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Santa Maria Sun / Art

The following article was posted on July 5th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 18 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 18

Los Alamos gallery welcomes painter featured on 'Mad Men'


For most painters, one of the greatest career thrills is seeing their work hanging on the walls of a prestigious gallery. But artist Lisa Gizara got to see hers prominently featured in one of the biggest hit television shows of all time.

Gizara, a Santa Monica-based photographer and painter whose work is coveted by the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, will show a new series of her paintings at the C Gallery in Los Alamos from July 15 through Sept. 13. She describes herself as an abstract expressionist action painter; her work has been featured in exhibits at Art Basel in Miami; the See.Me Collective in SOHO, New York City; and the Louvre in Paris. In addition to her gallery work, her paintings have also appeared on several television shows including Castle, Modern Family, and, perhaps most famously, on Mad Men.

In an artist’s statement about her 2017 collection, Lisa Gizara said, “Painting is a manifestation of what is inside my soul, silently urging me, whispering to me to create beauty and bring some sort of order from chaos.”

It was one of many highpoints in a career that began with a box of crayons and the active imagination of a child growing up in New England.

"As far as I can remember, I needed to be stimulated all the time because I was always bored," she said. "One day, my dad brought home a huge box of Crayola crayons with a sharpener in the back. I remember thinking, 'Wow, I can do all these things with all these colors.'"

Gizara took her first professional painting lessons at the age of 12, working alongside older adults and learning new media and techniques. But she never thought of it as something she could pursue as a career.

As college approached, her parents hesitated about their daughter pursuing art. Her father gave her a camera and sent her off with the promise that in addition to studying painting she would also pursue photography, a skill her parents believed would at least give her more options for paid work. She agreed, and today her photography hangs in galleries all over the world and in the homes of some very famous faces, including Lawrence and actor Bruce Dern.

One of the remarkable things about Gizara's work is the duality of expression between her stark black and white photos and the vibrant abstract paintings she produces. Massive in scope and filled with serene haunting images of nature and architecture, Gizara's photography has a pure and somber photojournalistic tone that carries from series to series.

"To me, photography is more of an intellectual, cerebral process of recording beauty," she said. "When I'm painting, it's about creating beauty that comes from nowhere. Photography is a bit easier. It's more recognizable, more tangible."

Lisa Gizara made headlines when three of her bold abstract paintings appeared on the hit AMC show Mad Men. “Artists sometimes live in a vacuum,” she said. “Of course now I realize how enormous that was.”

About 11 years ago, Gizara met photographer Guy Webster and became his assistant, a relationship she points to as one of the most influential in her life. It was at his studio in Venice, among the rows of artists, musicians, and local bohemians, that she encountered an artist who was working on colorful paintings. When she asked what the project was for, the artist told her she was making art for the set of Friends. The interaction led Gizara to meet Marina Kieser, owner of Art Pic, a studio that rents artists' work to production companies for film and television.

"I had years of my paintings stored in my garage," she said. "This way I earned some passive income, which for a working artist is great. I'd get a check here and there. ... One day, I got a humongous check."

Gizara was so shocked by the large amount, she assumed it was a mistake. That's when she found out her work had been purchased by the set decorator of AMC's show Mad Men. Three of her pieces—Madonna 1," "King of Hearts," and "Queen of Hearts"—would hang in the office of character Roger Sterling, a haunting symbol of the ever-present sexism of the character and a key theme for the show.

A publicist Gizara worked with then helped get her into the notorious Oscar gift basket, a highly coveted collection of lavish and jaw-dropping items specifically given out to nominees and presenters during the annual Academy Awards. Gizara's gift was a self-published sample booklet along with a discount for purchase of her work. That led Lawrence and Dern to eventually acquire some of her work. Gizara said the experience left her a little nerve-wracked.

"I was terrified when I realized they all would see my work," she said. "I was sending it to the highest most respected and honored representatives of their craft. But I was able to get over my fear of it."

For the past year, Gizara has worked on an intimate collection of paintings, made using a tool she discovered in a pile of her husband's trash. He works in a studio next to her as a furniture builder and contractor and one day, something caught her eye.

Come see the art
Lisa Gizara’s show runs from July 15 through Sept. 13 at the C Gallery located at 466 Bell St., Los Alamos. The public is invited to the opening July 15, from 4 to 6 p.m. Gizara will be a guest speaker at the gallery’s Soup. Bread. Fire. Art Talk event on Aug. 19 at 5:30. More info: 344-3807.

"He was throwing out all these pieces of long, thin molding," she said. "I saw how they behaved when they were dipped in paint. It made such a cool, expressionist, and unpredictable set of lines. It was just purely coincidental."

While others may look at her work and see foreign objects or unusual shapes, Gizara still sees the landscapes and colors she painted as a child in New England.

"It looks like complete chaos at first," she explained. "Then I start to see patterns, shapes that want to come out of the paint. ... I'm just arbitrarily picking, but I automatically see landscapes. It's derivative of nature for me. I see the skies, the fields, the farms. It's still New England to me."

Arts and Lifestyle writer Rebecca Rose still hasn't watched the series finale of Mad Men. Contact her at

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