Mana   Lesman   is   an   artist   and   dancer.   She   has   a   great   and   charming   personality. Her   smile   lights   up   the   room.   Her   wisdom   inspires   you.   After   reading   about   this legendary   woman,   you'll   know   you   can   contribute   towards   the   society   no   matter what   -   you   don't   need   to   be   in   a   specific   field,   time   or   environment   to   make   a difference to the world in this lifetime. JBN: When did you start dancing? Mana   Lesman:   Well,   I   was   an   only   child.   I   think   my   mother   was   a   stage   mom   at heart.   She   admitted   to   me   at   one   point   that   she   had   danced   on   the   stage   doing the   Charleston   in   Big   Timber,   Montana   when   she   was   a   teenager   during   the 1920s.  I think she liked to dance, but didn’t have much opportunity to do so.   Apparently,   I   was   a   rather   clumsy   little   girl   so   they   enrolled   me   in   dancing   classes at   age   three   and   a   half.      I   danced   for   the   next   15   years   in   my   home   town   of Billings   until   I   graduated   from   high   school.   I   then   went   on   to   –   Denver   University and   studied   more   dance,   even   though   I   majored   in   painting.   I   moved   on   to Kansas City and took lessons at the conservatory.    I   never   had   enough   nerve   to   try   out   as   a   professional.   But   when   my   daughter was   five,   she   said,   "Mommy,   I   want   to   dance   on   the   stage."   I   said,   "We'll   see   what we   can   do."   By   the   time   she   was   eight,   she   organized   her   first   dance   company   of little   neighborhood   kids.   We   performed   for   three   different   Chicago   mayors   and   in seven    different    states,    toured    all    the    way    west    to    Montana    and    performed hundreds of times during the next five years. Our   family   said   farewell   to   Chicago   and   moved   to   my   home   state   of   Montana   in 1985.      Of   course,   the   parting   question   was   would   we   be   developing   a   new   dance group   there.   Well,   I   didn't   know   that   we   would,   but   dance   runs   deep   in   our   family.     Within   the   year,   my   daughter’s   girl   friend   from   the   neighborhood,   came   from Chicago   to   live   with   us   and   finish   high   school.      Between   those   two   girls,   in   1986, the    Ultimate    Touch    was    born.    The    dance    group    they    created    performed    in Montana for the next 18 years. In   the   meantime,   a   group   of   elderly   ladies   wanted   to   dance   and   they   asked   if   they   could   join   the   Ultimate   Touch.   I   said,   "I   don't   think you want to do hip-hop. So”, I said, "I'll choreograph for you if you want me to." That was 30 years ago.    They   will   be   performing   at   the   fair,   our   big   annual   harvest   festival   in   August   After   all   these   years   the   “Golden   Dancers”   which   is   the name   they   chose   for   themselves   represent   several   generations   of   elder   women.   The   founders   have   all   died   now   and   we   are   losing the   next   generation.   The   current   ladies   are   in   their   50s   to   80s   and   they   work   very   diligently   at   what   they   do.   My   dancing   career   has been   more   teaching   and   sharing   than   performing   but   I   am   not   sorry   for   that.      What   my   parents   did   for   me   was   gave   me   the   start   so   I knew what I was doing.   JBN: Wonderful. Are you still teaching?   Mana   Lesman:   Oh   yes,   I'm   still   teaching   every   Monday   and when   we   need   a   new   dance   I   choreograph   for   them.      That's the   fun   thing,   making   up   the   dances   and   envisioning   how they    will    look    on    the    stage.        I    look    at    dance    as    a    live sculpture    moving    against    a    background,    which    makes    it almost   like   a   painting.      The   difference   is,   it's   live   in   time   and space    and    it's    three-dimensional.    That's    how    I    relate    to dance.   Sometimes   my   subject   matter   is   dance   when   I   paint   too.   The two   are   synergistic.   Painting   is   very   sedentary,   dance   is   very active,    and    so    they're    a    nice    balance.    They're    a    healthy partnership.   JBN: Tell us please more about your painting… Mana   Lesman:   I   think   my   painting   was   because   of   rainy days.   I   didn’t   have   any   siblings   to   play   with.      In   order   to   keep me   busy,   my   mother   had   to   keep   me   entertained.      We   lived in   an   industrial   part   of   Billings.   There   weren't   many   houses and   not   many   kids.      My   parents   were   very   protective.   They didn't   let   me   go   very   far.   My   mother   provided   me   with   all   the things   I   could   possibly   want;   paints   and   coloring   books   and crayons   and   pencils   and   paper   dolls.   I   started   with   paper dolls;   designing   clothes   for   them.   I   liked   all   of   the   things   that   were   two-dimensional   that   I   could   focus   on.      Even   in      first   grade,   I   liked   to draw and my stuff got put on up on the wall. By   the   time   I   was   12,   in   sixth   grade,   I   had   the   first   real   art   teacher.   He   offered   a   summer   class   for   select   students   that   year   at   a   little school   that   was   on   the   border   of   the   Rocky   Mountain   College   campus.   I   was   invited.   We   did   watercolor,   oils,   pastels,   charcoal,   pen, and   ink,   the   gamut   of   common   mediums   that   visual   art   has   embraced.   I   learned   a   little   bit   of   all   of   it   and   really   enjoyed   watercolor   and oil a lot. Those are the two mediums I work in the most till this day.   JBN: I know that your husband is also artist and you helped to develop his talent…   Mana   Lesman:   It   wasn't   a   big   leap   for   him   to   be   a   painter.   He   had   all   the   makings   of   being   an   artist,,   beginning   as   a   sculptor   in   the first   place.   He   just   took   to   it   very   quickly,   and   he   does   very   nice   work.   He   does   a   lot   of   oriental   subject   matter   after   time   in   Japan   when he was in the Navy.  He does large versions of tiny little woodblock prints that were done in Japan over a hundred years ago. Now,   he's   practicing      Oriental   styles   of   nature   painting,   with   the   big   brushes,   painting   with   simple   strokes   for   leaves   and   loose   flowing paint   for   flowers.   This   is   a   whole   other   facet   of   Oriental   art.   It   requires   practice   and   control   because   it   is   achieved   by   very   specific brushwork.   Now   he's   learning   on   his   own   because   I   don't   have   much   experience   in   Oriental   art   and   I   can't   even   teach   him   much.   He's taking off on his own, really, and that's good.  People should do that.   JBN: And what inspires you as an artist? Mana   Lesman:   A   very   wise   Yoga   instructor   says   we   need   to   “see   beauty   in   every   direction.”   Even   garbage   has   beauty   to   it.   Old things   have   beauty   to   them.   The   common   things   that   we   live   with   have beauty   to   them. And   so,   one   of   my   purposes,   especially   in   watercolors   and representational   paintings   I   do   is   rendering   images   of   the   common   world around   us:   old   houses,   back   alleys,   telephone   poles,   old   tanks,      the   back part   of      an   old   storage   building   that's   kind   of   half   buried   in   the   dirt.      I   find that   things   like   that   have   touching   beauty   because   they   bring   people   back to   their   roots,   memories.   I   also   paint   the   wild   landscape   in   Montana   where   I live.      Sometimes   we   need   to   see   something   in   a   frame   to   really   see   it,   we take so much of this amazing world for granted And   then   we   will   discuss      the   oils.   They   are   yet   another   level,   if   you   will, because      I   choose   to   use   the   oil   on   canvas   medium   as   a   means   to   convey the   messages   to   the   art   audience   which   go   beyond   simple      observation   of the   world   around   us.      They   are   a   genre   I   call   “Graphic   Surrealism”   because like   all   art,   they   are   messages   but   in   my   work,   juxtaposed   in   ever   different arrangements   and   associations   beyond   simple   reality.      I   study   and   I   read   a lot.   I'm   very   interested   in   the   history   of   man,   the   history   of   our   movements about   this   earth,   the   history   of   our   cultures   and   how   they've   melted   together and   come   apart   and   blended   in   cross-synergism   with   each   other.   A   lot   of my   paintings,   are   based   on   bringing   people   mind's   together   about   where we   are   all   coming   from,   my   message   being   that   we   aren’t   so   far   apart, really.   That   idea   binds   us   together   and   makes   us   less   individual   isolated hostile   separated   cultures.   We   are   all   sourced   in   the   same   roots.   Another fascination   of   mine   is   the   beauty   of   other   people's   cultures,   things   that people   seldom   see.   When   I   show   you   the   two   Ukrainian   paintings   I   did, you'll   see   what   I   mean.   You   can   relate.   But   other   people   who   have   never seen   that   before   or   never   looked   at   those   things,   the   beadwork   or   the   embroidery   or   the   decorated   eggs,   those   kinds   of   things resonate inside that frame. The fascination is universal.   JBN: I know you are very interested in your roots and that you even made deep search about your people. Mana    Lesman:        On    my    father’s    side,    we    are    Slavic    tribe    called    the Kashubians   .   We   came   from   somewhere   in   the   Balkans   near   the   Balkan   Sea and   migrated   to   Poland.   I   would   guess   probably   2000   B.C. The   language      my people   speak   is   Polish,   but   not   quite.   It's   close,   enough   to   communicate   in East   Prussia   where   they   now   live.   My   direct   family   is   from   a   community   called Brusy.   But   my   grandfather's   father   and   his   two   brothers   came   to   America from   that   area   in   the   late   1700s,   early   1800s.   They   married   women   they found   there   who   were   probably   also   Kashubian   because   the   western   edge   of Wisconsin   and   across   the   Mississippi   River,   Winona,   Minnesota   was   where many   Kashubians   settled.   Minnesota,   I   don't   think   they   knew   each   other   back in the old country at all. I think they found each other in America.    It's   fascination   to   me   to   know   that   we   are   just   a   very   special   little   group   that has   a   culture   of   its   own.   They   were   pagans.   During   the   Crusades   to   the Middle   East   in   the   12,   13,   1400s      there   were   also   other   less   known   Crusades. One   of   them   was   the   Teutonic   Crusade   when   German   monks   and   Crusaders went   to   this   part   of   Poland   and   demanded   Christianity   or   death.   I   suspect that's   when   my   family   became   very   devoted   Christians.   I   would   like   to   know more   about   their   beliefs   before   that   time.   I   think   we've   lost   some   tremendous arts   and   cultural   knowledge   in   decorative   arts,   in   design   of   the   environment we   live   in,   architecture   and   such,   pottery,   art   pieces,   jewelry,   etc.   with   the imposed   values   and   ideas.   Learning   about   that   to   me   is   kind   of   tying   myself back to where I'm coming from. Probably    one    of    the    other    more    important    areas    of    knowledge    is    the medicinal   arts   that   people   knew   before   the   coming   of   the   Roman   Church   and the   demands   that   people   who   practice   any   such   arts   were   called   witches   and killed.   Now   I   find   out   that   the   witch's   brew   was   probably   beer,   and   it   was pretty   popular.   When   the   witches   were   destroyed,   that   destroyed   the   beer- making    and    then    everybody    switched    to    wine,    essential    in    the    Christian sacraments,    thanks    to    the    Romans.        We    don't    know    how    many    cultural traditions   have   been   eliminated   by   incoming   cultures.   But   when   we   talk   about it   and   think   about   it,   my   people   are   from   where   you   are   from,   because   the people   who   migrated   to   the   center   of   Europe   were   by   and   large   hunters   and gatherers,   the   Magdalenians         and   Aurignatians.      They   painted   the   caves   in   France   and   Spain.   The   next   wave   of   change   was   the farmers   about   4,000   B.C.   But   the   next   people   who   came   in   were   the   people   who   had   herds   of   horses.   They   had   wheeled   vehicles. They   had   beef   and   they   brought   goats   and   sheep. Those   were   the   people   from   the   steps   of   Russia,   and   they   brought   us   the   language I   am   speaking   to   you   now   and   the   language   you   spoke   as   a   child   at home.   Although   it's   so   different   that   we   couldn't   possibly   understand each   other,   the   roots   of   that   language   are   in   that   central   part   of   south   of Russia,   the   Ukraine   and   all   the   way   to   the   Caspian   Sea,   those   people are   us. And   for   us   to   think   that   we   have   always   been   in   Western   Europe: France,   Norway   or   England   is   just   not   so.   People   migrate   and   have migrated    for    100,000    years,    and    we    were    among    them.        I'm    most fascinated   by   that   coming   together   of   cultures   and   how   it   changed   the resulting    people.        We    are    an    amalgam.    I    think    that's    fascinating, especially   as   it   is   recorded   in   the   decorations   and   objects   we   make which is subject matter for much of my painting.   JBN:   Unbelievable.   Can   you   one   more   time   tell   a   story   about   your exhibition in Canada at Ukrainian Museum?   Mana   Lesman:   Friends   of   ours   were   married   in   Gardenton,   Manitoba because   it   had   a   lovely   little   museum   of   Ukrainian   art.   They   thought   it was   so   beautiful   and   they   know   me.   They   know   I'm   a   painter   and   I would   be   fascinated   by   those   beautiful   decorative   pieces,   particularly     the   Ukrainian   eggs   and   the   beadwork,      painting   on   furniture   and   that sort   of   decorative   arts.   They   invited   my   husband   and   me   to   come   there and   be   witnesses   for   their   wedding   ceremony,   which   we   did.   We   took pictures   and   I   came   home   and   began   to   paint.   I   created   some   paintings that   I   felt   were   appropriate   for      the   Ukrainians   of   Gardenton   to   see. And   I asked   if   they   would   be   willing   to   have   a   show   for   me   and   they   said,   yes. So   I   became   an   internationally   exhibited   artist   and   got   to   have   a   show   in Gardenton,    Manitoba.        That    was    many    years    ago,    but    I've    never forgotten   how   kind   they   were   to   me.   I   remain   fascinated   with   the   motifs and symbols especially on the decorated eggs.  Most books                           call   them   “good   luck   symbols’   but   they   were   the   religion   of   the   people. They   were   the   belief   system.   They   were   what   kept   people   going   and believing   in   what   they   were   doing. And   so,   I   paint   those   things   because   I think   they're   still   important   to   us.   I   also   think   that   the   modern   society, especially   modern   architecture   has   allowed   itself   to   become   devoid   of the   beautiful   images   and   intricate   details   that   man   seems   to   find   almost sacred.   Jewelry,   fabric   design,   sculpture,   decorative   sculpture   on   buildings   all   echo   these   messages   in   design   that   so   resonate   with our   eyes   and   our   psyches.   I   hope   my   paintings   bring   back   for   people, some of those images that have been so sacred and so important.                   Many    of    the    ancient    decorations    served    as    messages    for    our ancestors   and   could   be   “read”   by   people   who   knew   their   meanings.     They   were   the   precursors   to   written   language   and   symbols   that   we use to mean things and,                              development    of    the    alphabet,    I    believe    that    most    of    the    artistic symbols   that   were   used   as   architectural   symbols   and   back   to   jewelry and   fabric   and   so   on   were   messages. They   had   something   to   say.   For instance,   the   bouquet   of   flowers   you   see   engraved   on   tombstones was   a   bouquet   of   flowers   that   was   an   offering   to   the   Gods. And   other strange   things   like   architectural   features   of   the   ball   underneath   the corners   on   a   building.   These   were   old   Greek      alters   associated   with bull   worship.         The   balls   were   originally   a   collector   for   the   blood      from the   animal   that   was   on   top   of   that   altar.      People   collected   that   blood because   it   was   sacred   to   them.      Who   would've   thought   that   this   was part   of   a   ritual?   It      became   a   design   feature   that   was   put   on   and   the        edges   of   roofs,   especially   Greek   and   Roman   and   classic   architecture like   our   national   architecture   in   our   nation’s   capitol.      I   believe   the columns    with    the    lines    down    the    length    were    trees    because    the original   temples   were   groves   of   trees   with      a   lot   of   foliage   overhead where   people   are   protected.   Eventually   the   Greeks   started   making them   out   of   logs   and   putting   a   roof   on.   Then   they   were   carved   out   of stone,   and   thus   we   have   the   Parthenon..   These   are   some   of   the connections between us and what our ancestors did.   JBN: Do you also have Scandinavian roots? Mana   Lesman:   I'm    half   Norwegian.   My   mother's   mother   and   father were   both   Norwegian.   Grandpa,   Anton   Strand   came   in   1870.   1889   is when   he   homesteaded   here   in   Montana.      He   had   arrived   in   America maybe   six   or   seven   years   before,   herding   sheep   in   Minnesota   as most   Norwegians   did   to   make   enough   money   to   come   out   west.   He picked   out   a   plot   of   land   he   wanted   to   homestead.      My   grandfather returned      to   Norway   to   fin   a   wife      He   brought   my   grandmother   to Montana   in   1897   and   they   built   a   farm   together.   She   was   17.   They had   nine   children.   None   of   the   first   generation   is   living   now.   They established   quite   an   empire   of   Strands   in   the   middle   of   Montana,   near Melville.      My   mother   was   the   fifth   child.   She's   the   only   one   who sought   further   education   after   high   school.   She   came   to   Billings   to study   nursing   and   became   a   nurse.   All   her   brothers   and   sisters   took jobs   doing   other   things   and   she   married   my   father   in   1933.   He   was   the   Polish   Kashubian. So I'm half and half. JBN: by the way you have a very beautiful unusual name.   Mana   Lesman:   My   name   is   a   mistake.   I   was   named   after   the   daughter   of   an   uncle.   He read   a   book   about   a   girl   name   M-O-N-A.   That's   Mona.   Many   women   have   this   name.     However,   my   uncle      called   his   daughter   Mana.   My   parents   spelled   the   name   correctly.      It has   meanings   in   other   languages   but   none   in   English.   I   have   never   known   my   namesake.   I was   a   very   small   girl   last   time   I   might   have   seen   her.   She's   much   older   than   I   am.   born,   my. My middle name is after my father.  It is Clair for Clarence Lesman     It    has    been    an    honor    for    me    to    participate    in    this    interview    because    it    is    an opportunity   to   bridge   the   gaps   between   one   culture   and   another.      I   only   hope   my paintings   achieve   similar   results   because   they   are   non   verbal   and   as   visual   images, hopefully     they     cross     cultural     and     language     barriers..          Please     feel     free     to communicate with me via my website:  manalesman.com     Mana Lesman
Johnson’s Billings News
Hosted by Johnson Computing
They are read.  We are Quoted!!!
  Amazing Mana Lesman
Interview
UKRAINIAN RAINBOW
SCARF DANCE
THE NEW RELIGION
Tradition
Mana    Lesman    is    an    artist and     dancer.     She     has     a great          and          charming personality.   Her   smile   lights up    the    room.    Her    wisdom inspires    you.    After    reading about         this         legendary woman,   you'll   know   you   can contribute       towards       the society   no   matter   what   -   you don't     need     to     be     in     a specific       field,       time       or environment     to     make     a difference    to    the    world    in this lifetime. JBN:   When   did   you   start dancing? Mana   Lesman:   Well,   I   was an   only   child.   I   think   my   mother   was   a   stage   mom   at   heart.   She admitted   to   me   at   one   point   that   she   had   danced   on   the   stage doing   the   Charleston   in   Big   Timber,   Montana   when   she   was   a teenager   during   the   1920s.      I   think   she   liked   to   dance,   but   didn’t have much opportunity to do so.   Apparently,   I   was   a   rather   clumsy   little   girl   so   they   enrolled   me   in dancing   classes   at   age   three   and   a   half.      I   danced   for   the   next   15 years   in   my   home   town   of   Billings   until   I   graduated   from   high school.   I   then   went   on   to   –   Denver   University   and   studied   more dance,   even   though   I   majored   in   painting.   I   moved   on   to   Kansas City and took lessons at the conservatory.    I   never   had   enough   nerve   to   try   out   as   a   professional.   But   when my   daughter   was   five,   she   said,   "Mommy,   I   want   to   dance   on   the stage."   I   said,   "We'll   see   what   we   can   do."   By   the   time   she   was eight,     she     organized     her     first     dance     company     of     little neighborhood    kids.    We    performed    for    three    different    Chicago mayors   and   in   seven   different   states,   toured   all   the   way   west   to Montana   and   performed   hundreds   of   times   during   the   next   five years. Our   family   said   farewell   to   Chicago   and   moved   to   my   home   state of   Montana   in   1985.      Of   course,   the   parting   question   was   would we   be   developing   a   new   dance   group   there.   Well,   I   didn't   know that   we   would,   but   dance   runs   deep   in   our   family.      Within   the year,   my   daughter’s   girl   friend   from   the   neighborhood,   came   from Chicago   to   live   with   us   and   finish   high   school.      Between   those two   girls,   in   1986,   the   Ultimate   Touch   was   born.   The   dance   group they created performed in Montana for the next 18 years. In   the   meantime,   a   group   of   elderly   ladies   wanted   to   dance   and they   asked   if   they   could   join   the   Ultimate   Touch.   I   said,   "I   don't think   you   want   to   do   hip-hop.   So”,   I   said,   "I'll   choreograph   for   you if you want me to." That was 30 years ago.   They   will   be   performing   at   the   fair,   our   big   annual   harvest   festival in August After   all   these   years   the   “Golden   Dancers”   which   is   the name   they   chose   for   themselves   represent   several   generations of   elder   women.   The   founders   have   all   died   now   and   we   are losing   the   next   generation.   The   current   ladies   are   in   their   50s   to 80s   and   they   work   very   diligently   at   what   they   do.   My   dancing career   has   been   more   teaching   and   sharing   than   performing   but   I am   not   sorry   for   that.      What   my   parents   did   for   me   was   gave   me the start so I knew what I was doing.   JBN: Wonderful. Are you still teaching?   Mana   Lesman:   Oh   yes,   I'm   still   teaching   every   Monday   and when   we   need   a   new   dance   I   choreograph   for   them.      That's   the fun   thing,   making   up   the   dances   and   envisioning   how   they   will look   on   the   stage.      I   look   at   dance   as   a   live   sculpture   moving against   a   background,   which   makes   it   almost   like   a   painting.     The difference   is,   it's   live   in   time   and   space   and   it's   three-dimensional. That's how I relate to dance.   Sometimes   my   subject   matter   is   dance   when   I   paint   too.   The   two are   synergistic.   Painting   is   very   sedentary,   dance   is   very   active, and so they're a nice balance. They're a healthy partnership.   JBN: Tell us please more about your painting… Mana   Lesman:   I   think   my   painting   was   because   of   rainy   days.   I didn’t   have   any   siblings   to   play   with.      In   order   to   keep   me   busy, my   mother   had   to   keep   me   entertained.      We   lived   in   an   industrial part   of   Billings.   There   weren't   many   houses   and   not   many   kids.     My   parents   were   very   protective.   They   didn't   let   me   go   very   far. My   mother   provided   me   with   all   the   things   I   could   possibly   want; paints   and   coloring   books   and   crayons   and   pencils   and   paper dolls.   I   started   with   paper   dolls;   designing   clothes   for   them.   I   liked all   of   the   things   that   were   two-dimensional   that   I   could   focus   on.     Even   in      first   grade,   I   liked   to   draw   and   my   stuff   got   put   on   up   on the wall. By   the   time   I   was   12,   in   sixth   grade,   I   had   the   first   real   art teacher.   He   offered   a   summer   class   for   select   students   that   year at   a   little   school   that   was   on   the   border   of   the   Rocky   Mountain College   campus.   I   was   invited.   We   did   watercolor,   oils,   pastels, charcoal,    pen,    and    ink,    the    gamut    of    common    mediums    that visual   art   has   embraced.   I   learned   a   little   bit   of   all   of   it   and   really enjoyed   watercolor   and   oil   a   lot.   Those   are   the   two   mediums   I work in the most till this day.   JBN:   I   know   that   your   husband   is   also   artist   and   you   helped to develop his talent…   Mana   Lesman:   It   wasn't   a   big   leap   for   him   to   be   a   painter.   He had   all   the   makings   of   being   an   artist,,   beginning   as   a   sculptor   in the   first   place.   He   just   took   to   it   very   quickly,   and   he   does   very nice   work.   He   does   a   lot   of   oriental   subject   matter   after   time   in Japan   when   he   was   in   the   Navy.      He   does   large   versions   of   tiny little   woodblock   prints   that   were   done   in   Japan   over   a   hundred years ago. Now,   he's   practicing      Oriental   styles   of   nature   painting,   with   the big   brushes,   painting   with   simple   strokes   for   leaves   and   loose flowing   paint   for   flowers.   This   is   a   whole   other   facet   of   Oriental art.   It   requires   practice   and   control   because   it   is   achieved   by   very specific   brushwork.   Now   he's   learning   on   his   own   because   I   don't have   much   experience   in   Oriental   art   and   I   can't   even   teach   him much.   He's   taking   off   on   his   own,   really,   and   that's   good.      People should do that.   JBN: And what inspires you as an artist? Mana   Lesman:   A   very   wise Yoga   instructor   says   we   need   to   “see beauty   in   every   direction.”   Even   garbage   has   beauty   to   it.   Old things   have   beauty   to   them.   The   common   things   that   we   live   with have   beauty   to   them.   And   so,   one   of   my   purposes,   especially   in watercolors    and    representational    paintings    I    do    is    rendering images   of   the   common   world   around   us:   old   houses,   back   alleys, telephone   poles,   old   tanks,      the   back   part   of      an   old   storage building   that's   kind   of   half   buried   in   the   dirt.      I   find   that   things   like that   have   touching   beauty   because   they   bring   people   back   to their   roots,   memories.   I   also   paint   the   wild   landscape   in   Montana where   I   live.      Sometimes   we   need   to   see   something   in   a   frame   to really see it, we take so much of this amazing world for granted And   then   we   will   discuss      the   oils.   They   are   yet   another   level,   if you   will,   because      I   choose   to   use   the   oil   on   canvas   medium   as   a means   to   convey   the   messages   to   the   art   audience   which   go beyond   simple      observation   of   the   world   around   us.      They   are   a genre   I   call   “Graphic   Surrealism”   because   like   all   art,   they   are messages     but     in     my     work,     juxtaposed     in     ever     different arrangements   and   associations   beyond   simple   reality.      I   study and   I   read   a   lot.   I'm   very   interested   in   the   history   of   man,   the history   of   our   movements   about   this   earth,   the   history   of   our cultures   and   how   they've   melted   together   and   come   apart   and blended   in   cross-synergism   with   each   other. A   lot   of   my   paintings, are   based   on   bringing   people   mind's   together   about   where   we are   all   coming   from,   my   message   being   that   we   aren’t   so   far apart,   really.   That   idea   binds   us   together   and   makes   us   less individual   isolated   hostile   separated   cultures.   We   are   all   sourced in   the   same   roots.   Another   fascination   of   mine   is   the   beauty   of other   people's   cultures,   things   that   people   seldom   see.   When   I show   you   the   two   Ukrainian   paintings   I   did,   you'll   see   what   I mean.   You   can   relate.   But   other   people   who   have   never   seen that   before   or   never   looked   at   those   things,   the   beadwork   or   the embroidery   or   the   decorated   eggs,   those   kinds   of   things   resonate inside that frame. The fascination is universal.   JBN:   I   know   you   are   very   interested   in   your   roots   and   that you even made deep search about your people. Mana   Lesman:      On   my   father’s   side,   we   are   Slavic   tribe   called the   Kashubians   .   We   came   from   somewhere   in   the   Balkans   near the   Balkan   Sea   and   migrated   to   Poland.   I   would   guess   probably 2000   B.C.   The   language      my   people   speak   is   Polish,   but   not quite.   It's   close,   enough   to   communicate   in   East   Prussia   where they   now   live.   My   direct   family   is   from   a   community   called   Brusy. But    my    grandfather's    father    and    his    two    brothers    came    to America   from   that   area   in   the   late   1700s,   early   1800s.   They married    women    they    found    there    who    were    probably    also Kashubian   because   the   western   edge   of   Wisconsin   and   across the    Mississippi    River,    Winona,    Minnesota    was    where    many Kashubians    settled.    Minnesota,    I    don't    think    they    knew    each other   back   in   the   old   country   at   all.   I   think   they   found   each   other in America.    It's   fascination   to   me   to   know   that   we   are   just   a   very   special   little group   that   has   a   culture   of   its   own. They   were   pagans.   During   the Crusades   to   the   Middle   East   in   the   12,   13,   1400s      there   were also   other   less   known   Crusades.   One   of   them   was   the   Teutonic Crusade   when   German   monks   and   Crusaders   went   to   this   part   of Poland    and    demanded    Christianity    or    death.    I    suspect    that's when   my   family   became   very   devoted   Christians.   I   would   like   to know   more   about   their   beliefs   before   that   time.   I   think   we've   lost some   tremendous   arts   and   cultural   knowledge   in   decorative   arts, in   design   of   the   environment   we   live   in,   architecture   and   such, pottery,   art   pieces,   jewelry,   etc.   with   the   imposed   values   and ideas.   Learning   about   that   to   me   is   kind   of   tying   myself   back   to where I'm coming from. Probably   one   of   the   other   more   important   areas   of   knowledge   is the   medicinal   arts   that   people   knew   before   the   coming   of   the Roman   Church   and   the   demands   that   people   who   practice   any such   arts   were   called   witches   and   killed.   Now   I   find   out   that   the witch's   brew   was   probably   beer,   and   it   was   pretty   popular.   When the   witches   were   destroyed,   that   destroyed   the   beer-making   and then    everybody    switched    to    wine,    essential    in    the    Christian sacraments,   thanks   to   the   Romans.      We   don't   know   how   many cultural   traditions   have   been   eliminated   by   incoming   cultures.   But when   we   talk   about   it   and   think   about   it,   my   people   are   from where   you   are   from,   because   the   people   who   migrated   to   the center   of   Europe   were   by   and   large   hunters   and   gatherers,   the Magdalenians         and   Aurignatians.      They   painted   the   caves   in France   and   Spain.   The   next   wave   of   change   was   the   farmers about   4,000   B.C.   But   the   next   people   who   came   in   were   the people   who   had   herds   of   horses.   They   had   wheeled   vehicles. They   had   beef   and   they   brought   goats   and   sheep.   Those   were the   people   from   the   steps   of   Russia,   and   they   brought   us   the language   I   am   speaking   to   you   now   and   the   language   you   spoke as   a   child   at   home.   Although   it's   so   different   that   we   couldn't possibly   understand   each   other,   the   roots   of   that   language   are   in that   central   part   of   south   of   Russia,   the   Ukraine   and   all   the   way   to the   Caspian   Sea,   those   people   are   us. And   for   us   to   think   that   we have    always    been    in    Western    Europe:    France,    Norway    or England   is   just   not   so.   People   migrate   and   have   migrated   for 100,000   years,   and   we   were   among   them.      I'm   most   fascinated by    that    coming    together    of    cultures    and    how    it    changed    the resulting   people.      We   are   an   amalgam.   I   think   that's   fascinating, especially   as   it   is   recorded   in   the   decorations   and   objects   we make which is subject matter for much of my painting.   JBN:   Unbelievable.   Can   you   one   more   time   tell   a   story   about your exhibition in Canada at Ukrainian Museum?   Mana    Lesman:    Friends    of    ours    were    married    in    Gardenton, Manitoba   because   it   had   a   lovely   little   museum   of   Ukrainian   art. They   thought   it   was   so   beautiful   and   they   know   me.   They   know I'm    a    painter    and    I    would    be    fascinated    by    those    beautiful decorative    pieces,    particularly        the    Ukrainian    eggs    and    the beadwork,      painting   on   furniture   and   that   sort   of   decorative   arts. They    invited    my    husband    and    me    to    come    there    and    be witnesses   for   their   wedding   ceremony,   which   we   did.   We   took pictures   and   I   came   home   and   began   to   paint.   I   created   some paintings    that    I    felt    were    appropriate    for        the    Ukrainians    of Gardenton   to   see.   And   I   asked   if   they   would   be   willing   to   have   a show   for   me   and   they   said,   yes.   So   I   became   an   internationally exhibited   artist   and   got   to   have   a   show   in   Gardenton,   Manitoba.     That   was   many   years   ago,   but   I've   never   forgotten   how   kind   they were   to   me.   I   remain   fascinated   with   the   motifs   and   symbols especially on the decorated eggs.  Most books                           call   them   “good   luck   symbols’   but   they   were   the   religion   of   the people.    They    were    the    belief    system.    They    were    what    kept people   going   and   believing   in   what   they   were   doing.   And   so,   I paint   those   things   because   I   think   they're   still   important   to   us.   I also   think   that   the   modern   society,   especially   modern   architecture has   allowed   itself   to   become   devoid   of   the   beautiful   images   and intricate   details   that   man   seems   to   find   almost   sacred.   Jewelry, fabric    design,    sculpture,    decorative    sculpture    on    buildings    all echo   these   messages   in   design   that   so   resonate   with   our   eyes and   our   psyches.   I   hope   my   paintings   bring   back   for   people, some    of    those    images    that    have    been    so    sacred    and    so important.                   Many   of   the   ancient   decorations   served   as   messages   for   our ancestors    and    could    be    “read”    by    people    who    knew    their meanings.      They   were   the   precursors   to   written   language   and symbols that we use to mean things and,                              development   of   the   alphabet,   I   believe   that   most   of   the   artistic symbols   that   were   used   as   architectural   symbols   and   back   to jewelry    and    fabric    and    so    on    were    messages.    They    had something   to   say.   For   instance,   the   bouquet   of   flowers   you   see engraved   on   tombstones   was   a   bouquet   of   flowers   that   was   an offering   to   the   Gods.   And   other   strange   things   like   architectural features   of   the   ball   underneath   the   corners   on   a   building.   These were   old   Greek      alters   associated   with   bull   worship.         The   balls were   originally   a   collector   for   the   blood      from   the   animal   that   was on   top   of   that   altar.      People   collected   that   blood   because   it   was sacred   to   them.      Who   would've   thought   that   this   was   part   of   a ritual?   It      became   a   design   feature   that   was   put   on   and   the        edges    of    roofs,    especially    Greek    and    Roman    and    classic architecture   like   our   national   architecture   in   our   nation’s   capitol.      I believe   the   columns   with   the   lines   down   the   length   were   trees because   the   original   temples   were   groves   of   trees   with      a   lot   of foliage    overhead    where    people    are    protected.    Eventually    the Greeks   started   making   them   out   of   logs   and   putting   a   roof   on. Then    they    were    carved    out    of    stone,    and    thus    we    have    the Parthenon..   These   are   some   of   the   connections   between   us   and what our ancestors did.   JBN: Do you also have Scandinavian roots? Mana   Lesman:   I'm    half   Norwegian.   My   mother's   mother   and father   were   both   Norwegian.   Grandpa,   Anton   Strand   came   in 1870.   1889   is   when   he   homesteaded   here   in   Montana.      He   had arrived   in   America   maybe   six   or   seven   years   before,   herding sheep   in   Minnesota   as   most   Norwegians   did   to   make   enough money   to   come   out   west.   He   picked   out   a   plot   of   land   he   wanted to   homestead.      My   grandfather   returned      to   Norway   to   fin   a   wife     He   brought   my   grandmother   to   Montana   in   1897   and   they   built   a farm   together.   She   was   17.   They   had   nine   children.   None   of   the first   generation   is   living   now.   They   established   quite   an   empire   of Strands   in   the   middle   of   Montana,   near   Melville.      My   mother   was the   fifth   child.   She's   the   only   one   who   sought   further   education after   high   school.   She   came   to   Billings   to   study   nursing   and became   a   nurse.   All   her   brothers   and   sisters   took   jobs   doing other   things   and   she   married   my   father   in   1933.   He   was   the Polish Kashubian. So I'm half and half. JBN: by the way you have a very beautiful unusual name.   Mana   Lesman:   My   name   is   a   mistake.   I   was   named   after   the daughter   of   an   uncle.   He   read   a   book   about   a   girl   name   M-O-N- A.   That's   Mona.   Many   women   have   this   name.      However,   my uncle      called   his   daughter   Mana.   My   parents   spelled   the   name correctly.        It    has    meanings    in    other    languages    but    none    in English.   I   have   never   known   my   namesake.   I   was   a   very   small girl   last   time   I   might   have   seen   her.   She's   much   older   than   I   am. born,   my.   My   middle   name   is   after   my   father.      It   is   Clair   for Clarence Lesman    It   has   been   an   honor   for   me   to   participate   in   this   interview because   it   is   an   opportunity to   bridge   the   gaps   between one   culture   and   another.      I only      hope      my      paintings achieve        similar        results because   they   are   non   verbal and       as       visual       images, hopefully   they   cross   cultural and       language       barriers..         Please         feel         free         to communicate    with    me    via my website:  manalesman.com     Mana Lesman
Johnson’s Billings News
Interview
Hosted by Johnson Computing
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  Amazing Mana Lesman