Illuminations: Lucinda Luvaas

by Deidre S. Greben

Lucinda Luvaas creates the flat, black forms and lines of her graphic compositions not by chiseling away areas of wood panel to produce the stenciled look of block printing, but surprisingly by building up surfaces in relief using a concoction of gel, wax, and pigment. The process is well suited to Luvaas’s subject—what she describes as an “elevation” of the everyday. In Spin, the popular recreational diversion Frisbee becomes a metaphor for the suspended moment, a specific instant or fleeting gesture plucked and preserved from daily life. The outdoor pastime is given centerstage, surrounded by imagery Luvaas has morphed from assorted photographs, including the observers who frame the lower half of the field and whose gaze lifts with ours, anticipating the flying disk’s trajectory.

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“My technical process produces pictorial effects much like impressions, imprints, fossil left overs from life. My artwork combines oil painting, acrylic, relief techniques, drawings, using graphite, ink pens, prismacolor pencils and oilbars, video, and photography. She has an insatiable curiosity about materials and always looks for new ways to create a unique visual interpretation of the world.”

Luvaas has no interest in recording exactly what she sees, but rather wants to convey the impressions of what she sees, wanting to craft the mood and feeling of a scene or event.

She has developed a new and innovative technique called: “Imprinting .” This method of working has required many years of experimentation to perfect. It is a meticulous process that is a hybrid between painting, relief techniques and printmaking. It took much trial and error to find the right tools for each step of the process such as: sharp scapels for very intricate, delicate cuts, japanese knives, and italian sputulas of all shapes and sizes. The hard-edged look is painstakingly hard to accomplish…much can go wrong. For instance, there are many grid-like sections that are laid out on the wood panel, and they must be perfectly aligned and seamless. All of the sections must be secure while imprinting, so that the artist can produce a clean, crisp result. This can be very difficult at times, especially when the sections are delicate and fragile.

Ms. Luvaas continues to experiment and refine her techniques with this new and original approach to fine art.


Lucinda Luvaas is a multimedia artist working in fine art and video. Her films and fine art have been screened and exhibited both nationally and abroad.


New York University, The New York Studio School, The Art Student’s League, The New School for Social Research



Illuminations: Lucinda Luvaas

Lucinda Luvaas creates the flat, black forms and lines of her graphic compositions not by chiseling away areas of wood panel to produce the stenciled look of block printing, but surprisingly by building up surfaces in relief using a concoction of gel, wax, and pigment. The process is well suited to Luvaas’s subject—what she describes as an “elevation” of the everyday.
In Spin, the popular recreational diversion Frisbee becomes a metaphor for the suspended moment, a specific instant or fleeting gesture plucked and preserved from daily life. The outdoor pastime is given centerstage, surrounded by imagery Luvaas has morphed from assorted photographs, including the observers who frame the lower half of the field and whose gaze lifts with ours, anticipating the flying disk’s trajectory.
Luvaas coaxes us to actively engage with her work and prefers her subjects to similarly be in a state of doing—whether looking, conversing, strolling, biking.  As witnessed in paintings such as Promenade and Subterranean, she is enthralled by both the individual action within and the broader sweep of the urban throng in motion. While her works draw from the graphic boldness and piquant colors—ochre, salmon, teal, lime—of 60s Pop, they no doubt more closely align with Futurist ideals. Not only does Luvaas share the early 20th-century Italian movement’s preoccupation with the static representation of moving figures, but also aims, in the words of Umberto Boccioni, to paint “a synthesis of what one remembers and what one sees.”
As if to emphasize this fusion of what is actually there and our impression of it, Luvaas often harnesses both figuration and abstraction to convey her subject. The inky black outlines and shapes defining the escalators and their ascending riders in Trajectory contrast and yet synchronize with the pinkish orange and buttery gold paint splatters dotting its powder blue ground. Similarly the multi-colored polygonal planes boogieing across Metropolis diverge from but also reverberate the restless motion describing the scene, here on a city sidewalk.
Luvaas’s exploration has always centered on gesture and narrative, previously in paintings whose scenarios respond to the common phrases comprising their titles, as well as in documentary and art videos. To be sure, a cinematic impulse carries through her work. The paintings in this show can even be said to resemble frames of celluloid film, with their strongly defined positive and negative forms.
Luvaas nods to this other type of motion picture in Heading West, where a collage of actual photographs, including one of a Hollywood sign, looms over an Upper Westside courtyard. The woman at its center, positioned waist deep in desert and tumbleweed, looks askance, while city passersby, realized in black contour, peer inside the Manhattan building gates, rendered as if we, the painting’s viewers, are standing in a small crowd behind them. The physical flatness of the photographs and the sculptural relief of Luvaas’s drawings play with our sense of what is real and imagined—as well as to the point that our day-to-day experiences are an amalgamation of both.

Deidre S. Greben

Deidre Stein Greben is a former managing editor of ARTnews magazine and currently a contributing editor. In addition to ARTnews, her articles have appeared in the New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, Newsday, Elle Décor, Art + Auction, among other publications. She has also edited several catalogues for the Whitney Museum of American Art and have written scripts for museum exhibition audio tours produced by Acoustiguide and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.


Lucinda Luvaas: Loving the City from a Distance
By John Seed

Artist Lucinda Luvaas likes the energy of big cities, especially of New York City, where she grew up and was educated. “There are many ghosts in the streets,” she muses, “all those experiences that informed who I am and what made me. The place for me is pregnant with feeling.” Paradoxically, the artist’s studio — a low wooden outbuilding adjacent to her 1940’s clapboard Hemet farmhouse — feels utterly remote from the urban chaos, cultural diversity and youthful vibe that energize Luvaas’ mixed media relief paintings. Hemet, a sun-soaked and recession-wracked farm town turned retirement town turned bedroom community feels a million miles from Manhattan. Of course, Luvaas and her novelist husband Bill can hop into the car and be at the Santa Monica Promenade in 2 hours, and a day in Santa Monica generally charges Lucinda’s creative batteries just fine. In fact, many of the images in her recent series, “The Times of Our Lives,” were inspired by images of the Promenade, initially recorded by Luvaas in the form of video and photos, and then lovingly morphed into her distinctive style. “I love to depict the throng of people there,” says Luvaas, “and I guess in general it’s a motif that repeats itself over and over again. I’m a people painter.”

Behind the flaking white doors of her studio, Luvaas finds the privacy she needs to create. Working to classical music, and also the hymns of praise that float over from the fundamentalist church next door most evenings, Luvaas fusses over her images, half painting, half sculpting, using sheets of wax to endow her finished reliefs with a raised, reverse stencil surface. The finished works are in some ways paradoxical. They have the graphic energy of “Pop” but seen up close they are quite painterly, even abstract. Luvaas’ formalist tendencies are also apparent in the rich, syncopated rhythms of her compositions. It has taken Luvaas years of experimentation to find her current way of working, and her technique is perfectly fused with its urban subject matter. Luvaas may live and work in the Inland Empire, but New York, where she was born and educated, still feels like her “parent.”

“I do much work that relates to Manhattan,” Luvaas confides, “to the energy that is there trying to lift it up and use it to create that sense of fluidity, energy, creativity and the social aspect of this giant community: one of the very few real communities in this country of ours.” A composer, painter, and filmmaker, Luvaas has no trouble keeping the urban energy going wherever she is. “By using that subject matter I become it,” Luvaas says. Her art, heartfelt, idiosyncratic and carefully constructed, is an homage to cities and their rich social possibilities. After my visit to Luvaas’ studio I sent her some questions about her images, and aesthetics.


Friday, October 09, 2015 – The Ghosts of New York City Linger

“I definitely am not and never have been a realist.”
Lucinda Luvaas

The California based multimedia artist Lucinda Luvaas whose idiosyncratic narrative driven works explore the interplay between abstraction and figuration in an urban setting are even today influenced by growing up in New York during the 1960’s.

In her artist’s statement for the Brooklyn Museum Luvaas writes “I’ve always seen myself as an outsider, an observer, since I was little. I remember being four years old and standing outside my home raking leaves in autumn and whispering, “I will never be like them.” I hated the cliques who taunted me in grade school. So, I learned to fend for myself, sharpen my imagination and be alert. I always needed to swim in my own lane, and carve my own story. I very naturally chose art as a way of life because of my need for individual expression.”

And over the years Luvaas has developed a unique technique that she calls “Imprinting;” a hybrid between painting, relief techniques and printmaking. As she told the Huffington Post’s John Seed “It’s a painstaking process, but rewarding. The relief is made with oils, wax, acrylics, and gel and they are on wood panels. I use drawings, video stills from my short video art pieces and digital stills as well for my research materials.”
And this research inevitably centers round activities within an urban setting.

“I am interested primarily in capturing people in environments where they are actively engaged in something whether it is simply walking, watching a crowd, dancing, you name it: all aspects of our daily lives and then creating a sort of imprint of history… [But] I’ve never wanted to depict just what I see, but rather alter things to find a deeper sense or meaning as though I am creating a living being that pulsates and moves with emotions and feelings. This I feel can really be achieved by combining abstraction and figuration. I’m very committed to figuration, but I’m devoted to it within the context of patterning: using abstract forms, to some extent reducing figuration to abstractions, although very much recognizable in their depictions of real things,” she says.

As Comrades Magazine’s Daniel McAnulty has written “Lucinda infuses an intangible glimmer of hope in even her darkest works, but most importantly a sense of good humor despite depicting some of our most embarrassing human foibles. She looks at the world with an insider’s eye and somehow manages to fill her audience in on the joke.” Luvaas’ current exhibition Illuminations is on show at New York’s Walter Wickiser Gallery until the 27th of October.


Walter Wickiser Gallery, “Illuminations,” with catalog, New York, NY, October, 2015
Walter Wickiser Gallery, “Momentary Impressions,” with catalog, New York, NY, February, 2013
Lois Lambert Gallery, “Flash Points,” Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA, May-July, 2012
Gregory Way Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA, solo exhibition, October/November, 2011
Studio West Gallery, Eugene, OR, solo exhibition and artist talk, Sept./Nov.’09
The James Gray Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA, solo exhibition, May/’08
La Sierra University, Riverside, CA, solo exhibition, “Diary of a Planet” Sept./Oct., ’08
The Continental Gallery, Los Angeles, solo exhibition of large and small works including: reverse glass paintings, large mixed media drawings, oils and video, June, ’07
Bloomsburg University, Haas Gallery, PA, July/’07, “Running Through History,” mixed media and video, July, 2007
The Chase Mitchell Gallery, Santa Ana, CA, solo exhibition, ’07
Cal Poly Downtown Art Center, Pomona, CA, solo exhibition, Nov., 2006
Chadron State College, Chadron, NE, solo exhibition, Feb., 2005
Golden West College Art Gallery, solo show, Sept., 2003
Pascal/Robinson Galleries, Houston, TX, solo exhibition, Jan., 2002
Mt. San Antonio College, Walnut, CA, solo exhibition, Feb., 2001
Hamilton Galleries, Los Angeles, CA, solo exhibition, Oct., 2000
University of Redlands, Redlands, CA, solo exhibition, Oct., 2000
Creative Art Center Gallery, Burbank, CA, solo exhibition, Jan., 1999
Cabrillo College Art Gallery, Aptos, CA, solo exhibition, Sept., 1992
MiraCosta College, Oceanside, CA, solo exhibition, Oct-Nov., 1991
El Camino College Library, LA, CA, solo exhibition, Sept., 1991
Barbara Mendes Gallery, LA, CA, solo exhibition, May, 1990
(featured as Artist of The Month in LA Weekly by Art Critic, Peter Frank)
Mangel Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, solo exhibition, Jan,, 1990
The Penson Gallery, NY, NY, solo exhibition, Oct., 1988
Dalia Tawil Gallery, NY, NY, solo exhibition, May, 1987


“Spring Breeze,” Sandra Lee Gallery, July, 2013
“Rock Paper Scissors,” Coagula Gallery, Los Angeles, CA, group show, August/September, 2012
Circuit 12 Gallery, Dallas, TX, group exhibition, June/July, 2012
Lois Lambert Gallery, “Bring a Friend,” Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA, May/July, 2012
Vaughan Christopher Gallery, group exhibition, Jan/March, 2012
Walter Wickiser Gallery, NYC, four person show with catalogue, Jan/Feb., 2011
ArtSpace Warehouse, LA, group exhibition, City and Society, June 11th-July 30th, 2011
ArtSpace Warehouse, LA, group exhibition, Basel Junction LA, April 16th-June/2011
ArtSpace Warehouse, LA, group exhibition, January 27th-April/2011
Studio West Gallery, OR, group exhibition, October-December, 2010
Studio West Gallery, OR, gallery retrospective exhibition, Winter, 2011
Andrews Art Museum, N,C., group exhibition, June, 2010
The Holter Museum of Art, Helena, MT, Jan/08-2011/traveling exhibit with a six panel mixed media piece and a video called, “The Tower of Hate.”
The James Gray Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA, gallery group show, May, ’09
Radium Gallery, Santa Monica, CA, group show/11 paintings, May/June, ’09
James Gray Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA, gallery group show, Oct/Nov/’08
St. Francis University, Joliet, IL, group exhibition/ three paintings, ’08
Mount Ida College Art Gallery, Newton MA, group show/three drawings, March/’08
Bluetenweiss Gallery, Berlin, Germany, group exhibition, drawings, ’08
The Fulton Street Gallery, Troy, NY, group exhibition, “The Seven Deadly Sins, ’08
Looking At Art for Ontario Airport, group exhibition, curated by Scott Canty/LA Municipal Art Gallery,Aug-Jan., 2006
Chase Mitchell Gallery, Santa Ana, CA, group show, Sept-Oct., 2006
One Leaf Fine Art, Pomona, CA, group show, May, 2006
BC Gallery, Laguna Beach, CA, group exhibition, Oct., 2006
Lois Lambert Gallery, Bergamot Station, Santa Monica, CA, group exhibition, 2006
The Residence, London, England, group show, Oct., 2005
The Hive Gallery, LA, CA, group show, Sept., 2005
New School For Social Research, NYC, Big News published artists exhibit, 2003
University of Arkansas, Little Rock, Traveling exhibition, Feb., 2002
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Rental Gallery, rental of painted wall sculpture, July-1993
Spectrum Gallery, San Francisco, CA, group exhibition, December, 1993
Roy G. Biv Gallery, LTD., Palm Springs, CA, group exhibition, October, 1995
Century Gallery, Sylmar, CA, three-person exhibition, June-August, 1995
Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery, Barnsdall Park, LA, CA, group exhibition, and lecture, “Laughing Matters”, with essay and catalogue, written by Tyler Stallings, Feb. – April, 1995
Orlando Gallery, Sherman Oaks, CA, three person show, 1995
Erie Art Museum, Erie, PA, traveling group show sponsored by Penn State U., 1992
Zoller Gallery, Penn State U., University Park, PA, group exhibition, 1991
Sardoni Gallery, Wilkes University, Wilkes Barre, PA, group exhibition, Sept., 1991
South Bay Contemporary Museum of Art, Torrance, CA, group show, Mar., 1991
The Noyes Museum, Oceanville, NJ, group exhibition, “Artist Gardens,” Mar., 1990
The Mangel Gallery, Philadelphia, PA, gallery group exhibition, Jan., 1990
Lehigh University, Ralph Wilson Gallery, Bethlehem, PA, “From Narrative To Magic Realism,” Nov.-Jan., 1989


Cutthroat Magazine, CO, Excursis, New York, NY,
The Witness, Detroit, MI,
Big News Magazine, NYC
On The Bus, Los Angeles, CA
Upstairs at Duroc, a journal of art and literature in Paris, France
The Artistic Eye Review
Fiction International, San Diego State University
Mudfish, New York, NY
Foliate Oak, University of Kansas
River City, Univ. of TN
The Drawing Review, Portland, ME
Cutbank, Univ. of Montana
Glimmer Train, Portland, OR
LA Journal, Los Angeles, CA
Latino American Review, USA, New York, NY
ArtsFusion, CA
Alicubi, Brooklyn, NY
Friction Magazine, Journal of Art
Excursis, New York, NY

2011 Art Knowledge News, review
2011 The Huffington Post, “Loving the City From a Distance,” review by John Seed
2010 The Huffington Post, “Ten Great Paintings,” review and critique by John Seed
2009 Eugene Register Guard, review of Studio West solo show
2002 The Press Enterprise, Riverside, CA, review by Marilee Reyes
2001 ArtScene, Los Angeles, CA, review of Cal Poly show
1999 ArtScene, Los Angeles, CA, review by Ray Zone of Hamilton Gallery show
1998 The Press Enterprise, Riverside, CA, review by Mary Alice Cline, University of Redlands solo show
1995 “Laughing Matters”, with essay and catalogue, written by Tyler Stallings
Los Angeles Times, review by Nancy Kapitanoff, Mythos Gallery solo show
1994 Los Angeles Times, review by Nancy Kapitanoff, “Searching for Eden”
1993 Los Angeles Times, review by Nancy Kapitanoff of Century Exhibition
ArtScene, Los Angeles, CA, review of Creative Art Center Exhibition
Artweek, San Jose, CA, review of Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery Exhibition
1992 Capitola Courier, Capitola, CA, review of Cabrillo College Exhibition
Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz, CA,review of Cabrillo College Exhibition
Los Angeles Times, San Diego edition, review of “Local Production” by Leah Ollman
San Diego Times Union, San Diego, CA, review of “Local Production” by Robert Pincus
1991 LA Reader, Los Angeles, CA, “Featured Artist of the Month,” review solo exhibition by Peter Frank, Barbara Mendes Gallery
1990 Garden State Press, Neptune, NJ, review of Noyes Museum show
1989 The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia, PA, review solo show Mangel Gallery
The Morning Call, Allentown, PA, review of Lehigh University exhibition



Harder Mirell & Abrams LLP,  Los Angeles, CA
Ron Collins, Sonoma County Museum, CA
Deepak & Christina Kamra, Woodside, CA
Bob & Maria Gersch: Capital Records, Los Angeles, CA
Liz Heller: Vice President Capital Records, Los Angeles, CA
Kelly Gonda: South of Doheny, Beverly Hills,
Allen Fischer: Maritz Travel, New York, NY
The Clarion Hotel, San Diego, CA
Digital Imaging, Houston, TX
Sally Berke Baynon, San Diego, CA
Suzanna Moniger Neal, La Jolla, CA
Debbie Sheets, Houston, TX
Pascal Robinson, Houston, TX
Dr. Michael & Debra Bressler, La Jolla, CA
Dr. Claudia Fainman, La Jolla, CA
The Fort Bragg Public Library, Fort Bragg, CA
The Library of Congress
The Bank of America, Glens Falls, NY
John Jay College of Criminal Justice, NY, NY
The Glens Falls Civic Center, Glens Falls, NY