Lisl Steiner - PhotoJournalist, Artist, Poet - Interviews - New York Times


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Lisl Steiner - Interviews - New York Times

New York Times

Lisl Steiner: The Eye of an Artist, the Ear of a Musician - Cynthia Magriel Wetzler - New York Times

"The Eye of an Artist, the Ear of a Musician"
By Cynthia Magriel Wetzler

You may notice a woman with red hair in the front row of a rehearsal or concert in the Spanish Courtyard or Venetian Theater at Caramoor. She will be glancing back and forth from the stage to her sketch pad drawing the performers with a quick and flowing pen. She is Lisl Steiner, Caramoor's official "Chronicler in Residence." Her red hair is just one inkling of her ebullient spirit.

"I have come full circle in my life," she said, "from drawing to photojournalism and now back to drawing, just like Henri Cartier-Bresson, the French photographer." In the 1950s in Buenos Aires, Argentina where she grew up, Ms Steiner drew many famous musicians at the Colon Opera House, including Erich Kleiber, Friedrich Gulda and Wilhelm Furtwangler. For several years now she has been captured by the magic of Caramoor and has drawn many artists here among them Yo Yo Ma, Misha Dichter, and Andrea Marcovicci. "I conduct my drawing pen in the rhythm of Beethoven, Mozart, and the beat of Jazz," she said.

During the forty years in between her drawing periods, Ms. Steiner concentrated on her career in photography and photojournalism. She worked as a magazine staff photographer, art film director and freelance photographer for major publications and corporations including UNICEF, Time-Life International and the Associated Press. During her long career she has completed hundreds of photographic essays and has had exhibitions of her work in this country, South America and Europe. "I have ongoing projects which may never end," she said. "Children of the Americas," started in 1959 is a chronicle of children from the privileged to the hunger-struck. Chimney sweeps in Vienna, Ms. Steiner's birthplace, also intrigue her. "I find them in the street in their great leather suits and I follow them up into all kinds of roofs, icy and rainy," she said gesturing with hands bedecked with large, silver rings on every finger, a snake winding around her pinkie, a dolphin from Greece on her pointing finger.

"I predicted that in the year 2000 my volcano would peak and at 73 I am peaking." she said. Indeed in 1999 she had an exhibit of her drawings of musicians at the Osterreichische Nationalbibliothek, the Austrian Nation Library. She has contributed 250 of her drawings, including some done at Caramoor, the Austrian National Library for their permanent collections. Lisl Steiner was honored by Argentina as an Academician in Arts and Sciences.

"I believe in the artist Juan Gris who said, "Improvisation--the ultimate freedom." she said. Her spontaneous temperament is evident in a large wall assemblage, which includes several of her Caramoor drawings, a feature of her photographic retrospective at the Leica Gallery in Manhattan, May 25, 2000 through June 24, 2000. "there are drawings of the pianist Alicia de Larocha, "I Guillari di Piazza," (Caramoor's resident commedia dell'arte troupe,) and children attending Caramoor concerts, along with some of my photographs, a crushed bicycle and crushed typewrite. I am still avant-garde, even at this stage of my life" she said.

Ms. Steiner also videotapes interviews with Caramoor artists for Caramoor's website on the internet. She asks them how they feel about performing here at the summer festival.

What better place to draw musicians than Caramoor? The ambiance of the setting and the rapture of the music stir the soul. Lisl Steiner's drawings embody the mysterious connection between music, architecture, and the visual arts.

Cynthia Magriel Wetzler is writer and journalist who writes for the New York Times International Magazines.

© 2005 - 2010 Lisl Steiner