Best known perhaps for her colorful landscape collages, Cottonwood artist Birgitta Lapides has also been widely recognized as a painter of stunning abstract canvases of enduring power. A new show of Lapides’ recent work, opening in Jerome on Oct. 7 at the Artists Cooperative Gallery, provides a rare opportunity to see many of her original abstract paintings on display at one time.

Combining a deft eye for color and an unusual aptitude for finding ever-new approaches to composition, Lapides draws on a seemingly inexhaustible fund of novel ideas. The bold handling of color and the originality of form in her work has suggested to some observers hints of the early modernist painters, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, both of whom she acknowledges as influences.

Her background as a weaver and clothing designer for many years in the south of France was especially important, she said, in shaping her artistic imagination.

For many years, Lapides lived in southern France, producing and selling her original designs of hand-woven and hand-painted garments from her shop in a historic building in an old coastal town.

“The brilliant colors of sea, sky and earth along the Mediterranean entered indelibly into my creative imagination,” she said.

Originally from Sweden, where she first learned weaving, she attended the prestigious L’Ecôle Superieure D’Architecture et L’Art Appliquéin Brussels, later transferring to Pratt Institute in New York City where she received a degree in textile design. In France, she studied painting at the Ecôle des Beaux-Arts in Cannes.

A resident of the Verde Valley since 1996, Lapides also shows her work at the Sedona Arts Center, at Eisenart Innovations in Tlaquepaque, and at Zen Mountain Gallery in Jerome. In addition to her paintings, her handmade earrings are widely admired—as are her hand-woven jackets and vests, which can also be seen at the Artists Coop.
Her current show, Seeing the Unseen, features her latest work, some of which is made with cold wax medium, a new departure for this artist.

She said, “I mix oil paint with the wax and I am able to so work with the surface of the painting, its texture, its blend of colors, to achieve effects that otherwise would be impossible.”

When asked about the theme of the show, Seeing the Unseen, she said, “When I’m painting my landscape collages, I am creating an image that is in part drawn from my imagination and in part drawn from my experience of living in Arizona, so the result is seeing something that is at one time both familiar and new — it is seeing differently. My abstract paintings on the other hand are completely drawn from my imagination — they are the result of a visualization process that does not begin in the visible world.

“I see myself as an intuitive, experimental painter and I don’t want to know ahead how the painting will look finished. For me painting is a journey, a discovering, and that is what makes the process interesting.”

Seeing the Unseen opens Saturday, Oct. 7, for the monthly Jerome Art Walk, from 5 to 8 p.m. The show will run for seven weeks until Wednesday, Nov. 29.

The Jerome Artists Cooperative Gallery, which recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, is home to nearly 40 other artists whose work is also on display. The Gallery is housed in the historic old Hotel Jerome building at 502 Main Street. Call 639-4276 or visit birgittalapides.com for more information.