When Backing Up is Not an Option

Painter Joan Lesikin attended the Art Students League in Woodstock, earned her BFA at Syracuse University, and completed an MFA at Rutgers. Her award-winning work can be found in collections worldwide, and her ongoing Bodyscapes series simultaneously explores outdoor landscapes and the landscape of the human form. Born and raised in Rockland County, New York, not far from the Big Apple, Lesikin recently resettled in the little apple city of Hendersonville.

Joan Lesikin harkens to Black Mountain College for inspiration. 
Portrait by Erin Fowler

You had an adventurous ride down … 

A wonderful friend offered to help drive the truck with the art in it. But neither of us had ever driven a truck. It was hysterical.

It can take practice, especially learning to back up. 

We said we cannot back up, so we have to keep moving forward.

Bad Ass Olympia

That’s a pretty good motto for all of life’s journeys. 

Yes, it is. 

Why’d you choose WNC?

Black Mountain College drew me to this area. I grew up a few minutes from the Gate Hill Cooperative. It was a community where all these artists who went to Black Mountain College lived. [The experimental college existed from 1933-1957 and is celebrated today with related programming.] 

Dark Flower

They influenced you as a young artist in your developmental years?

The New York art scene was many Black Mountain [College] people. When I was a student at Syracuse, [geodesic-dome inventor] Buckminster Fuller visited. My friend who drove the art truck was David Tudor’s assistant for the last 20 years of his life. [Tudor was a pianist and early electronic-music composer who taught at Black Mountain College; he became musical director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company after John Cage’s death.] 

How did the move affect your work?

I wasn’t ready to paint. So I used these unfinished silkscreen prints I had made. I used colored pencil on top of the silkscreened images. I had never combined them until I arrived in Hendersonville. 

Resting #19 

It’s a good thing you saved that truck full of art supplies.

I tell artists, when you get stuck, you don’t have to look outside yourself. Just go through your portfolios of everything you’ve ever done. You will find ideas you didn’t finish. 

Tell Asheville Made about your Bodyscapes series; at first glance
I thought it was fabric, not oil paint.

I was moved by Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Land of Counterpane,” about being sick in bed as a child and imagining the contours of the bed coverings [as hills for toy soldiers and ships]. He makes a connection between sheets and landscapes. That stuck with me as a visual metaphor: bedsheets as a metaphor for something physical and emotional. 

Mountain Home

I imagine that design concept gives you lots of artistic freedom.

I don’t think I’ll ever run out of ideas with Bodyscapes. It gives me lots of visual possibilities for exploration, and the bed is a metaphoric landscape with all these other connotations. Beds are sacred. They are symbols of warmth and safety and privacy. They are a sanctuary. Beds are where we share our most intimate experiences. 

Joan Lesikin, Hendersonville, studio open by appointment. Lesikin will take part in the Open Studio Tour of Henderson County, 10am-5pm on Saturday, Sept. 21 and Sunday, Sept. 22, Studio #B5 in the Balfour Art Pod. For more information and a map, see hcost.org. For more information about the artist, see lesikin.com or on Instagram: @joanlesikin.

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Nancy Gros

    Wonderful article about one of my oldest friends beautiful artwork. I wish I could visit the show. Much luck Joan. Nancy G.

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