LIT: Lesley Schiff’s Portraits of Dylan Debuts at Van Ness

In a continuing effort to bring exclusive and cutting-edge art to The Fenway, the pop-up space at Van Ness will host the world premiere exhibition of “LIT: A Portrait of Bob Dylan by Lesley Schiff.”

Running through November 1st, “LIT” commemorates the 50th anniversary of Dylan going electric and features more than 200 unique portraits by Lesley Schiff documenting the life work of the man who was instrumental in helping Schiff gain her own voice as an artist.

“I have always loved Dylan, ever since I first heard him and especially after watching the film “Dont Look Back,” Schiff says. “I love that he was not afraid to speak up and say, ‘This is who I am.’ His approach to music helped me grow so much as an art student. Because of his content and lyrics, I was able to express myself in a way I wasn’t able to before.”

In many ways Schiff also “went electric” in 1975, turning her back on classical styles and antiquated mediums. Lesley incorporated laser printers and color copiers in her work, eventually earning the nickname “Painter with Light.”

“I knew that this was a way to keep going forward as far as my point of view of what Western art does,” says Schiff. “You jump forward, you use the tools around you. This is who I am now and these are my art-making tools. At the time it didn’t seem like a risk, it seemed natural to me.”

Since developing her own stylistic approach, Schiff’s work has appeared in The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Museum of Modern Art, as well as Buckingham Palace, not to mention a variety of prestigious companies and private art collections.

Decking the walls of the fourth floor of Van Ness, Lesley Schiff’s collection of Dylan portraits present an extensive and eclectic collection of work that harnesses the iconic and enigmatic life of one of music’s most-influential voices.

“Here’s a guy who made everything happen,” says Schiff. “Not just great songwriting, but a certain persona that he projected onto the cultural consciousness of what it means to be free and what it means to speak the truth. I decided to do the inside portrait…the thing that makes him tick. I wondered how I would paint that. I usually don’t listen to music when I work, but with these I listened to his albums and in a way I think he was telling me, ‘this is what I look like, this is what I sound like, these are the colors and this is how they flow.’”

Besides Schiff’s own imprint on Dylan, award-winning Cambridge typographer Matthew Carter also contributed to the project by developing the font used within the artwork. “This is the first showing,” notes Schiff. “It’s a really beautiful setting. I love Boston. It’s such a great city. It turns out the man who designed our font lives here in Boston. He’s like the Bob Dylan of typography. Six months after he designed a font for me, he won a MacArthur Foundation genius grant and a few months after that he was at the White House getting a medal. I thought, ‘this is great; we’re going to do this in Matthew’s territory.’ When I moved to New York, Tribeca was made up of artists living in these warehouses and cleaning them up. To me, that’s what The Fenway is like. It’s like Tribeca—charting new territory and pioneering a new spot.”

LIT: A Portrait of Bob Dylan by Lesley Schiff,” limited engagement through November 1st, open Saturdays & Sundays, 12 p.m. 7 p.m., Van Ness Building, 1325 Bolyston Street, 4th Floor,


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