If you ever see someone in Kent with a camera lens focused inches away from a small crack in the sidewalk, it would be a safe bet that you could walk over and say, "Hi, Lisa."
Lisa Vegel just finished her senior show, titled "A Scene Seen." This is her last requirement for her bachelor's degree in painting from Kent State University's School of Art.
Since January, Vegel has been zooming in on the details of her daily life. Details that most people walk right past without a second thought.
She takes interest in how objects show evidence of our use or neglect of them. For Vegel, this reflects not only on how places and objects function, but also on how we are involved with the world around us.
Hence her paintings of intricately studied cigarette butts, a disintegrating pop lid on the sidewalk and the puddles on a freshly mopped bathroom floor. All are rendered with intricate skill in a photo-realistic style.
The paintings range from 6 feet to 6 inches and are true to lifesize so they either show a lot or a little of a chosen scene.
These paintings are meticulous and time consuming to paint. However, the process of creation is a type of "meditation on the things we use," says Vegel.
This is a way for her to be present in her environment and reflect on this presence at the same time. While she is painting, she is simultaneously studying the scene and rendering it on canvas. As she looks closer and closer at the object, she learns more about it and can then translate that information into paint.
Her hope is that as viewers see these paintings their attention is not only drawn into the paintings, but also drawn to the details of their own environment as a way to reawaken a sense of being present in life.
For example, in Face below the loading bar of a recycling dumpster (And the war rages on) Vegel frames a snapshot of the scratched and rusted recycling dumpster that sits outside of the Art Building on Kent State's campus.
At first glance it was hard for me to tell exactly what I was looking at, but as time went on I was drawn into the details of the work and saw the hint in the lower right corner of the painting: a mangled and chipped section of the green recycling sign I have seen printed on dumpsters around town.
Vegel chose to paint only a section of the entire dumpster for exactly this reason — to draw people into the mystery of what we see everyday. In this particular painting she wants the viewers to become interested in "the nature of rust and where the marks come from."
Vegel wished to continue working in this fashion. For her next project she plans to find abstractions in everyday life and paint them in the same photo-realistic style.
She will be moving to New York City in a few weeks and searching for art opportunities there.