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Adrianne Lobel: From Easel to Broadway and Back

Adrianne Lobel is best known as a stage designer.  Some highlights from an international career include the world premiers of “Dr. Atomic” and “Nixon in China,” both composed by John Adams and directed by Peter Sellars, Stephen Sondheim’s “Passion” and “The Diary of Anne Frank” on Broadway both directed by James Lapine, “L’ Allegro, Il Penseroso, ed Il Moderato” and the “Hard Nut” both choreographed by Mark Morris, “An American Tragedy” composed by Tobias Picker and directed by Francesca Zambello at The Metropolitan Opera, and “An American in Paris” choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon for The New York City Ballet. Though she started as a painter in her teens, the lure of the theater pulled her away from studies at the easel. The last dozen years has brought her back to the canvas and increasingly committed her to work as a painter. She is a member of The Bowery Gallery in Chelsea and has shown in other New York City galleries and in various galleries in Upstate New York. She is a graduate of The Yale School of Drama.

I am very grateful for Adrianne’s  insights into her unique journey, expertise, and her support of my fundraising efforts for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Below is her interview…

Em:”Why, to you, is art and creativity essential?”

Adrianne:  “Art is my religion. Other people pray for solace, inspiration and guidance, or meditate for clarity and peace of mind; I go to museums and galleries for solace, guidance, and inspiration, and the act of painting is like meditation for me.  This is not something I think about…it is just who I am.  When I am traveling in a foreign country, the first thing I do after unpacking is head to the nearest museum.  I do this because I want to see the local collections, but also because when I am in a museum I am never lonely or homesick. Artists from all periods of time are there to talk to me and keep me very good company.

Em:  “Describe your own unique process for creating art”

Adrianne:  “It would take a long time to describe my artistic process as it is a complicated mix of intellect, feeling, instinct, background, and physicality.  I design sets for the theater and that is one kind of process, and I paint, and that is another kind of process.  But I can say that both processes rely very much on a comfort with drawing.  I THINK drawing and that is my language. I listen to myself while I am drawing but more importantly, I listen to the drawing or the painting and it tells me what to do next. I try not to get in the way of that and though I am constantly editing, I try not to be critical in a negative way of myself. I try to let the thing happen.  When it does, it is very exciting.  A painter friend of mine recently said that her work was changing radically.  When I asked her why, she thought, that was she replied, “I don’t know…I only work here.”  I thought that was a great way of putting it. When it is going well, it feels like the work is being channeled through you by a greater something and doesn’t have much to do with you at all.  This sounds a bit loose-goosey which I do not mean at all.  I know that this feeling doesn’t happen unless you are very disciplined and work hard every day.

Em: “Do you have a moment of struggle or triumph in producing your art that stands out in you mind?”

Adrianne: “There are breakthroughs all the time. It is all struggle and all triumph.  My best work is always ahead of me and sometimes I can see myself doing it…It is exciting when I do something that reminds me of that vision…that I am getting closer to what I am meant to do.”

Em: “What first inspired you to become an artist?”

Adrianne: “I never had any choice about being an artist.  Both my parents were illustrators.  I grew up under their drawing tables, using art supplies that fell off the table as they were working. From the age of three I had a callus on my middle finger from drawing so much, of which I was very proud…I called it my “artist bump” and showed it to my kindergarten teacher.  My earliest memories are of the smell of rubber cement and fixative. I grew up in New York City and went to museums before I could crawl.  I watched my parents work at home so never had any issues with “having a job”…I knew I could survive as an artist.  I was lucky that way.

Emerson Tenney

Emerson Tenney

Emerson is a junior in high school. She loves literature and is passionate about writing, poetry in particular. When she is not playing the drums, participating in school musical theater, or training for marathons, you can find her with her friends checking out vintage records and used book stores in Hollywood.

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