When Lance Green was a child, his mother married an abusive man.
"He was one of these guys with oil-stained pants who beat the hell out of everyone," says Green, now 55.
Naturally, that situation impacted Green, as did moving from Denver to a rough Los Angeles neighborhood when he was 10.
But Green escaped his violent surroundings through art, starting when a teacher invited him to take three art classes his junior year of high school.
Green says he spent 25 years after high school surfing, basically living a Bohemian existence. He also ran a sign shop, which helped him maintain his skills without completely submerging himself in art.
"I knew I had to get a bunch of fun out of my system first," says Green, adding, "In art, you have to be obsessed if you're going to make it. It's not something you can dab around at and hope that you get a break."
So Green began seriously painting in 1984, and though his formal training extended only to a few community college art classes, he was able to support himself as an artist by the early '90s. In 2004, when his son was entering first grade, Green decided it was time to return to Colorado with his wife. He chose the quietude of Black Forest over Denver.
In Green's first solo Springs show, Muses, Ladders and Storms at Sea, at the Smokebrush Gallery, he will present works inspired by his mother's hardship.
"She's in a lot of the women that I paint," says Green, noting that his art became a way to "pick up a little healing in life.
"Why go through all that stuff if you can't make a positive retribution?"
That's where the ladders come in. Green says that the title of his show serves as a symbol. Just as the women symbolize survival through hardship, the ladders symbolize hope. Alternately, the storms represent tumultuous situations.
To the artist, the style in which he paints is as important as the subjects he illustrates.
"Painting in an expressionist and symbolist style has a healing effect," Green says, adding that a viewer can be healed by connecting with an artist's emotions.
Muses, Ladders and Storms at Sea, paintings by Lance Green
Smokebrush Gallery, 218 W. Colorado Ave., #102
Opening reception Friday, Sept. 5, 5-8 p.m.; show runs through Sept 24
Free; call 444-1012 or visit smokebrush.org for more information.