Arts & Culture Painting our Earth in the balance
Environmentally Conscious Lizet Benrey Pays Tribute To Mother Earth
Through Her Art.
By Marti Gacioch
Nature serves as Lizet Benrey’s muse, and her paintings often depict her love for our planet. “I’ve been environmentally conscious my whole life,” Benrey said. “With global warming, I’m inspired to paint the earth and its beauty because I believe that if you love the earth, you won’t destroy it.”
Her recent solo show, “Tribute to the Earth,” typifies her commitment to the planet — a commitment that she even applies to her painting supplies. Benrey uses organic materials whenever possible and tries to minimize her use of solvents whenever she paints.
She uses lithographic ink to create monoprints on 22-by-30-inch paper, but she also enjoys working with oils, acrylics and mixed media on canvases.
She began painting when she was still a little girl in Mexico City. By age 7, she was studying art with her mother, Shirley Chernitsky, a well-known artist.
“She taught me how to be free with painting and just go for it,” Benrey said. “That was a big lesson.” Benrey didn’t immediately choose painting as her career, though. She experimented with different forms of artistic expression first, including filmmaking, acting and photography. Surrounded by her mother’s many talented friends in the tight-knit artistic community, Benrey never lacked for willing mentors. Her home was alive with a host of famous writers, filmmakers and painters, who talked incessantly about their various creative pursuits. Benrey’s own creative spirit soaked it all up. “Whatever I chose, they were there for me,” she said. “They were supportive in whatever I wanted to do, and there was no pressure to be a painter.” Looking back, Benrey said that they influenced her most with their freedom of expression and their courage to express what they wanted to say in a daring way. As much as Benrey cherished all that she learned from her mentors, she realized that she needed to be on her own to find her own artistic path. But it wasn’t until she began studying at Boston University that she finally settled on painting as her career. She moved to San Diego to be near her father and earned a degree in Visual Arts from UCSD.
After graduation, she worked in graphic arts before marrying her husband, Francis. They settled in Carmel Valley 15 years ago when it was still an underdeveloped area, and Benrey fell in love with the remote location and the solitude that she found there.
“I treasure the solitude and can’t paint when there are many people around,” she said. “The less influence I have, the better I paint.” Three years ago, Benrey’s mother passed away, and that great loss inspired a strong shift in her painting style. “We were very close, so I tried to imagine where she went, and then I tried to paint it,” Benrey said.
Prior to her mother’s passing, Benrey used to paint in a realistic manner, but after she lost her, she began painting abstracts. “This came from the realization that nothing is tangible, so we can’t really hold onto anything because what’s real now,, won’t be real later — it just changes and transforms,” she said. “It makes more sense to me to try to paint what we can’t really see or touch — only what we can imagine.” “Kabbalah Visions” was the fruit of Benrey’s loss, and her series of paintings opened as a solo show in New York City earlier this year.
According to Benrey, Kabbalah is a philosophy based on Jewish mysticism that explains the Old Testament and how people can use it in their lives. Paintings in her series include “Organic Blues,” “Birth of Space” and “Transcendence.”
Benrey’s artistic goal is to make a social statement with her work. Her “Tribute to the Earth” series, which recently closed at San Diego’s Perry L. Meyer’s Fine Art, was her first step in the process. “I would really like people to experience the beauty of the earth and the meaning of it,” she said. “It is so much more than just putting my work in a gallery to me because we need to change and be more conscious of why we’re here and what we’re doing here.” See Benrey’s work at www.lizetbenrey.com.