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Brazzil - Art - January 2004

She Can't Forget the Brazilian Sea

No matter what, the sea always comes through in nearly all
of Brazilian painter Denise Lion's work, not only in the image
but also with the material she uses. She's easy to talk. When
talking about her work, she says, "I'm obsessed with eyes.
I guess it's because eyes can tell you everything about a person."

Shawn Floyd

"I lived on the beach my whole life," says Denise Lion, the daughter of a naval commander who once lived in Brazil. "I had sailboats and instead of going everywhere in a car like people do here, I sailed."

Now at a different stage in her life in which, instead of being out on the beach and the sea, she's painting what she remembers about this former life.

Out of Lion's 70 oil paintings on exhibit through Feb. 3 at the Courtyard Theater, 1509 Avenue H in Plano, Texas, it's plain to see that most have something from the sea.

Sometimes it's the flora and fauna found in the ocean depths that she chooses to incorporate in her work. Other times it can be swirls, reminiscent of the ebb and flow of the tide, or the deep blues, whites, and green swells found in each wave as it rises up and falls back where it belongs, slapping against the water.

The only missing links are the sounds and the smells of the sea. And though it's no secret that Lion misses the sea, she says living in landlocked Texas isn't all that bad.

"I am a happy person and when you're happy you can be happy anywhere," she says.

But it's the sea she craves and even though she knows it better than most, she still doesn't have all the answers.

"I've always been intrigued by the sea," she says. "The sea is a mystery and I wonder what's underneath it."

Everyday, after Lion is finished with her work at her Skin Care International Spa on West Parker Road in Plano, she takes everything that's happened during the day, heads for her home art studio, where she paints for two or three hours and rids herself of stress.

"In my job," says Lion, who is trilingual in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, "people come in and tell me their problems and sometimes I have turbulent days because of that. But I take it all and put it onto the canvas with bright, bright colors and then I am light again."

Just as she's content to live in Texas with husband Tim Lion, whom she met when she came to this country to attend Sacramento State in California, and their children, Bianca, 16, and Erik, 21, she says having others heap their troubles on her isn't a problem.

If anything, she uses it to her advantage and says, "By listening you can sure learn a lot about the human spirit and the soul."

Nowhere is the intensity more noticeable than in the powerful reds, golds, and silvers in "Fire and Ice." Done after a particular heavy day of hearing the woes of others, Lion says she can now look at the painting and feel a calmness come over her.

Like most of her other work, it's an abstract because as she says, "You can put your feelings and whatever colors you have or you like into the painting,"

The pinkish "Come out and Party" image is a perfect example of everything Lion stands for in her artistry.

"I have a client who says she's too timid," says Lion. She then points to the shell in the middle of the painting saying, "She was my muse at the time and so I dedicated this one to her."

Almost all of Lion's paintings are of the mixed media variety, with citrines, amethysts and other gemstones mixed into some area of the painting, usually the eyes.

"I'm obsessed with eyes," says Lion. "I don't know why. I guess it's because eyes can tell you everything about a person."

One of these paintings, "Mardi Gras," says the eyes are copies of her daughter Bianca's eyes. "Bianca's eyes were voted prettiest last year at the school," says the Shepton High sophomore's mother.

Also evident in all of Lion's paintings are swirls.

"I don't do straight lines," she says.

Sometimes the swirls have a calming effect such as in "Whispers." At other times they're agitated, as in "Winter Storm."

No matter what, the sea always comes through in nearly all of her work, not only in the image but also with the material she uses. Most noticeable are the ones, such as "Cat in Cave," where she's chosen to mix sand in with the paints.

She's easy to talk to and when asked why she does this sort of thing, she says, "I can't follow rules. A lot of people when they see my work say it's different and sometimes they like it and sometimes they don't, but I can't help it, it's my feelings on canvas."

Nowhere is this more evident than in her red, white and blue rendition of "Melting Pot."

"It's America," she says, pointing to the different figures on the canvas representing all the different race, creeds, and cultures within this country.

"In other countries," she says, "women have to do what they're told, but here we're the boss."

Another piece, "Amazon Rainforest" is a kind of tribute to her native homeland's fast diminishing natural resources.

"You know," she says, "Man is bigger than life and when we want to do something, we destroy what we need to get what we want."

Interestingly enough, there was a time when she would've scoffed if anyone had told her she would someday be exhibiting her work.

Now 43, she says, "I used to draw stick figures and people would laugh at my work. But I kept on."

Her work at that time included that of the digital computer variety. But still she felt there had to be more. That didn't come till after she divulged her concerns to an artist friend whom she says, "told me that anyone can paint."

Then, the artist friend did what any friend would do in a case like this and showed Lion how it was done.

"She kept pointing to some red and purple colors on the canvas, saying, `See those colors?'

"But honestly," says Lion, "I couldn't see the colors at all."

Gradually Lion got to where she could not only see the colors and the shapes, but paint them too. At first she says her work was flat and one-dimensional, but after taking lessons from her friend, the quality of her work improved to the point where now she paints whatever and whenever the urge strikes.


This article was originally published by the newspaper Plano Star Courier - www.planostar.com. Shawn Floyd, the author welcomes comments at floyds@starcntexas.com

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