New(York)foundlander: Why NY Artist Lisa Lebofsky is Very Enthusiastically Calling NL Home

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With ‘Come From Away’ now on Broadway, it’s easy to find Newfoundlanders in New York. It’s a little more difficult, however, to find New Yorkers in Newfoundland – especially, say, Pouch Cove.

But that’s where you’ll find Lisa Lebofsky, an artist who is aiming to drop the “Yorker” from the New, adding “Foundlander” instead.

She fell in love with the island back in 2010, during her first visit to the province for an artist residency via The Rooms at Terra Nova National Park. Here, Lebofsky hoped to satisfy her “curiosity about more isolated and sparsely populated regions, ripe with pristine landscapes and room for contemplation,” she told The Overcast via email during her first month as an island resident.

Seven years and many paintings later, Lebofsky and her cat Fileseffer have relocated, ditching the lifestyle of The City That Never Sleeps in favour of a quiet, semi-rural life. “Newfoundland will provide me space: emotionally and physically. Living in New York City is very intense: it is fast-paced, there is always a lot happening, and I am pulled in too many directions at all times,” Lebofsky said. “I’m looking forward to coming here to streamline my life, cut out some of the noise, and spend more devoted time focused on painting and healing from a tumultuous couple of years.”

As the crashing waves take her breath away, she breathes new life into them, via oil on canvas. Well, not always on canvas – Lebofsky also paints on aluminum, giving her pieces an ethereal feel, as they ebb and flow with the light, from sunrise to sunset.

She loves the landscapes but does she love the weather? “I’m loving it! It’s entirely unpredictable and surprising,” Lebofsky said. “The landscape is very much alive here with the constant change in weather, light, colour, and even form from the varying patterns of snow. This is a major challenge for a plein air painter, but a welcome one that keeps me on my toes and presented with new subject matter every day, sometimes hour.”

Visiting her current workspace at the James Baird Gallery in Pouch Cove, where she has also been living since Feb. 19, you are immediately drawn to the large windows, facing the rollicking sea and neighbouring sprawling hills. Lebofsky spends hours sitting in the window, painting her expansive backyard.

It’s a departure from her backyard views in New York City. We had to know what her American pals had to say when she left NY for NL. “Well, the first question out of New York is often, ‘Where is that? That’s by Maine right?’ … followed by an enlightening conversation wherein I speak to the amazing people and beautiful landscape, which is often met with envy,” she laughed. “Newfoundlanders … they seem to be the most confused by my move. They at first seem to talk me out of it, then appreciate the appreciation I have of the place.”

Her deep love of Newfoundland is evident in her elegant response to a simple question: “What was your first impression of the island?”

“As I made my way across the province, I was overcome with quiet reverence from the rolling open highway cutting through the warm dark greens of the trees blanketing the landscape, turning to a cool and almost colourless silvery grey as they were enshrouded by the distant and pervasive fog. In this space, I found an abundance of potential, both for my art and my person,” she said.

Credit: Jim Shebib

“Once I set up at the park and took brush to panel, I had a visceral sense of home, peace, and familiarity. I soon realized that the seemingly foreboding yet accessible landscape of Newfoundland had been what I had been attempting to capture in my earlier work: a place of dualities – a cold and rocky landscape filled with some of the warmest

people, a dichotomy that encourages the consideration of our relationships with nature as a place of both isolated comfort and our potential demise: the epitome of the sublime. Being in Newfoundland, I had entered into one of my own paintings. “Every time I visit Newfoundland, it is harder for me to leave,” Lebofsky added. “Over the years I have amassed some of the dearest friends, have found no shortage of references for my artwork, and have enjoyed exhibiting with James Baird Gallery.”

Baird’s support, encouragement and friendship has aided her decision to move here, coupled with “the persistently enticing landscape,” that provides her with “a real sense of home that I look forward to experiencing regularly,” she explained.

Lebofsky has also been making new friends in the province, hosting a studio brunch party on March 26 to both showcase her recent works and meet local art enthusiasts.

For those who missed the brunch bash, no worries – Lebofsky has a slew of event ideas up her sleeve, like evening cocktail parties, other themed events in April and May, and a group show in August. Over the summer, Lebofsky has artist residencies in Terra Nova Park, Tilting on Fogo Island, and Colorado.

She will be returning to Newfoundland in the fall, with plans to “experience a full Newfoundland winter” … We doubt she’ll be as excited about the “experience” by next January. Here’s hoping she sticks it out, churning out beautiful paintings of the frozen landscape we often condemn.

Check out Lisa’s website here: http://www.lisalebofsky.com. And keep up with The James Baird Gallery here: http://www.jamesbaird.ca/

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Wendy Rose

Wendy Rose is an arts/entertainment writer based in St. John's. When she's not writing, you can find her at Fred's Records, ranting about her insane crush on Tom Waits.

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