By Lee Noles
CHARLOTTE – Lisa Scarber’s childhood home was a cultural melting pot as music, food and stories from her diverse heritage from Russia, Cuba and Spain permeated in her New Jersey household. And Scarber participated in all of it.
But when it came to the artist in the family, Scarber took a backseat to her sister, Karen
“I felt like I paled in comparison,” Scarber said. “I let her have (the attention).”
The focus is now on Scarber as her impressionistic and abstract paintings of nature and people have caught the eye of galleries and showrooms in the area and given the Charlotte resident confidence.
“Being able to express yourself, or even the work of trying to say something or show something is very liberating and very annoying,” Scarber said. “You get frustrated and challenged and pushed. So, it is work, but it is part of who I am. It is what I enjoy.”
Scarber’s passion started after enrolling in an adult art education course while living in New Jersey. She painted day and night, but lacking confidence, her paintings never made it out of her home. It stayed that way after marrying her husband, Richard, and then moving to Charlotte in 2011.
It wasn’t until a few years ago when Richard, sensing her talent, mentioned they had run out of space for her paintings. His words made Scarber realize he wanted her to show people her work. The gesture spurred Scarber to get on Etsy, promote on Facebook and with Richard’s urging put several paintings in the trunk of her car to drive to stores in hopes of getting displayed.
“He is making me a better me,” said Scarber, who would have never shown any of her pieces without Richard’s support. “You need someone there to support you. Just to look at it, and nod is enough. He encourages me all the time.”
Even Richard’s encouragement didn’t settle Scarber’s nerves as she walked into the Magnolia Emporium in 2017. Randolph James, the store’s owner, had contacted her about seeing Scarber’s work.
Expecting a halfhearted compliment and then rejection, Scarber was thrilled when James enthusiastically accepted her paintings and helped her get in touch with other stores.
“It was like finding your tribe,” said Scarber, who has paintings at 47K Marketplace in Monroe and in Charlotte at the Vane Gallery and Karen Saks Showroom.
The acceptance meant Scarber had to focus on her artwork, which until then was more of a hobby than a profession. She continued to paint scenes involving nature. Beaches and flowers became integral parts because of their colors, lines and angles.
“What is better than mother nature as an artist? Nobody.” Scarber said.
She also got into painting more people with women being the focal point of her expression. But instead of the viewer looking directly at the face of the subject, Scarber comes from a different angle. The subject is either turned away; their face covered or at a profile.
“Women are underrated powerful beings. We are life-givers,” Scarber said. “You can look at somebody with such strength and power without them saying things. And the goal is to give you the idea that she doesn’t need you to look right at her. Maybe she is a strong powerful person who doesn’t need you.”
Scarber has switched from using oil to acrylic because of the faster drying process.
What has been harder recently is why she paints. In the past, the joy of what was around her drove her artwork. But with COVID-19, it has been difficult for Scarber to maintain her focus.
“If I don’t feel it, I am not going to try and force it,” Scarber said. “There are some artists who paint through until they get into a rhythm. I am not like that. If I don’t have my heart into it, I am not going to try and do it.
What has helped Scarber move from a child who muted her artistic voice to a proud, outspoken adult is hearing responses from people who look at her work. One acknowledgment came from a painting that Scarber did of a forest in the fall with the red foliage and leaves sprawled on the ground. A person viewing the painting wrote it reminded them of hiking in autumn where they once lived.
“I can’t believe I did something so well that someone read my message in a bottle,” Scarber said. “They saw what I saw. What can be better than that?”