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ASHEVILLE CITIZEN TIMES
Local artist Pantas hopes creations inspire
by Jess Clarke
July 23, 2006
FAIRVIEW — The South Pacific
coral reefs, fish and turtles in Lee Pantas’ paintings are imaginary,
but the problem isn’t. His Liza’s Reef project, for which the Fairview
artist plans to create up to 40 acrylic paintings in 10 years, aims to
increase awareness about environmental preservation. Pantas, 64, has
finished eight paintings, the first of which, “Liza’s Reef,” inspired
the project. He gave that painting as a graduation gift to Liza Schillo,
whom he coached in track and field at Reynolds High School. Schillo is a
senior at UNC Chapel Hill, where she is majoring in environmental
studies with a minor in geography.
“It’s something that gives
meaning to what I do with my energy. I’m very concerned with
environmental pollution and destruction. I’m trying to do what I can do
to help prevent that,” said Pantas, who has a master’s degree in
ecology. He wrote “The Ultimate Guide to Asheville & the Western North
Carolina Mountains.” Pantas’ paintings are available to view on his Web
site, http://www.lizasreef.com/, as he completes them. The site contains
information about oceans and rain forests. Pantas will sell prints and
postcards through an online store he is developing on the Web site. Half
the proceeds will go to environmental organizations, including RiverLink
and WNC Nature Center in Asheville.
When Pantas finishes the
project, he’ll auction the paintings — except Schillo’s — and donate
half the proceeds to environmental groups and two orphanages in the
South Pacific. Schillo hopes Liza’s Reef will spur people to address
environmental problems. “It’s not just to save a rain forest out there,”
she said. “It’s to save the life that we’re living.” She started what
she says is the nation’s first environmental honors fraternity, Epsilon
Eta, at UNC Chapel Hill. “The more people we have like Lee the more
difference there will be made,” said Pat Lance, director of the WNC
Nature Center, run by the city of Asheville. “I think every step in the
right direction is a big step.”
MOUNTAIN XPRESS -"The
Liza in the sky with diamonds
by Rebecca Bowe
August 2, 2006, Vol 13, Issue 1
"I just wanted to
do some good with my art," Fairview artist Lee James
Pantas tells Xpress. "I'm trying to do something
that will raise awareness of environmental issues."
activists opt to initiate petitions, write letters to the
editor or stage public rallies. Pantas has chosen a
decidedly more elaborate approach to saving the planet:
churning out whimsical paintings of an imaginary underwater
landscape. He's also a planner: In 2015, he says, the art
will be auctioned off to benefit local green organizations.
Entitled "Liza's Reef," so far his series consists of eight
paintings – eventually there will be 40 – depicting a coral
reef surrounding a fictional South Pacific island. Images of
the series can be viewed online at www.lizasreef.com, which
will also be the site of an online store established to
benefit various environmental organizations.
Pantas' work has
been exhibited in New York, San Francisco and Washington,
D.C., and locally at the Blue Spiral and Seven Sisters
galleries. But the projected beneficiaries of his long-term
project – including local groups WNC Nature Center and
RiverLink – have awhile to wait before sales from the
upcoming series will generate the needed green.
CEDAR CLIFF NOTES -"Liza's
Pantas creates imaginary reef to save real ones
by Rebecca Searles Co-Editor in Chief
December 19, 2006, Vol. 17, Issue 3
It started with a friendship
and a graduation gift. Now, artist Lee James Pantas is saving a piece of
the world, one splash at a time.
"One, I like to paint. And as
an artist, I want to create and bring something positive into the
world," Pantas said. "But the motivating reason for this series is
to create awareness of environmental issues and also raise money to do
something good with the art."
Pantas, who has a master's
degree in freshwater ecology, aims to complete a series of paintings, 40
pieces in 10 years, to be auctioned off in 2015. He has completed nine
paintings so far. Seventy percent of the proceeds will go to nine
beneficiary organizations for protecting the environment, endangered
species, and children's orphanages in the South Pacific.
The project began in 2003, when
Pantas gave a coral reef painting to close friend and track protégée
Liza Schillo when she graduated from Reynolds High School. Schillo's
avid interest in the environment and her pursuit of a major in
environmental studies at UNC Chapel Hill inspired Pantas' series of
imaginary coral reef/celestial paintings titled "Liza's Reef". The
imaginary reef consists of bright splashes of color with turtles, fish
and occasional imaginative creature.
"Personally, I've always been
attracted to coral reefs," Pantas said. " They're the most colorful and
fragile environments on our planet. I could talk of them like a crown of
jewels. But they could be the first to die. They're symbolic, so to
But it's not just a fondness
for coral reefs that spawned the images that Pantas paints. Pantas
explained that his preferred Jackson Pollock-style technique, working
from splashes and swirls of acrylic paint, tends to lend itself to
visions of coral reefs or of galaxies and planets, so his paintings
represent a fusion of the two locales.
Rather than starting with a
blank canvas up on an easel like most artists, Pantas says, he paints a
canvas blue, puts it on the floor, and floods it with water. Then mixes
up different colors of paints and pours them on the painting.
" I find a pattern of paint and
say, 'What can I do to amplify it?' If the idea of a turtle or fish
comes, I go with it," Pantas said.
Pantas has been painting for
more than 30 years, but he hasn't always been dreaming up imaginative
undersea portraits. Despite his passion for the bright and creative
style of his current art, Pantas made a living producing over 2000
commissioned pen and ink drawings of people's houses. But Pantas enjoys
the freedom of artistic expression that his coral reef art provides.
"There's two kinds of art,
Pantas said. " One level looks at something and just wants to reproduce
it. Another wants to give your own interpretation of it. Flat out, it's
just more fun! Copying is boring. It's from scratch as opposed to just
getting it out of the box. You more from inside yourself."
To keep the creative juices
flowing, Pantas works out of a comfortable studio in his Fairview home,
where he surrounds himself with art-covered walls, candles,
low-lighting, trickling stone fountains, and all kinds of calming music
ranging from classical to Snow Patrol. The atmosphere seems to be
working for him.
" So far, I haven't run out of
ideas, "Pantas said. "Sometimes you get frustrated and hit a wall. But
all of a sudden , something shows up. If I was working on a blank
canvas, I'd have a dilemma. But the splash gives me something to work
With the project website,
www.lizasreef.com, getting more than 10,000 visits and two enthusiastic
offers to purchase paintings already, Pantas expects success.
"Most people really like it,
kids especially." he said. "Kids flip out. and the positive feedback
encourages me to keep painting. I think I've hit a theme that appeals to
Pantas plans to keep promoting
the project with businesses and friends. Currently he is planning an
opening in downtown Asheville to display the Liza's Reef series, as well
as visit to the school Commons to create hype.
"We're in serious trouble on
the planet," Pantas said. "It's a big, big issue. I'm not in it for the
money. It's just my love of nature and wanting to do something good to
help save the world."