, Newburyport, MA


February 3, 2012

A novel idea: Artist turns book covers into canvas

For many avid readers, a good book is a treasured work of art, but Jeannette Lazarus has taken that concept to a whole new level.

Lazarus is using her considerable artistic talents painting still lifes and landscapes on the covers of vintage, cloth-bound books, and offering them for sale as a fundraising effort for Salisbury Public Library's Building Fund.

"They're just beautiful," said Salisbury library director Terry Kyrios. "They're $100, and we've already sold three."

Lazarus is the founder of the East Boston Artists Group, with paintings that sell from $300 to $3,000. After moving to Salisbury from East Boston when she and her husband, Peter Edwards, retired, she immediately became a volunteer at the library. She was recently elected to its Board of Trustees.

But the kind of painting Lazarus now does in her retirement is considerably different from the type that earned her a living for decades.

"My husband and I are retired from the painters' union; that's where we met," Lazarus said, and smiled. "Local 51 of Roslindale's Painters and Allied Trades Union. I was the second woman allowed to join the painters union. I worked for 20 years for M.L. McDonald of Watertown."

A major painting contractor, the company did work on many Boston landmarks over the years. Lazarus and Edwards were part of those crews.

"We gold leafed the Statehouse dome," Lazarus said. "We painted the interiors of the Wang Center and Old South Church (during renovations). We did the lounge at the Westin Hotel, and so many more."

Lazarus' painting expertise is in stylized work, such as marbleizing and other forms of faux painting. She also specializes in the rare art form known as trompe l'oeil. Literally translated, trompe l'oeil means "to fool the eye." It is a technique that began in the 17th century in Rome and depicts objects on flat surfaces in a way that gives the optical illusion of three dimensions.

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