During the Pandemic: A Conversation with Lori Mehta, CA

Pictured above: Many Layers, oil on board, 18” x 36”

Written by: Francesca Sinnott

 

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Pictured: Lori Mehta, CA

For an artist who only began painting 7 years ago, Lori Mehta has developed a considerable following. And when you look at her modern realist style of work you can see why.  Her beautiful and carefully rendered paintings of everyday human view points, especially her interpretations of the sunlight and shadow and the movement of fabric on young women in simple and elegant poses, are fresh and bright. They remind the viewer of the beauty and the positivity of a particular memory. “We don’t always take the time to appreciate those small encounters, and right now we need these moments to get through the isolation and stress of our times.”

When I first encounter Lori on Zoom I see a sparkle in her eyes that, the more we talk, reveals an artist with an intense passion for her painting. “I can enter the studio at 8 AM and easily become so absorbed that I often reemerge as late as 8 PM when the light has completely faded.” She is honored to have been accepted to Co|So in 2017 and has received numerous awards, including the prestigious American Artists League Professional Award with the Salmagundi Club in 2019.

Lori has always been involved in the creative arts, receiving both a BFA and an MFA in printmaking, and then afterwards, while raising her three children, creating arts and crafts for community fund raisers. However, she did not begin to paint until, with the encouragement of a friend, she attended an adult education painting class at Newton North. With the support of teacher Zhanna Cantor, she began entering juried shows and winning awards. She would switch from acrylic to oil painting after studying with Catherine Kehoe at Mass Art.

One benefit of the pandemic was that it allowed her to spend more time at her Cape Cod summer home with her 23 year-old daughter. “I had one of my muses with me (referring to one of two daughters who model for her), and I would say to her ‘the light is really great right now, let’s go to the beach’; I would pack my camera and sketchbook and we’d go.” 

Lori describes how painting in her detached home studio, “helped her escape”. “Like everyone, I was shell shocked. I could hole up with a painting and forget about everything”.  

While preparing about 20 works for her upcoming solo show in May, 2021 at Beacon Gallery, Lori has noticed a slight shift in her work that she attributes to these extraordinary times. “The work is more serious. “ She describes her painting of a woman cocooned in a blanket. “Perhaps it conjured in me a desire to share a memory that metaphorically conveyed security”.   Intentionally, Lori’s titles do not reveal much as she wants the viewer to engage in their own personal way.

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Pictured: Cocoon, oil on board, 18” x 36”

 “I work from tons of photographs, sketches and sometimes from actual objects in my studio. I spend a lot of time drawing and working out the composition and the scale of my paintings (some as large as 36” x 24”).  I have begun to “crop in more” on the “fabric than the human form” and I love the effects of “afternoon light on white”. “I exaggerate the colors I see; so if I see a bit of orange or blue, I push it. I prefer a flat brush so I can any make type of line. I will capture a simple pose without a recognizable face, such as my daughter pulling her hair up in to a ponytail, or a woman with her shirt flapping in the breeze”.  These images resonate with many people.

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Pictured: Awakening, oil on board, 24” x 30”

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Pictured: Awakening in progress

Lori created her “wonder woman series” when she saw the way that her daughter was managing stress at work. It made her think of the many working people on the front line of this pandemic. “I’m grateful to the everyday heroes”, she tells me. “Stronger Together” from this series is in the current Co|So Fall Members Show

Pictured: Unpack Your Inner Hero, oil on board, 24”x24”

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Pictured: Stronger Together, oil on board, 20”x38”

Lori regularly updates her Instagram, lorimehtaart, to show her paintings. Through this platform and her exposure at Co|So, Lori has been contacted by collectors and by dealers. She does not do commissions. 

Lori’s love for her art is such that she “never wants it to become a job, as that will take the joy out of it”. “I will receive ‘calls for art’ to enter juried shows, and I particularly enjoy entering local shows, as it is often a nice introduction to talented artists from the area. Painting does not always come easy. There are days when whatever I try is not working, but then I put in the frustrating hours of trial and error, and I find that pushes my art to a new level. It is the first painting that emerges that I often keep for myself because it means so much”. Her advice to new artists: “there’s no right way; do what feels right to you, and don’t let others tell you what you should do”. “Learning the basics like drawing and color mixing are crucial; but once those are solid, allow yourself the ability to explore your own voice. Keep learning, with classes, workshops and demos. One benefit of the pandemic is the way that Zoom has made studying with other artists across the world so much more accessible. Finally, show your work as much as you can.”