Artist Anita Lewis began her working career as an interior architect, designing kitchens and bathrooms for a German firm. Her love of a clean, modern look, and integration into interior design as a whole, is still in evidence in the output of her second career as a fine artist.
Lewis’ work, currently on offer at the Nikki Sedacca Gallery in Edgartown, is purely abstract but features lots of linear elements, judicious use of color, and, in some cases, actual bits of metal to add a structural look. That’s not to say that there’s anything sterile about the work. In creating her large mixed-media pieces, Lewis uses multiple layers of paint to bring depth to her work, and often adds metallic leaf for further interest.
The resulting labor-intensive pieces combine both an industrial and an organic feel. The titles she has given to her various series provide a glimpse into her inspirations — “Earth,” “Structure of Water,” “Wavescapes,” etc. There’s a clean, integrated look to the work, despite the fact that each piece is very complex in its construction. Lewis tends to create without the use of brushes, instead dragging, rubbing, and spreading her oils over the canvas and using gold, copper, or silver leaf in a subtle manner, peeking out from underneath to add reflective qualities to the work.
In some cases, actual architectural details have been added. For example, two of the pieces on display — “Ocean Mists” and “Mixing Six” — include very thin strips of metal to bind together two or more canvases, creating a diptych or hexaptych effect. “I try to use building materials in my artwork,” says Lewis, who notes that her frames are all handmade from metal. “I sometimes use scrap metal. It gives the work more of an industrial look.”
Although she spent almost 20 years working in interior design in Germany, the California-born-and-bred artist started out as a painter. She began working with oil paints at the age of 11, and had her first painting commission at 14. Lewis earned a B.A. in art and interior architectural design at California State University at Northridge before departing for what was intended to be a one-year sojourn in Germany. She stayed on, pursuing a successful career in interior architecture, before eventually moving back to California and turning her attention to painting. “Sometimes you have to go around a big circle to connect back to where you wanted to be in the first place,” she says.
Abstraction always appealed to Lewis, and even more so after spending years meticulously creating hand drafts for her architectural work. She welcomed the opportunity to be more free in her creative output. “The trick to painting abstract is that you can’t fight it,” she says. “It takes on a life of its own. If you try to steer it, it will go south fast.”
Still, Lewis’ sense of aesthetics as a designer has clearly influenced her artwork, and she has retained many of the elements of the contemporary look of European design. “I learned kitchen design in Germany, where everything was very clean-lined, very Bauhaus, before that look had taken hold over here,” she says. “That’s always been my motto. Less is more.”
In her artist statement, Lewis writes, “Coming from the modern interior design and architectural field, my art is created to add and support architectural power, overlapping worlds of design and visual art. Using modern European and Asian/zen influences, intertwined with natural themes, works develop with a surrounding in my mind.”
Lewis has enjoyed a successful career as an artist. She has participated in internationally renowned art shows such as Art Expo New York, Art Expo Las Vegas, Arte Classica Buenos Aires and Art San Diego. Her art is collected in many countries, and represented in fine art galleries throughout the world. She has a collector base of corporations, medical centers, and high-end architectural homes, both nationally and internationally, and her work has been published in various art and design magazines.
In the past few years, Lewis has explored a couple of new avenues, creating abstracted images around motocross racing and ballet. She has sold a number of examples of the former at Formula One racing events, and has collaborated with the San Diego Ballet.
In all of her work, Lewis has maintained an integrity of style. She writes, “As a unifying element of cultures, my art should serve as a never-ending inspiration of moods, memories, emotions, and experiences, well integrated into the interior space as a refuge for the soul from the ever so increasing tempo of modern 21st century life.”
Nikki Sedacca Gallery, 17 Winter St., Edgartown. Call 508-627-5373 or visit nikkisedaccagallery.com for more information.