Monday, June 22, 2015

Q & A with Nella Lush and Steve Lush: "A Forty Year Collaboration"

'Family Roots' by Nella Lush
 The North Shore Arts Association celebrates the opening of a special exhibition "A FORTY YEAR COLLABORATION" showcasing the work of husband and wife team, artists NELLA and STEVE LUSH. The exhibition will be on display from Sunday June 28 through Saturday, July 25, 2015, with a public reception Sunday, July 12, 2 - 4 p.m.
'The Pilot #3' by Steve Lush

We caught up with these two fascinating artists earlier this week for a brief question and answer session, that proved quite lively! Biographies of the artists follow the transcript.

Steve and Nella Lush: a question and answer session

Interviewer How and when did you meet?

Nella: "We met in Brindisi, was it perhaps divine intervention? Steve's ship was diverted to Brindisi due to a strike in Turkey and I was called in at work due to the fact that the custom/shipping agent was ill. Since I spoke English, I was the designated person to take care of the Manifest and Declaration. I met Steve on the ship, he was a Third Engineer. The story unfolds..this is the beginning..."
Steve: "In the late autumn of 1973 my ship was docked in Brindisi for five days. I was working in the engine room during the days with my nights off while in port. While on a "smoke break" on our first day, I spotted Nella, with her long reddish auburn hair, running across the street, manifests in hand and bounding up our gangway. This seemed to be a daily routine with her while the documents for our cargo were being finalized at her agency. We were tied up at a quay adjacent to the cargo/travel agency where she worked. On the fourth night of our five day port visit, I worked up enough courage to plant myself outside of her agency by the time she finished work around 7 p.m. She walked right toward me to get a bus home. I introduced myself as one of the engineer's aboard the Export Adventurer. She said she didn't remember me but I guess I cleaned up enough for her not to shake me off at least immediately! We walked together the several blocks to her bus stop. By the time we arrived there she decided that I was OK and agreed to have a glass of hot milk and honey with me while I had a beer in the lounge of the luxury hotel near our docked ship. The ship departed the next day at noon but not before we met again for a couple of hours in the morning. We vowed to stay in touch with each other as best we could, because we both knew that we had found someone special in each other. We did manage to stay in touch via long distance airmail and telegrams. We hooked up again, stateside, a few months later when Nella came to visit relatives in Canada and friends in Maryland. Another voyage interrupted this time and I was on another American Export ship off to India for a few months. I returned in late autumn of 1974 from that voyage with enough time left to hook up with Nella again. We decided to get married in late December of 1974, just before I had to return to another ship and Nella to return to Italy since her tourist visa was expiring."

Interviewer: Do you now or did either of you have another career; art-related or in an entirely separate sphere?

Nella: "Yes, for many years, and when my own children were young, I had my own private preschool where I developed my curriculum on teaching another language (Italian) by using art as an instrument for teaching."
Steve: "Yes, after leaving the ships, I worked for Westinghouse Electric Corporation on turbine generation equipment in power plants, one in Bilbao, the other in Tarragona. I am a mechanical engineer and have had dual professions (engineer/artist) since before I met Nella. I also build model ships and have won awards for my models both here and in Spain. In fact, a couple of years ago the New Bedford Whaling Museum bought a scratch built model of Joshua Slocum's 'Spray' that I built for a retiring member of their Board of Directors."

Interviewer: Do you now or did you at a point in the past share a studio space? If not, at the present time, is there a particular reason for keeping separate studios?

Nella: "We shared a studio but it was not working for me. When I create I need to be in my own world where I can only 'hear' my own thoughts. If I get distracted, I lose the momentum. Steve was kind enough to move his studio to our finished basement."

Interviewer: Has your creative process changed in any way as a result of your long relationship with each other? Do either of you sense that your voices or styles have blended with each other?

Nella: "My creative process is the same as I rely basically only on my feelings, my own history but I must admit I rely on Steve's fresh eye when I need feedback."
Steve: "I find myself using many of the color combinations in both my watercolor and oils that Nella employs in her work. I have also launched into oils using cold wax as a medium from Nella's encouragement."

Interviewer: How have you maintained the individuality of your own vision in this artistic collaboration?

Nella: "Yes, most definitely. Even though there is a common thread between Steve and I, we still manage to keep our own individuality."

Steve: "Without question! Even though I primarily portray ships, Nella is quite keen on knowing what does and does not work in my work. We regularly ask each other's advice and opinion. We generally see the same flaws and successes in our work and others' work."

Interviewer: Who are your mentors/role models?

Nella: We are each other's mentors. I realize that our situation is unique, we have the same likes, watch the same art shows and have conversations on what we see and/or experience, our social life is our art!"

Interviewer: How do you apply the creativity that you bring to your artwork to developing your career?

Steve: "I stay quite active in making sure my art work stays before the public eye year round. This is mandatory for any professional artist. The days of remaining behind closed doors, reclusive, waiting to be found are history. We both use social media to the maximum advantage. We try to stay current with social media trends."

Interviewer: Do you rely on each other's individual strengths or are you both equally adept at the business of art?

Steve: "Nella is exceptionally adept at many social media skills. She has taught me a lot but I still have much to learn!"

Interviewer: Where do you want to be in ten years? What are your aspirations/goals?

Steve: "Like most professional artists, I would want to be represented in major galleries from New York and LA in 10 years and have my work in several museums. I know this takes time but I have been realizing the fruits of my efforts with increasing awareness every year."
Nella: "I believe that, as any professional artist, we aspire to much more. I don't plan to retire from creating so I am hoping that in 10 years, I would have grown my collector's list, be part of more corporate art collections and a museum too. :)"

Interviewer: Congratulations on the birth of your new granddaughter! How has raising a family impacted your relationship and your work? Are your children artists as well?

Nella: "Our three children are all creative with music, writing and visual art!"

Artist's Biographies:

Steve Lush was born in 1949 into a family with roots in both art and the sea. In 1968, after a year working as a 'machinist apprentice' in an East Boston shipyard, Steve attended The Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Graduating in 1971 with a Merchant Marine Engineer's license, Steve sailed for five years aboard freighters with the American Export Lines and on oil tankers with Standard Oil Co. of California. These voyages took him to ports around the Mediterranean, India, Africa the American west coast and the South Pacific. Steve made three voyages from Brooklyn, NY to India via the Cape of Good Hope when, in the 1970's the Suez Canal was closed to transit shipping. Steve began building model ships in 1978 while living in Spain, renewing his love of ships and the sea. Since then he has won three gold medals in model ship competitions in the Boston area and in Spain. In 1992 he begain painting in watercolor and other mediums. Many of the maritime-themed watercolors are a result of research on specific ship and port histories and ship construction. Steve uses a collection of reference books, ship construction plans, personal reference photos and his own models to orchestrate his paintings. Once the subject is drafted, Steve applies washes in a painterly yet strategic and detail-oriented approach. Every August, Steve and his wife, Nella, travel to southern Italy to visit Nella's relatives. Steve finds time to paint plein air in Italy, a welcome change from his normal studio based work. Steve is an artist member of the North Shore Arts Association, a Signature Member of the American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA) and of the New England Watercolor Society.

Nella Lush was born, raised and educated in Italy by a family with a long heritage of visual artists, musicians and poets. Her family history and her life near the Adriatic Sea is what shaped her artistic career. She studied foreign languages and art history and she is a full time artist who works on several canvases at once developing the imagery through a process of surface changes. Nella's art is a constant exploration of the relationship between man and his environment and becomes a spiritual and intimate journey. With intuition and experience, and never following a formula, she brings together the alchemy of materials, classical forms and the appearance of centuries of aging in all of her paintings regardless of the subject matter. She predominately paints with oils, cold wax and marble dust to create more texture and depth. Nella is a juried artist member of many organizations, including the North Shore Arts Association. She is a Signature Member of the American Society of Marine Artists (ASMA), President of the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Associations of Women Artists in NYC, and the Rockport Art Association  (Board of Trustees) and Founder of the Experimental Group of the Rockport Art Association.

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