My work emerges from specific places—places I’ve developed a relationship with over time. There’s something alluring, something that brings me back again and again to the Kansas River, or Kaw, and its 173 miles of ceaseless transformation. I’m drawn into the river’s current and ancient coursing—this ongoing adventure of water and sand and weather over time, which is always different now than it was the minute before.

Some reaches are bound geologically and remain fairly stable over centuries while others have shifted dramatically in the brief time I’ve been watching them. Science can explain much about the river and flow dynamics, the myriad unseen organisms and everything that makes a river a living system. My observations are not scientific in the classical sense, but like a scientist, I’m drawn to patterns and observe and record changes. They’re everywhere, from the ripples my kayak makes slicing through the water, and the ones the winds make, to the crazy sand shapes I discover walking along the edges of a sandbar as morning fog lifts.

Over the years I’ve taken a dozen or so flights in a small plane up and down the Kaw for painting reference. Revisiting the river from an aerial perspective has allowed me to witness incredible changes from season to season and year to year. At river mile 47, forty-seven miles upstream from Kansas City, the Mud Creek tributary cuts in from the northwest and the river takes a sharply angled turn that’s distinctly different from the others in this mostly sinuous river. Through a variety of encounters, this section of the river has quietly pressed itself into my awareness over the years. It’s a nice view when you reach “Land’s End” on the mountain bike trails that begin in North Lawrence. That was my first introduction even before I moved to Lawrence in 1996. I didn’t know that I was looking across the river at an island—didn’t know anything about the river then. But I now consider it my backyard, just 4 miles northeast from my home as the crow flies.

Lisa Grossman 2021

Born in 1967 in western Pennsylvania, Grossman moved to Kansas City in the late 1980’s, and over the last several decades has established herself as a prominent painter and printmaker of eastern Kansas’s open prairie spaces and the Kansas River valley. Over the course of thirty solo shows in the Midwest and on either coast, Grossman has evolved a luminous and minimalist plein air style, focusing on the horizon and subtle shifts in light and color, weather and season. 

Based in Lawrence, Kansas since 1996, Grossman’s work is included in numerous public, private, corporate, and museum collections including the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art in Overland Park, Kansas, the Beach Museum of Art at Kansas State University, in Manhattan, and the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University in Topeka, KS. Grossman has completed numerous significant commissions including large canvases for the Chiefs Art Program at Arrowhead Stadium, the H & R Block Center, both in Kansas City, and the Kansas University School of Business in Lawrence. Grossman is a 2019 Phoenix Award recipient, an honor from the City of Lawrence for artistic achievement. She was a 2009 recipient of the Kansas Arts Commission’s Mid-Career Fellowship and is an eight-time artist-in-resident in the National Parks. Grossman earned degrees from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the University of Kansas, Lawrence.

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