Lisa Platt

December 5, 2010

Lisa Platt began her artistic career in 1998 with paper mache. She also worked with sculpture, and focused on making sea creatures and mermaids. “I am a mermaid,” she says. In 1998, she took some of her work to the PCA shop and they took it on.

Yellow SubmarineMosaics are now her main focus. She creates her own tiles, fires them and paints them, then arranges the tiles, often around found objects, such as rescued wood. Her works are diverse, some focusing on sea creatures, and some showing urban landscapes. Her work “Yellow Submarine” is an example of objects integrated with her handmade tiles. In this work, her submarine is surrounded by water made of Youghiogheny stained glass.

Other pieces of hers focus on city life, such as her piece entitled “Our Town.” In it is depicted a building with “a crazy lady with a big head. That’s me.” The building also contains a transvestite couple, as well as “a single mom with four kids, a fish and a bird.” On the top of the picture is the night sky, and people dancing on the roof. “It’s Pittsburgh”

The “crazy lady” represents Lisa because she is a landlord, as well as an artist and a teacher. She has taught workshops on mosaics, as well as art camp for mosaics. This winter, she is offering a class on paper mache at the Center for the Arts.

Lisa’s work can be seen around the city. She created the mosaic that wraps around the stingray tank at the zoo. She also has a large mosaic at Children’s Hospital. This mosaic features the hospital, the countryside, the city, and the zoo. “It turned out cute.” The mosaic contains, “doctors, nurses, birds, giraffes, monkeys.”

She describes her pieces as whimsical, and this characterization can be seen in a work she made for a former fellow at CMU. He commissioned her to create a work of art to thank his colleagues. She made the pieces with CMU’s mascot the Scottie dog, as well as the CMU seal, and plaid. Each of the four parts represented a different season, and for each season the Scottie dog had on different attire. For winter he had a winter hat, and in summer sunglasses.

“A lot of artists represent themselves in different ways. My interest is to lighten it up. My intent is to make people smile and be happy. I crack myself up all the time.” Her work gets people smiling, from her large mosaics to her ornaments. She sells ornaments of fat cats with whiskers. People bring these ornaments up to the register in both hands, looking at the little faces and smiling.

Lisa was born in Pittsburgh, but moved to Florida in 1979. There she had a variety of jobs, including manager of a ship store in the marina and working on a fishing boat, on which she was the only girl. “They did challenge me,” she says of the experience. Her time in Florida is part of what inspires her love of sea creatures and mermaids.

Other factors have also influenced her art. “I grew up around a wonderful family.” Her dad was a creative writer, and friends of her family were photographers, painters, furniture makers, and people who made money with their crafts. They were “a bunch of bohemians.”

Lisa worked at the zoo for 16 years as the operations manager; she was in charge of the gift shop, restaurant, catering, and special events. She was also responsible for hiring, scheduling, and tracking 150 seasonal employees each year. “My strength is I am good with logistics.” The job was intense and rewarding. It was hard to make the transition from employee to self-employed artist. At the time she made the change, she was managing 10 buildings, working full time and making art. “I couldn’t do it all. I had to back off from something.” It took time to get “used to not going to work everyday for someone else.”

Of the PCA she says, “I love the Center. I took classes there as a kid and young adult in ceramics.” She would especially like to thank Jen Carter, the PCA Shop Manager. “She’s so devoted to the program, which features some of the nicest work I’ve seen in one place. She;s a good, strong manager, lovely person, and talented.”

Of life as an artist,“this is the best time of my life now,” she says.

Visit the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts to view Lisa’s work.


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