Christine Lush-Rodriguez creates clay sculptures inspired by ocean life and her own dreams

Fredericksburg today

Christine Lush-Rodriguez is best known for her “Fruitoids” collection of ceramics, in which she combines the organs of different ocean and plant life into brand new organic “life form” sculptures inspired by her travels and useful dreams.

She builds her Fruitoids at Artful Dimensions Gallery in Fredericksburg and travels to art shows on the East Coast. His unique tropical themed works are influenced by years spent living and working in Florida and the US Virgin Islands. They draw a lot of people to the northern United States, where his pieces give customers a taste of a tropical lifestyle.

Several Fruitoids on display in Artful Dimensions Gallery.

Born and raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Lush-Rodriguez has been making art for as long as she can remember.

“Ever since I was five and learned to draw a star on my own, I wanted to be an artist,” she shares. “Fortunately, I had parents who were on board with this concept!”

Lush-Rodriguez has always been drawn to art classes throughout elementary and high school.

“I took all the high school art classes I could. I took ceramics from my freshman year of high school. As soon as I could take it, I knew I wanted to be a ceramics artist. , clay sculptor.

But Lush-Rodriguez struggled with other school subjects. She suffered from dyslexia, she says, and growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, “back then, dyslexia wasn’t a word. I have always been called an underachiever. A guidance counselor even went so far as to tell Christine’s parents that she was unable to graduate from college.

Although she was disillusioned with the education system, Christine herself pursued a 26-year career as an educator. With the continued support of her parents, she earned a degree in arts education from Kutztown University.

After graduating in 1984, Lush-Rodriguez moved to St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands to begin teaching. The circumstances of this work testify to Christine’s determination to teach and make art.

“When you start teaching there [in St.Croix], you don’t get paid for the first six weeks,” she says. “They want to make sure you’re going to stay, because apparently people would come, take the job, teach for a week or two, take a little vacation and leave.” Christine received a letter from her manager explaining that she was entitled to a month and a half of food stamps, and she lived on this alone until she received her first paycheck.

Even after receiving her salary, Lush-Rodriguez faced a heavy financial burden while teaching at St. Croix. “[The island was] not very well equipped on many levels,” she shares. “I had to supplement, on my salary, supplies for my students.”

Worse still, according to Lush-Rodriguez, she couldn’t do ceramic art in Sainte-Croix because she didn’t have access to a kiln. She fulfilled her need to make art using oil paints, which she bought with her first salary.

“I painted a hibiscus that was outside my window, with very bright, beautiful, orange colors [colors]. So that’s what I did, there was no clay on the island. I painted flowers inspired by O’Keeffe, in your face, with bright and bright colors.

Lush-Rodriguez got married and moved to Miami, but she carries a piece of the Holy Cross with her in her artwork. “[St. Croix] totally influenced my color palette. Coming from Pennsylvania, it was a big change in color, a big change in dynamism.

In Miami, she gained access to clay and a kiln through Miami-Dade University, a new high school teaching job, and a husband who encouraged her to pursue clay sculpting. .

“When you open that door and let the clay into my life, the clay is going to be under my skin,” she recalled, warning her husband. “And he goes, ‘I’m okay with that, you have to be who you have to be as an artist and clay is your thing. So a very supportive husband. He keeps telling me, ‘Make it bigger, bigger, bigger!'”

It was in Miami that Christine began building a professional art portfolio, and her Fruitoid collection was born.

“I sat down with a piece of paper and said, ‘Okay. I love plants and I love the ocean. Let me see what I can do with this.

She put hours of study into her work before starting the collection.

“I started immersing myself in images of different types of plants, pods, flowers, and little ocean creatures.”

Inspiration often struck her in dreams.

“I would look at books and books and books, then I would close them, and during the night, when I was sleeping, an image would come to me.”

This became a common theme in his works.

“About ten years ago, my Poppy series,” – a collection of vibrant poppy-shaped wall sculptures sometimes possessing fruit-like qualities – “I woke up at half past four in the morning and [my dream] said [that] I have to make poppies. I immediately thought of Georgia O’Keeffe’s giant red poppies.

Lush-Rodriguez’s “Barnacleware” collection, in which she adorns ceramic pieces with clay barnacles, was inspired by footage from the film Titanic but developed further in his dreams. She developed categories for her pieces based on barnacle density. “This,” she says of a small gold-glazed bowl in the gallery, “is extremely barnacle (yes, I’m making words up). It was also a dream that woke me up – it always wakes me up at half past four in the morning – that I just had to completely cover the entire top edge of the room [in barnacles].”

A piece of gold-enameled barnacleware in Christine’s gallery. “During COVID, I started with these little geodes, barnacle geodes, with a 19k gold glaze inside, trying to bring out some inner light and happiness.”

Lush-Rodriguez decided to shift her burgeoning artistic career and move north again as Miami’s seasonal hurricanes became too taxing. In 2005, her family was hit by three Category 5 hurricanes. where I was teaching, I had to secure my students’ work, unplug and pack up all the pottery wheels in the classroom, get out my books and all the supplies. That year, every week, we were in the “cone of uncertainty,” and I was done. The stress is too much.

Her husband took a job in Washington and they visited several nearby towns before landing in Fredericksburg.

“As soon as we saw Fredericksburg, it reminded me of Doylestown, where I grew up,” shares Christine. “A little two-story brick town and an arts community – I’m like, ‘This is it. This is where we’re going to move.

Lush-Rodriguez began teaching art at Holy Cross Academy in Fredericksburg and joined Brushstrokes Gallery in 2006, where she identified an unfilled niche in the local art community: three-dimensional art had been overlooked because galleries didn’t know how to exhibit it.

“Sitting in this gallery, I was watching people come in and just looking at the stuff on the walls. It was very frustrating for me because [other artists’] the paintings, their photographs, the pastels, must be on the walls. But we [three-dimensional artists] do things that are just as good, and we get pushed around corners on pedestals. So we felt like second-class performers, and that really frustrated me.

So in 2011, Christine finds a new place and offers an exclusively three-dimensional gallery.

“I got my 3D friends from Brushstrokes together, took them on a little field trip and said, ‘What do you think? A non-profit art gallery with studios we can work in, exclusively in three dimensions, and they were all for it!

Artful Dimensions has since moved on and Lush-Rodriguez remains its president. The gallery organizes monthly exhibitions to present the work of its artists in turn. July’s show will feature Lush-Rodriguez’s work in an exhibition titled Treasures of time. The show will feature blue Barnacleware pieces with white barnacles and ornaments. “It’s all about blue and white,” says Christine. “I make it look like pottery that fell off the beach, found stuff.”

Several of the vibrant blue dishes to be displayed in Treasures of Time.

treasurestime will begin on June 28, with an opening on Friday July 1 at Clever dimensions.