Crossing artistic boundaries

After delighting her fans for many years with her over-sized acrylic sea grape studies, Maureen Lazarus is branching out, crossing artistic boundaries and stepping into the world of sculptural artwork. It will be featured in an exhibition of local artists at the Ritz-Carlton Gallery on Nov. 20.  

Nestled in the heart of George Town, Maureen Lazarus’s art studio is an airy patio surrounded by an oasis of broad-leafed breadfruit trees and other leafy vegetation that cannot help but have an impact on her artwork, as she is an artist very much in tune with nature.  

She is currently preparing for her latest exhibition – the Essence of Cayman – in which she, along with other highly talented local artists, will showcase their work at the Ritz-Carlton Gallery.  

Known island-wide for her acrylic studies of sea grapes on canvas, Lazarus is now busy pressing page after page of newspaper together, carefully painting each page with paint, which acts as a glue, to create material that she can then paint with acrylics and shape into foliage and other plant life. These are used to create her intriguing new sculptural pieces.  


New direction 

Her move into the world of three-dimensional art came about because Lazarus likes to push herself and her talents, while still incorporating the vibrant colors that make her artwork so recognizable.  

The pieces she creates from newspaper are cut into the shapes of leaves or other parts of the plant, then bent to suit the painting. After the three-dimensional piece hardens for a few days, Lazarus attaches it to her painting to add interest for the viewer. 

She has two finished pieces for the show – one a dynamic close-up of a banana plant in bloom, and the other a sea grape study with the plant seemingly growing out of the bottom of the painting. At the time of this interview, she was also working on two more pieces for the show. A riot of colorful croton leaves are in the making, representative of a popular hedging plant whose deep green leaves can be striped with yellow, orange or deep red. Each leaf has been painstakingly re-created to mimic the real thing, but artfully laid out in a dynamic and exciting composition. As Lazarus places the finishing touches on her work, she notes that the center of the piece will feature light-colored leaves that will make the artwork literally jump out at the viewer.  

The second piece is a study of Red Dragon plants, another popular hedging plant with deep red, almost maroon leaves that also hint at a myriad of hues. This time there is a sense of reflection, with the top half of the painting very nearly a mirror image of the bottom half. It’s an intriguing piece that cannot help but draw the viewer in for further study.  


Sea grapes a popular subject 

Originally inspired by the lush foliage and fruit of Cayman’s sea grapes, Lazarus over the past decade has produced numerous close-ups of the sea grape from every angle imaginable. 

“Sea grape is never boring,” she says. “When I look at it, I see so many colors in the leaves, so many forms and shapes, so much shade and light.” 

Her ability to capture the vivid shape, color and form of this local favorite has produced a great many fans of her work. 

“I think my work appeals because it’s unisex,” she says. “It’s neither too feminine nor too masculine, so I think it sits well in most houses as couples both enjoy my work. Kids love it as well, and I see them at my shows dragging their parents over to my work so they can take a closer look.” 

While her paintings depict a strong sense of realism, Lazarus is now enjoying structuring her work in such a way that it becomes more abstract. 

“That is where I’m looking to take my artwork next,” she says. “Whatever you paint, it must be pleasing to the eye. It doesn’t matter what genre you choose; it doesn’t matter that you don’t necessarily recognize the plant from your garden. But you must enjoy looking at it.”