North Country Artisan - Lorrie Mandigo
By Jennifer Aguglia
Lorrie Mandigo’s unassuming studio at 30 Broad Street in downtown Plattsburgh is easy to overlook, but if you’re lucky enough to venture in, you’ll find it’s anything but. Filled with vibrant, inspiring and thoughtful works of art from front to back, the studio is lovely — as is its owner.
Mandigo, the youngest of four siblings, was born into a military family. Her childhood was spent traveling overseas throughout Europe and the United States including the North Country. It was her experience abroad that taught her to appreciate art and set her on the path to becoming a full-time artist. Further influenced by her High School art teacher, Catherine Jones Davies, Mandigo was not only taught to love art but to slow down and think differently about her mistakes, transforming them into something new.
After High School, Mandigo decided on Cazenovia College, graduating in 1986 with an A.A.S. in Advertising Design. She returned overseas to Germany with her then husband and two-year-old son. As a stay-at-home mom, Mandigo began teaching herself decorative painting in her free time, sharing her work at local craft shows both in Germany and the U.S. She taught herself cake decorating, cross-stitch, wood burning, a little bit of everything — but her heart was set on painting.
FIND YOUR GIFT AND GIVE IT AWAY
Eventually settling down in the North Country, Mandigo began painting murals locally. It was her experience painting the exit doors on the Skilled Nursing floor at the local hospital that inspired her to return to college. Seeing the patients there with few activities, Mandigo knew she needed to share her gift with others.
In 2015, Mandigo graduated with a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in painting from SUNY Plattsburgh. Since then, her work has been exhibited throughout the North Country as well as her own studio, Lorrie Mandigo Art Studio and Gallery.
STUDENT BECOMES TEACHER
Shortly after finishing her second degree, Mandigo stumbled upon her current Broad Street location. Within the modest space, she saw potential. At that same time, she discovered a new medium — alcohol ink. She acquired blank white tiles from her ex-brother-in-law, owner of Young Lyon Floor Covering in Lake Placid, and painted over 100 tiles in one night, 100 more the next and so on. Fascinated by this new medium, Mandigo created hundreds of works of art in just a few day’s time.
“Everyone said, ‘Hey, you should teach classes on this,” Mandigo explained. She soon had a class of 29 people signed up after just three days experimenting with alcohol ink herself. At that point she’d only taught a few classes at the Strand Center for the Arts to around five or six people. With no supplies and an aversion to public speaking, she called upon a friend to assist and they made it work!
Although that first class was a success, Mandigo prefers smaller classes of up to 12. It’s a more intimate setting where she can teach, help them complete projects and answer any questions they may have. Often students will request different subjects to paint and Mandigo responds by developing classes around that feedback.
INSIDE THE STUDIO
Several portraits are scattered across the walls of Mandigo’s studio. They’re often paintings of people she knows, immediate family and close friends. “I’m on Facebook to maintain connection with my family but when I see a picture that just says ‘oh, that’s a painting’, I paint it,” she said, “ They don’t ask me to, it’s not a commission, I just paint it.”
One portrait in particular, a soldier, stands out among the rest. The portrait serves as a tribute to the soldier who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. A project steeped with emotion, Mandigo ended up painting him five more times, both as a soldier and as a civilian, sending all but two of the paintings to his Dad, a long time friend, for Christmas in 2017.
HERE COMES SANTA CLAUS
Alongside her portraits you’ll find the studio filled with festive decor. Inspired by her experiences abroad, Mandigo fell in love with painting Santa — everywhere and on everything. Blending her passion for the environment with her love to paint, Mandigo prefers to paint on things that would otherwise be thrown away. “I love to recycle, so I will paint a Santa on anything; a saw, a skate, a hockey puck, a bowling pin, a baseball, a shovel, keys, golf balls... you name it and I’ll paint [a Santa] on it”, said Mandigo.
Despite being hand-drawn each time and uniquely her own, Mandigo’s Santas do have one thing in common — a big white beard and bright blue eyes, like her Dad.
In her studio, you’ll find an assortment of Santas painted on truly anything you can think of. Each has a twinkle in their eyes and a happy, care-free expression. “Anything that makes me smile, makes me want to paint it,” Mandigo said with a grin. Where you may see a useless piece of drift wood, old medicine bottles, an old funnel or a crumpled tin can, Mandigo sees a Santa.
IN THE COMMUNITY
Mandigo has painted several murals for Beekmantown School — one in each building of the district. Sarah Paquette, Elementary Principal at Beekmantown Central School District was pleased with the results of the project. “Lorrie worked in each building at the Beekmantown Central School District through our Extended Learning Time (ELT) Grant”, said Paquette, “Thanks to her vision and expertise, we now have a child centered and child created mural in each building. Students assisted in each of the murals. Lorrie was flexible and did an outstanding job working with students from Pre-K through seniors in high school. The murals all centered around the Eagle PRIDE theme and helped to tie in the pride and unity of the district, “ she added.
Students, no matter their artistic ability, helped create the murals, giving each child a sense of ownership. “Each of the students could help me paint it, so then it was their mural. It’s fun for them to walk past with their parents later saying ‘I painted that red part.’ And they’re always so surprised that they can paint on the wall,” said Mandigo.
Mandigo’s murals can be seen throughout the North Country. When she first returned to the area, she answered a call for volunteers to spruce up an abandoned building in Au Sable Forks. Working alongside other volunteers, the windows of the building were transformed into a vibrant Adirondack landscape. You’ll find Mandigo’s murals at Young Lyon Floor Covering in Lake Placid as well as the iconic downtown Plattsburgh restaurant, Campus Corner where twice a year Mandigo refreshes the window artwork.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD
Mandigo hopes to keep sharing her gift with the community, developing new classes, experimenting with new mediums, and getting better at her craft along the way. Always looking for ways to give back, Mandigo recognizes the rich artisan culture of the Plattsburgh area. Her goal is to open a larger version of her current studio and gallery that includes a space for other local crafters, artisans and artists to sell or display their work — sort of an artist co-op.
For more information, visit the Lorrie Mandigo/Art Studio & Gallery Facebook page.