. Lane acquired that painting that day.
“I knew at once this was what I wanted to be when I grew up. I remember running home with the painting under my arm and demanding that my father teach me how to paint,” she says. Although neither of her parents, nor anyone else in her family, was artistically inclined in that way, they still tried to help her learn. Her father showed her how to draw a house; her mother told her to head outside to look at trees in order to figure out how to draw them. “I’ll be forever grateful to my parents. They taught me to look at life differently,” she said.
Her family and friends have continued to show Lane how to see life differently, culminating in her latest exhibition of work, “Memoirs of the Heart,” on display at the Vista Library through March 28. “Memoirs” features portraits and poetry inspired by her life and illustrating special moments that contributed to her personal growth.
Lane, 63, lives in Fallbrook with her husband, Steven Kostyk and they have three daughters. She’s been featured in solo, juried, and group exhibitions and won a number of awards during the more than 50 years that she’s been painting and sculpting. She took some time to talk about her work, her latest exhibition, and how she loves a challenge.
Q: What appealed to you about pursuing a visual art career over another art form, like music or dance?
A: I always thought I would either be a singer or an artist when I grew up, but it turns out I had more interest in visual art. I think part of it was because singing forces you to perform in front of many people. I was very shy. With visual arts, the work is done privately and the performance is done by the artwork.
Q: How would you describe your style and point of view as an artist?
A: I love color, texture, and perspective, and approach my work in an impressionist style. My colors are rich and luminescent, and possess pastel-like qualities with pure pigment side by side. My sculptures are full of texture. Both are filled with personal perspective.
I am a first-person observer. My artwork is narrative, as it tells an authentic story. Even though my subject matter ranges vastly (portraiture, architecture, classic cars and ballet), my point of view brings the viewer into the painting, to experience its true story.
Q: Tell us about your “Memoirs of the Heart” exhibition.
A: When I approached Vista Library, I wanted to give them something special for their community. I wanted a way to bring art into people’s personal lives. It seemed that portraiture would be the best way to do that. There are many types of families and all of us have our struggles, so I decided to focus on giving this community an artistic perspective on how to feel with your heart and have gratitude for the good moments, even in a difficult situation.
All of the portraits in this exhibit are special memoirs, and each poem has been created with heartfelt love. These pieces were created from 1978 to 2020, with the poetry being the newest pieces in this exhibit. One of the earliest pieces is done with watercolor. It was the medium I used when first getting into a gallery at 19 years old. I have several other media in this exhibit as well, including soft pastels, oil pastels, airbrush, pen and ink, acrylic, mixed media, and oil.
What I love about Fallbrook … Fallbrook is a laid-back town. Even though we are surrounded by cities and freeways, it seems we live in the country. There are many artists hidden in this small town and I’m constantly surrounded by creativity.
Q: What was your inspiration for the work you created for this exhibition?
A: When my children were small and I was unable to put energy and time in to exhibit my artwork regularly, I painted and sculpted my children. I decided early on that I would never give up my art and I would never give up my family. So my art became my family and my family became my art. Now, years later, they’re all grown up, but I still have many memories and many paintings and sculptures of all three children, plus family and friends. This exhibit was inspired by theses personal pieces, some of which have never been on public display.
Q: Do you typically include poetry with your pieces or in your exhibitions?
A: No. This is the very first time I have included poetry with an exhibit … I felt that my poetry, as simple as it is, might help the viewer take a journey into the heart of the portrait, and then reflect on their own journey.
Q: You’ve stated that there are “… heartfelt stories that help me gain strength to carry on each day.” Do you mind sharing one of those stories with us?
A: Since November 2018, I began a gratitude series that involved many of the portraits I had previously created of my youngest daughter, who has autism. When Tammy was 16, we made a decision to place her in a crisis facility. She remained in group homes for the next four years and these were difficult years for me as I was stricken with the guilt of not having her living at home during her adolescence. My creative energy was also diminishing. Over the next four years, my art began to grow and it began to heal my heart; yet Tammy was not thriving. When she turned 20, we made the decision to move her back in with us. With added support and services, we managed to move to Fallbrook and start anew.
Q: What did you find from this story that was strengthening for you?
A: Though our current journey is still not always easy, I look at life differently. I imagined a better world and have created one for all of us. Tammy is now in a wonderful day program and loves to go “to work.” She motivates me to be better every day and to make an impact in this world through my dedication to what is important to me: family and my artistic journey.
Q: You’ve also talked about the portraits and poems helping you to look at each day with fresh eyes. What have you learned from your own past, what do you see for your future, and what are you currently grateful for?
A: For me, taking a moment to find at least one thing to be grateful for each day has helped me laugh at life a bit more. In the future, I will never retire. My family and my journey as an artist will always be important to me. I am grateful for my family, my husband, my home, and my special artistic view that I give to others. This is a good life.
Q: Who are a couple of your favorite artists or works of art?
A: I love the impressionists, but Claude Monet’s color palettes are spectacular. I also love the portraits of Mary Cassatt, which tell stories of children and mothers, and her use of soft pastel colors.
Q: What’s been challenging about your work as an artist?
A: The most challenging part of my work is finding the time in between being a wife, maid and caretaker. Yet, the challenge to fit it all in is my motivation.
Q: What’s been rewarding about this work?
A: I have become a master with color, learned many media, and I still learn constantly.
Q: What has this work taught you about yourself?
A: I love challenge, I don’t give up easily, and my artistic journey is my life.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
A: My mother taught me the poem “It Couldn’t Be Done” by Edgar Guest (part of which, reads): Somebody said that it couldn’t be done / But he with a chuckle replied, / That “maybe it couldn’t,” but he would be one / Who wouldn’t say so till he’d tried…
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?
A: Although I love to paint, I just recently began learning bronzing! I’m in a foundry learning the entire process and I’m even learning how to weld. Live, love, learn! And don’t waste one precious moment.
Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.
A: Standing in front of my easel with canvas and paint, feeling the sun, breathing the sea air, and painting the beautiful downtown San Diego scenery. Drinking Starbucks coffee, a good salmon salad for lunch, and a walk on the beach with my husband.
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