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
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
They are read.  We are Quoted!!!
Amazing Mana Lesman