Lesley Kushner was born deaf and mainstreamed in hearing schools in a small Louisiana town. In her work, she combines her childhood memories with her experiences as a painter and adult in New York City. She discovered that painting was a way to affirm herself despite the painful social isolation of mainstreaming. Ms. Kushner received her M.F.A. degree in painting from Parsons School of Design in 1984.

She writes, “I am currently exploring two different avenues in my work. I paint aquatic and natural forms on medium and large-scale canvases. In these works, I struggle to integrate the abstract shapes and marks of oil paint itself with shapes that are more representational – the fish corals and aquatic life. The other style of work is figure reliefs. I saturate the cheesecloth, bridal meshes, veils, and strands of jewels with oil paint and wrap or drape them on wire armatures. I am intrigued by the contrast between the delicacy of the fabrics and the heaviness of the pigment. These works reflect personal losses I have had recently, hopes for resurrection, and a deep belief in feminism. The cheesecloth has a metaphoric interest for me- it is like decomposing human tissue or muscles, and can also be layered into interconnecting webs.


I do several different kinds of work. One area of work is a sculptural or relief-type of work with fabrics and found materials. These works explore female/feminist imagery. Another kind of work is the aquatic paintings and semi-abstract works. These are related to my traditional art-school training.


Perhaps the introverted quality of many of my figures stems from a separateness and isolation that I felt growing up completely away from any other deaf people. I was, and continue to be, a strong feminist and my work reflects that.