Lisa Schupbach | Fascinated by Figures

By Gussie Fauntleroy

HERE’S ANOTHER DIFFERENCE to add to the Venus/Mars divide: At the card table, men exhibit just a few nonverbal clues that might tip off their hand; women have dozens. At least that’s what painter Lisa Schupbach has heard. “In their body language, women can betray more of what’s going on under the surface, and that can mean a better painting,” she explains, gazing out her studio window at the trees near her Phoenix apartment. This open yet sometimes mysterious expression of emotion is a primary reason Schupbach is drawn to the female as her subject of choice.

On an easel beside her, a painting in process depicts the adolescent daughter of a friend. Backlit and in silhouette, the young girl is arranging a vase of flowers. As with much of Schupbach’s work, dramatic lighting evokes a mood, and the smallest suggestion of narrative invites the viewer to fill in whatever story comes to mind.

Story, lighting, drama, intrigue. If it sounds like something that should be on stage, that’s no surprise. Schupbach has been in the footlights, or practicing to be, since the age of 3. Growing up in Phoenix, she and her older sister spent three to four hours a day, three or four days a week, in dance class and practice for ballet, tap, and jazz. At home the whole family was involved in performance preparations.

The girls’ mother created scenery and props, their father played music for the dance troupe, a woodworking uncle built a ballet barre and large mirror for practice in the living room, and everyone helped paint backdrops. “We had Nutcracker props everywhere. It was like a fantasyland,” Schupbach remembers. “It was a very arts-and-craftsy household, a great environment for a little girl to grow up in.”

Featured in February 2007

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