Lisa Grossman (American, b. 1967)
In the Kaw Watershed
Oil on canvas
48 x 120 in
Since 2004, with the help of pilot friends, Lisa Grossman has made numerous aerial surveys of the Kansas River, also known as the Kaw, shooting photographs and video footage on which to base panoramic depictions like In the Kaw Watershed. By placing the horizon line high in the composition, Grossman grants the viewer a sprawling bird’s-eye view of the darkening landscape, which she renders with long, sweeping brushstrokes. A wedge of golden sky in the upper left corner of the canvas brilliantly signals the sun’s end-of-day descent; below, the Kaw carves a sinuous path down the middle of the composition, growing in scale as it progresses into the foreground. The river’s placid surface mirrors the creamy pink-orange and muddled blue-gray of the cloud-streaked heavens above. Of the locations she paints, Grossman says, “I try to know these places in the deepest way I can.” In the case of the Kaw, this includes both visually documenting and kayaking all 173 miles of the river, studying its ecology and hydrogeology, and promoting its preservation as a member of Friends of the Kaw River, a citizens’ advocacy group. A lifelong nature lover, Grossman sees her Kaw paintings as a way to give back to the river that has nourished her body and spirit: “Every day I drink the Kaw from the tap along with 800,000 other Kansans. Paddling and exploring sandbars is one of my favorite things to do. How can I possibly reciprocate?”
Lisa Grossman, a native of western Pennsylvania, received an associate’s degree from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh before moving to Kansas City, Missouri, to work for the Hallmark Corp. in 1988. Her fascination with Kansas’ prairie topography, particularly the Flint Hills, swayed her to leave Hallmark in 1995 and pursue a BFA at KU, which she earned in 1999. As a professional landscape painter based in Lawrence, Grossman has participated in numerous solo shows, group exhibitions, and National Parks Service artist residencies. Her work, for which she won the Kansas Arts Commission’s Mid-Career Fellowship in 2009, resides in public and private collections throughout the Midwest and beyond.
— Melinda Narro, MA student in art history at the University of Kansas, April 2019