Early life

Lee Waisler was born on February 25, 1938 in Hollywood, California to a politically progressive Jewish family. Growing up in West Hollywood, Waisler was surrounded by the movie business and those aspiring to be in it, which, Waisler says, came to be an important part of his development. Waisler attended the Hollywood Academy of Arts from the age of seven. At the time Waisler was growing up, the Abstract expressionism movement was gaining popularity. Waisler became interested in abstraction and was influenced by artists like Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still.


Waisler's paintings deal with a variety of social, political, and symbolic themes. His interest in the abstract expressionists that came to popularity during his youth (particularly Mark Rothko) influenced his work greatly.  Waisler's early paintings were much more formal and ethereal, eventually moving on to integrating human figures into monumental, minimal, and architectural forms. From there, Waisler began to experiment with non-traditional materials: first wood, then sand, earth, and silicone carbonate. Waisler also uses recurring imagery and colors as symbols to develop a dialogue between paintings and events, such as his Holocaust memorials.

Waisler uses a variety of materials, both in paintings and sculpture that double as representative symbols. Wood, a recurring element in Waisler's paintings, symbolizes life and shelter. Sand is used to represent time, various forms of Earth to represent power, and various forms of carbon to represent life. Waisler has also used ash and stone in his Holocaust memorials. The materials serve both symbolic and formal purposes. Waisler often layers multiple materials with paint to create high-impasto surfaces on his works, adding to other formal properties. Additionally, Waisler uses light-reflective materials and paints to explore the symbolism of light with the belief that life is transferred by light.

New Delhi

In 1996 Waisler was invited to exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New Delhi. In 1998, Waisler spent 4 months in India producing the work for the exhibition. In order to avoid the effect of a colonial installation, Waisler produced all the work in India so as to reflect Indian culture and philosophy in both theme and materials. A central theme of the works from this period was Mandala imagery and the meditative response that it evokes. Waisler also produced an anti-colonialist sculpture called "IMF Lifesaver", a large lifesaver shape made of barbed wire. The Mandala symbol continued as a recurring theme in Waisler paintings after the exhibition.

Current work

In the early 2000s, Waisler began to paint portraits of people, which has continued to the present day. Some figures painted include Albert Einstein, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Paul Celan, Virginia Woolf, Aung San Suu Kyi, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Ethel Rosenberg. Waisler also continues to produce other figurative and abstract works and sculptures and exhibit worldwide.

Lee Waisler’s work is included in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Victoria & Albert museum, London; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art; the Brooklyn Museum; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; The Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; and the Indian Museum, Calcutta.

Further reading

  • Malik, Keshav. Waisler & Malik. Ojai: Edwin House Publishing (1998). ISBN 0-9649247-4-9
  • Stelmach, Angelina. Crossing Boundaries: The Art of Lee Waisler. Ahmedabad: Mapin Publishing (2006). ISBN 1-890206-34-2
  • Wendon, John. The Art of Lee Waisler. London: Andre Deutsch Ltd. (1991). ISBN 0-233-98612-X


·       Harvey, M. (2009). "Lee Waisler". Art in America. 6 (97): 199–200. Retrieved 3 November 2011.

·       "Citizen artist: Lee Waisler / produced by Martin Perlich; director, editor, Michael Herzmark". Archives of American Art.   

         Retrieved 3 November 2011.

·       "Artist Bio". Art in Embassies. United States State Department. Retrieved 3 November 2011.

·       Hollander, John; Patnaik, Gayatri; Schwarz, Arturo; Sheffield, Margaret; Tagore, Sundaram (2002).

·       Crossing Boundaries: The Art of Lee Waisler. India: Mapin Publishing. p. 24.