Birdfeeders Wake

Archived Story

Artist arisen

Published 6:38pm Thursday, January 5, 2012

Born in Romania, Lea Goldman’s family lived near the Black Sea. Her father was a seaman who made leather shoes on the side; her mother was an intellectual who did research. Her parents lived separately for a while pursuing their own work. Her father designed and built a special education institution and was a huge believer in learning. Goldman considers him to have been her main teacher as he taught her systematically about archaeology, geography and other subjects long before she started school. Her young life was taken up with learning and reading—sometimes with tutors—which left little time for af social life. In grade school,

Goldman was pulled out of class by her teachers to create artwork that would decorate classrooms for special occasions. And soon, she saw herself as the artist she would become.

In high school, Goldman took classes in industrial design in the Bauhaus, or International Style, specifically furniture making. The Bauhaus style was characterized by the absence of ornamentation, radically simplified forms, and harmony between function and design.

Goldman studied drawing and painting with Dada movement artist Marcel Janco. While in college in New York, Goldman studied printmaking at Columbia University.

She moved to Los Angeles where her sister was living — where she could work and go to school. Painting seriously in college, she became very interested in the Hispanic culture and the Spanish language and eventually worked as a research specialist in a school special education department.

Goldman had built upon many artistic influences: British-born Mexican surrealist painter and novelist Leonora Carrington, and Spanish-Mexican para-surrealist painter and anarchist Remedios Varo, both who fled Europe after WW II to live and work in Mexico. The mythology and mystery of their work spoke to her.

A theatrical flair

“My work is still more theatrical than theirs,” said Goldman, who sees her own work as an improvisational medieval Renaissance style.

Goldman’s work is heavily influenced by Commedia dell’Arte, a 16th century Italian form of theater characterized by masked characters or archetypes. Performed mostly on city streets by professional actors who perfected a specific roll or mask, these satirical and humorous presentations were the forerunner to modern theatre.

The theatrical settings in her paintings are influenced in part by the figures and costumes of Commedia dell’Arte.
“This is to distance the situations from actual life occurrences and give the ideas a sort of universal meaning,” Goldman said. “Every experience that is described in my work is common; it can happen anytime, anywhere. Even though the images sometimes deal with the problems in our lives, the message is most often positive. There is joy in the bright colors, swift movements, and humorous staging. With that I intend to say that whatever may occur, life is worth living.”

Goldman’s work is also informed by the day-to-day ideas expressed through this Renaissance movement. “I wanted to capture the ambiance, the distant light, the other-worldly forms that exist there without distorting reality. Good is when you believe you are doing the real stuff,” Goldman told me.

Clarissa Pinkola Estés who wrote”Women Who Run With the Wolves” understood the rich intercultural myths, stories, and fairy tales about the instinctual nature of women. After Goldman read the book, she was determined to put her own thoughts to canvas and paper.

Reflections of concern

“My paintings reflect concerns and challenges that we as human beings face in our daily lives. They depict dreams and fantasies we turn to when we need a respite from our actual surroundings. I use representational images to tell the stories. I do not strive to present accurate academic depiction. I use imagery as needed, to describe my thoughts and daydreams. My stories are not linear extensions in time; rather, they focus on one crucial moment. Whatever happened earlier and is about to happen in the future is open to interpretation.”

Goldman said she believes she is in Stage Two of her work.

“The prints, and the crone stories are very satisfying to have gotten beyond,” she said.

Busy working on a new series of paintings, Goldman’s work will be on exhibit at Fernwood Botanical Garden & Nature Preserve in Niles, Michigan later in 2012. You can also see her work at

Contact Kathee Kiesselbach at


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