Karen Lehrer

Karen Lehrer

As a child, I was always immersed in one creative artistic pursuit or another. While I was a high school student in the Los Angeles area, a few fellow art friends and I enrolled in Saturday morning classes at Art Center College of Design. It was an eye opener for us to glimpse the “real art world,” and my interest in art and design continued after graduation.

During my first year of college, I was seriously injured in an automobile accident. Months after my casts were removed and I returned to my normal activities, I realized something had happened to me that I could not describe in words. I had physically recovered, but I was somehow different than I had been before the accident. Nothing in my background had prepared me to understand what had happened. Only much later did I realize that I had had a near-death experience whose repercussions would linger for years.

I followed a career as a designer, stylist, and buyer in the textile industry. When I got a position with a Fortune 500 company, it proved to be a wonderful opportunity for a young person. I traveled to New York frequently, was wined and dined, interviewed by major fashion publications, invited to amazing events, and participated in high-level negotiations worth millions of dollars. After leaving that firm, I remained in the fashion business and taught at the Fashion Institute in Los Angeles.

All this time, I had an interest in psychology and read about that subject extensively. I was also in long-term psychotherapy with a clinical psychologist. Despite all those years of talk therapy, though, the memory of the auto accident followed me everywhere. It was always just beneath the surface of my awareness.

Working in the business world is not a good outlet for personal self-expression, and eventually I left the fashion industry to pursue my own creative endeavors. Getting there took a while, as the need to make a living kept intruding.

As pieces of my personal life fell into place, I should have been happy and excited, but I wasn’t. I had a compelling feeling that I needed to paint; it was as if my life depended it. Casting around for a program or course, I asked everyone I met if they knew of an artist who could teach me what I wanted to learn.

One week, two people mentioned Martin Lubner. He offered private tutorials in Venice, California, and had an ongoing group of students, mostly adults older than me. I was thrilled when he said I could join the group. He taught me a visual language that let me translate the images in my imagination onto the canvas.

What I didn’t realize was that I was painting what had happened to me during that car accident twenty years earlier. I was engaged in my own unconsciously driven art therapy, healing a nonverbal trauma in a nonverbal way. The paintings just kept coming and coming, and I thought my artistic well would never run dry, but eventually it did. I had no more artistic ideas I wanted to explore. I returned to school and continued my journey to a career as a marriage and family therapist.

With my own painting as an impetus, my professional goal was to use both art and psychological processes as a healing modality for others. Much to my surprise, I absolutely loved working as a therapist, counseling both individuals and couples. I’ve done that with great satisfaction for twenty years.

Of course, there are only so many hours in a day. Recently I decided I needed to make a choice if I wanted to take painting seriously. I have returned to my earliest roots as an artist and designer, and I’m excited by the paintings I’m now creating. The work – which you can see in the Gallery on this web site –energizes me and makes me feel alive.

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