Lawrence Strauss


I left my New York home at 18, because I couldn’t find instruction in painting there the way I knew and loved it. The only place I found anything that recalled Picasso and Manet was in David Aronson’s painting program in Boston. My work is mostly figurative, even if the figures are dolls and monsters. I think of my figures like costumed actors in a drama.

I love oil paint — how it can be buttery or transparent, drawn with or dabbed or smashed with a knife. For years I worked with pastel, but I was renewed in painting by my discovery about ten years ago of Dura-Europos (c. 240 CE and excavated about 1930). For one it settles the legitimacy of Jewish figurative painting, containing the oldest fairly extant synagogue. I’m also taken by its variety of expression and bizarre, crossroads-like approach. To me Dura-Europos is both familiar and strange — and I resonate with that. My work over the past few years has been learning how to respond to this nearly 2000-year-old work.

I paint small-scale work. A colleague once told me my work has a jewel-like quality. And I still get a spark thinking about making jewels, and try hard with my palette choices and patterns of light and dark to make intense and treasured things.