Top row: Nicki Newfield, Joan Foster, Darlene Mellein. Bottom row: Susanne Belcher, Harriett Lahana.


A Mixed Media Art Exhibition
Featuring the works of
5 Women Artists

June 10 – 27, 2009

5IVE - GROUP THERAPY was the third major exhibit for these five San Fernando Valley-based artists – Susanne Belcher (Tarzana), Joan Foster (Northridge), Harriett Lahana (Encino), Darlene Mellein (Van Nuys), and Nicki Newfield (Sherman Oaks). All are award-winning mixed media experimental artists who have continued to encourage, support, and inspire one another for over 13 years. They initially met while taking art classes at the former Everywoman’s Village in Van Nuys. When the Center closed, they maintained their friendships and artistic pursuits and made it a point to meet and paint together weekly over the years.

The title for this show emerged during one of their after-painting gabfests at a local Starbucks. They realized that one of the things they did best together, apart from painting, was talking – about everything – health issues, art, relationships, weight control (ad nauseam), inspirations, aspirations, fashion, world events, politics, travel, in addition to doling out advice (solicited or not), often interrupting, talking over and through. However, they also recognized that they had formed a solid bond over the years. They can count on each other to be there in times of need and they always feel much better after engaging in one of their infamous “sessions.”

Each artist has developed her own distinct style and process of working. They produce work for the sheer love of doing it. Working together and the “therapy” that naturally results is a bonus for them.

Click on any image to view a larger version.
Above photo – Top row: Nicki Newfield, Joan Foster, Darlene Mellein. Bottom row: Susanne Belcher, Harriett Lahana.

Susanne Belcher

Visionary Affordable Housing

Susanne Belcher, a native Californian, is an experimental mixed media collage artist. She incorporates paint with collage, photography, printmaking and more recently, transparency film. The images she creates reflect Susanne’s background in psychology, love of nature, and interest in photography, things spiritual and architectural. Combining personal symbols with her own photography, she creates her own unique architecture – sophisticated, sometimes allegorical, always provocative, surreal and mysterious.

Susanne is an award winning artist, an active member of Women Painters West, Collage Artists of America, The Fine Arts Club of Pasadena and the Valley Watercolor Society. She has exhibited in Germany, several galleries and venues throughout So. California and her work is held in private and corporate collections in the United States and Europe. She was a founding partner, featured and represented artist of the former Abbot Kinney Art Gallery (Venice, CA). Visit her website:

Joan Foster

Old City Palms The Cloister

Joan Foster, was born and raised in New York City; taught Art in New York and Los Angeles for over 15 years; then retired in order to dedicate more time to her painting. Strongly influenced by nature she focuses on the interplay of materials and media, the starting point of each work. Joan describes her creative process as follows: “An improvisational approach to the subject matter and exploration and experimentation best communicate my ideas and feelings. The process directs my expression.” Visit her website:

Harriett Lahana

Out of Reach Survival

Harriett Lahana is a Montréal native who moved to California 23 years ago. She has always been deeply involved in the creative and communicative process. Harriett earned a master of education and taught in the junior college environment for 20 years. Her entry into the Los Angeles art world began 16 years ago when she explored painting with various mediums and finally settled upon mixed media. In her work Harriett is committed to the preservations of our planet and therefore reuses and recycles her materials from multiple sources. Her strength lies in her vivid contrasts of soft versus hard edges, cool versus warm colors and in her own personal symbols depicting the beauty of nature with its inherent potential for destruction. She is above all a romantic painter whose work has been exhibited both in the US and Canada. She is a juried member of Women Painters West, Collage Artists of America and Valley Watercolor Society. Harriett has won prizes including first place in the Collage Artist of America exhibit at Soho gallery.

Darlene Mellein

The Crowd I'm With Fantasy Paintings (cropped)

Darlene Mellein is a native California painter living in the San Fernando Valley. An intuitive artist, she paints in various media, and often includes elements of collage in her work. She approaches a blank canvas with an abandon and boldness that convey humor, freedom and imagination. Her graduate work in Literature at UCLA focused on Women’s, African American and Chicano literature – the literarily disenfranchised. Today, she traces the roots of her paintings to that earlier work, her inspiration coming from the underlying stories of various cultures, their triumphs as well as alienation, along with their colors and symbols. She describes her work as Alternative Social Realism. Darlene was a founding member of the Abbot Kinney Art Gallery, and is currently actively involved with Collage Artists of America, Women’s Caucus for the Arts, and Women Painters West, for which she is 2nd Vice President and Program Chair. Visit her website:

Nicki Newfield

Modesty Continuum

Nicki Newfield has loved painting and everything related to art since she was a child. It wasn’t until her children left for college that she took up painting full time. Her real passion was transparent watercolor and her style was loose yet descriptive. A few years ago, she started to incorporate collage into her work and after a visit to Russia, was so intrigued with the art, especially the icons that her work evolved into mixed media and collage on canvas.

Nicki’s current works are highly textured, combining many layers of paper and metallic paint. “When I start a new canvas, I have no idea where the process will take me. I like to incorporate renaissance images, but sometimes my theme can be eliminated during the course of my layering and can take on a whimsical mood.”

Nicki is actively involved with Women Painters West, Valley Watercolor Society and is currently the President of Collage Artists of America.