By Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media
Carol LaChuisa has always had a deep passion for the arts. “When I was 8 years old, I read a book about an artist who could move trees with his pictures and I thought that was really cool — it sparked my initial interest in art,” she says.
The Grosse Pointe Farms resident has a solo exhibition running through Dec. 21 at the Anton Art Center in Mount Clemens. It is a retrospective of paintings from 1982 to her more current pieces.
LaChiusa enjoyed exposure to art in her childhood growing up in the Cleveland area. She started taking art classes when she was 9 at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she learned a variety of styles and techniques. During her high school years, after she moved to Lima, Ohio, she started teaching herself art.
She spent many days drawing and researching artistic styles and every summer she traveled to the Smoky Mountains with family, where she learned plein air (outdoors) painting. Plein air means leaving the four walls of a studio behind and experiencing painting and drawing in the living landscape.
After high school she attended the Cleveland School of Art, now called the Cleveland Institute of Arts (CIA), where she majored in sculpture.
“My parents didn’t approve of me being an artist, they wanted me to go to medicine and business, whereas my aunt was very supportive of me and supplied me with tuition to go to CIA,” LaChiusa says. “When I left high school, I wanted to go forward and not look back.”
After graduating from CIA, she continued her studies at workshops at the Universidad de las Américas Puebla in Mexico; Trinity College in Venice, Italy; and at Nantucket Island School of Art and Design.
LaChiusa started teaching in 1960, and through the years she has taught around the Oakland and Wayne County areas. She still lectures throughout Michigan and teaches weekly intensive workshops for established artists.
She has exhibited extensively both in the United States and abroad, she’s been honored with more than 20 solo shows and many awards, and her work hangs in many corporate collections. LaChiusa served as president of both the Detroit Society of Women Painters and Sculptors and Grosse Pointe Arts Council, and for several years hosted “Watercolor Workshop with Carol LaChiusa” on Channel 32 in Grosse Pointe.
Though LaChiusa works primarily with watercolor paint, but she also works with oil, pastels and other media. She loves to be out in nature and landscape paintings continue to be her favorite genre. Her favorite artist tool is sumi-e brushes, named from the Japanese Zen tradition of fluid expression. The brush is made of bamboo and squirrel hair and is commonly used for calligraphy.
“It’s a tool that I can express myself with,” LaChiusa says.
She prefers to work by natural light and when she works outside her timing depends on available sunlight. She prefers to work on one piece at a time and it usually takes about two hours to complete a painting. How does she know when she is finished?
“The problem that most artists have is the tendency to overwork their piece,” LaChiusa says. “Before I’m done I take a look at my painting from across the room so I can get a better view of how it looks as a whole.”
Her Anton Art Center exhibition of 50 pieces is dedicated to her second husband, Paris DiSanto, who died in 2016.
“He always went with me when I traveled, and was always supportive of what I wanted to do,” LaChiusa says.
The collection includes large paintings of oceans, forests and landscapes. She calls her work a passion series.
“I’m a person of a great deal of emotion when I paint, I feel the spirit in me when I paint a picture,” LaChiusa says.
Carol LaChiusa’s solo exhibition is open through Dec. 21 at the Anton Art Center, 125 Macomb Place, Mount Clemens. The center will be hosting an Artist Talk with LaChiusa at 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, where refreshments will be provided. For more information, visit theartcenter.org or call 586-469-8666. To learn more about LaChiusa and her artwork visit carollachiusa.com.