With the cinema success of the movie "THE HELP," much attention has been drawn to the nuances of the 1960's feminine way of life in the Deep South. May Lesser provides a different visual reference of New Orleans at the same period -- a very different place than Jackson, Mississippi. Through The Beauty Parlor Series, this artist offers a further glimpse into that period. With gentleness and sensitivity, she addresses the ritual of hair dressing in an almost religious ceremonial manner. Through her work, we see the warmth and respect of the ladies for one another. The black and white emphasis in coloration, also used by Edgar Degas in his paintings of New Orleans, (whose mother was from New Orleans,) depict the well known social fabric of the city. May Lesser, trained by the Sophie Newcomb School, presents a group of works that depict the beauty parlor with energy, humor and delicacy. May Lesser's insight allows the viewer to see the way in which she explored the human and stylistic interaction of the beauty parlor experience.
-Donna Riso Leatherman August 15, 2011
The Beauty Parlor Portfolio
17.5 inches height by 23 ¾ inches width image size
20 inches height x 26 inches width paper size
Signed lower right
The Dryer artist proof
13.25 inches height by 17.5 inches width image size
21 inches height by 30 inches width paper size
17.75 inches height by 23.75 inches width image size
20 inches height by 26 inches width paper size
Signed lower right
The Comb Out artist proof
14.25 inches width by 17.5 inches height image size
19.5 inches width by 24 inches height paper size
Seance (The Manicure) artist proof
22 inches height by 18 inches width image size
28.5 inches height by 20.25 inches width paper size
Portfolio price: $7,500
May Lesser Prints
Etching and Aquatint
Etching is the process where a ground known as asphaltum is placed on the copper plate and incised, leaving a line of bare metal which is bitten in an acid bath, dutch mordant, to create a line drawing. When printed on paper in an etching press, this process is also known as intaglio. The best example is Los Caprichos from Goya. Excellent examples of layered color intaglio are seen in Degas’ etched landscapes.
The Aquatint is a method of creating areas of grey and black tone. It is created by an application of a porous layer of powdered rosin, like that applied to a violin bow, which is fixed to the plate surface with heat. When the prepared plate is placed in an acid bath, it produces a gray field which can be modulated by stopping out areas with varnish, which prevent that area from being further bitten or extending the biting time to areas not stopped out, make a darker area. Repeated biting creates a rich black. Each plate can be used for one color, be it line or tonal area. Often, several plates will be used to mix or layer the color.
Each trip to the acid bath and areas of tone created by the biting are known as states. The states relate to the prints that are pulled to see the results of the various biting stages to a plate as each plate can be reworked several times to attain the amount of richness and visual complexity desired by the artist.
May would hand color the plates bitten this way and often use more than one plate one for line and one tone and then another for another color so that there is a line, tone layer then another tone layer. The areas of color overlapped produced a third color. She would use complimentary colors to dull out and make subtle the colors. Later in her ovure she would add stenciled colors on top and then later still pastel similar to Degas in technique. She would then further modulate the colors achieved by subtly removing and adding colored to the plate surface, sometimes with tissue paper or supplementing with color of mixed powdered pigments and linseed oil; this "hand touch" was a nontraditional departure from the traditional intaglio process.
-Dr. Steven Lesser, artist and son of May Lesser
Indiviual original prints, artist proofs also available