the women are the artists in Carole Sue Lebbin's family, and the Chevy Chase painter and printmaker keeps up the family tradition. She credits her immigrant grandmother, an elegant woman who found success as a high-fashion dress designer in New York's garment district, and her mother, who once was a painter and now re-creates Lebbin's work in needlepoint, with the creative tensions that have marked her own artistic career.
Lebbin's one-person show, "Summer Places, Summer Spaces," depicting images of Rehoboth Beach, is on view at the Franz Bader Gallery. Lebbin paints big, bold diptychs and triptychs, rendering in bright colors the essence of an Eastern Shore summer -- a tile-edged swimming pool, the wraparound porch of an old clapboard house with the sea in the distant background, a light-filled sunroom overlooking a scruffy yard or opening onto a porch.
Smaller paintings on paper (some of them studies for the large paintings, some independent works) and etchings based on them form the show. The juxtaposition of paintings and prints seems in keeping with Lebbin's ambivalent feelings about both art forms.
"I had an unconscious feeling of competitiveness with my mother that kept me from painting for years," Lebbin confesses. "So after I got my master's degree at George Washington University in 1972, I worked as a printmaker, yet my prints were painterly. I started painting again in 1979 when I was teaching a color course at Northern Virginia Community College. I had been doing black and white drawings, which I then transposed into color prints but without a color reference, and I decided that I needed to be painting."
Like hundreds of artists in the past -- among them Bonnard, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Renoir -- Lebbin traveled to the south of France to paint under the clear skies and superb light of the Cote d'Azur.
"When I came back," she recalls, "I painted as a way to work out color to do prints more efficiently. But I discovered that I loved painting and could sell my work, so painting started taking up more and more of my time."
Lebbin estimates that she now spends about 70 percent of her working time painting the large single and multiple canvases and the small oils on paper that constitute the major portion of her show. And she says she enjoys the looser, freer, more spontaneous results she achieves with paint and brush.
Though the compositions change little as she works them out in the different media, the colors of the paintings are bright, clear and striking while the transparency of the ink gives the colors in the prints luminosity.
third in a series of beach subjects Lebbin has been working on for several years. The first two resulted from trips to Florida and the Caribbean, and last year, after she spent two weeks at her beach house at the popular resort where so many Washingtonians vacation, she decided to continue the series. During her holiday, she set about capturing the atmosphere of her own 60-year-old New England-style house on slides and in small paintings on paper, and in the year since then she has used these as inspiration for the larger works.
"I decorated my house in the colors of the ideal Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod beach cottage, and it has exactly the feeling of those old-fashioned dwellings," she says. "The house has interesting angles and multiple layers of spaces that make it challenging to paint."
Few of the scenes have people in them, though the presence of the occupants is strongly felt. The viewer, standing at the edge of the unoccupied space, feels a compelling invitation to enter it. According to Lebbin, "They are pleasing, nonthreatening spaces, fun places to be."
"Summer Places, Summer Spaces" will be at the Franz Bader Gallery, 1701 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, through July 12.