After my recent move from ABQ to Santa Fe NM, I have finally begun to get settled into my new studio! Located just outside of old downtown Santa Fe, my stand alone studio is in a cute cozy historic 100 year old building. After much renovation, construction and re-organizing, I am finally able to start making work in a purpose oriented zen space.
The studio is close to home and Im looking forward to sharing it with visitors soon. For now here’s a peek behind the curtain…
The Albuquerque Museum has added my sculptural paintings, The Silent Road (17’ x 34” x 36” graphite, Tyvek™ ), Land Lines (43 x 34 x 5” graphite, birch wood) to their permanent collection along with the grouping of 4 paintings entitled, Breathless.
I am grateful to have this work at the Albuquerque Museum as I leave the city and it’s environs that had been my home for 30+ years.
It is especially gratifying to have The Silent Road and Land Lines installed in the Museum’s Lobby from December ’22 through December ’23.
The following you will read the narration plaque that is displayed with the work and see several photos by Stefan Jennings Batista of the installation. I hope some of you are able to see this work in it’s new home.
The soaring height of 17’ Silent Road I think will thrill you—let me know!
Marietta Patricia Leis
born New Jersey, lives Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Silent Road
Tyvek™ , graphite ground acrylic, wood rod
gift of the artist
The Silent Road is a dialogue between painting and sculpture. It represents a road that leads in two directions, reaching upward toward the ceiling and winding down to the floor. The Silent Road was inspired by Marietta Leis’s time in Iceland during the dark months of the long winter. According to the artist, “The treeless, volcanic landscape revealed the earth’s curved horizon, confronting me with a stark image of all that is infinite—both visually and metaphorically. My acute sense of this fascinating and haunting place provided fertile ground for germination of The Silent Road.”
The Silent Road was made with graphite painted on Tyvek ™ (a paper-like plastic sheeting used to insulate houses). Leis hand burnished the graphite to achieve a luster that creates a shimmering darkness inspired by Iceland’s volcanic rock.
Leis traced every inch of the surface of the work marking a path and leaving a record of the artist’s journey for others to follow. The Silent Road’s surface texture offers hidden complexities for the viewer to grapple with and it also invites the viewer to simply travel The Road in silent contemplation.
According to Leis, “In today’s noisy world it is easy to become distracted, numb to our deepest natures. The road to authenticity is by its very nature traveled in solitude. It is an internal road that, with patience, can lead deep into the core of our being. As we each embark on the journey to this rich and fertile place, we can discover a common thread of the shared humanity that binds us.”
Marietta Patricia Leis is an internationally exhibiting multimedia artist and poet. She has lived and worked in New York City as well as Los Angeles, and is currently based in Santa Fe after living in Albuquerque for many years. Leis’ reductive, expressive works are shaped out of experiments in material process and she takes inspiration from forms found in nature, a sense of place, and the internal landscape.
born New Jersey, lives Santa Fe, New Mexico
gift of the artist
Sense Memories – solo exhibition at CCA Santa FE
Join us for a guided tour of Sense Memories
Click HERE or on the image below to learn more and get tickets!
Peruse the images here of Sense Memories curated with the intention of creating peaceful spaces for people to pause, relax and contemplate positive feelings through their sense memories. You are encouraged to move slowly and still frequently to have dialogue with the reductive art.
Opening Reception Friday, December 3 | 5-7pm
Exhibiting December 3 2021 – February 27 2022
Poetry Reading Saturday December 4 | 6-7pm
Curated by Laura Carpenter
I am happy to announce my upcoming solo exhibition Sense Memories at the CCA Santa Fe. Please come join us for the opening on Friday December 3, from 5-7pm. Curated by Laura Carpenter, Sense Memories will present a variety of my works across mediums in their beautiful Tank Garage Gallery. I will also be presenting in a group poetry reading the following Saturday. Hope to see ya there.
Click Here to read more.
My new book of poetry Engrained: Reflections on Trees in Poetry & Art is now available. This beautiful little softcover presents contemplative personal writing on trees, the environment and is accompanied my unique views of my artwork. Pick up a copy here.
I am featured in the group exhibition Structured Surfaces at the Curated Creative ABQ curated by Brianne Clarkson featuring 5 local artists.
by Sharon McCawley Curatorial Docent:
Currently on view at the New Mexico Museum of Art, from March 13 through September 5, 2021, is the exhibit BREATH TAKING in which various, contemporary artists present their interpretations of the physical and symbolic act of breathing. The materials and methods include clay, paper, ink, earth, video, photographs, water color. The exhibit, organized by Katherine Ware the Curator of Photography, and designed by Matt Celeskey and Monica Meehan, has been planned for several years, before our critical focus on the automatic act of breathing arose. Original supplemental activities involving yoga exercises and breath control exercises for singing or playing an instrumental had to be removed. Instead thought exercises on birth, death, the environment, George Floyd, and Covid demand our attention.
Here are some thematic interpretations visible in the exhibit. Linda Alterwitz Just Breathe 2013-2015 asked subjects to lie down with a camera placed on their chests. Ms. Alterwitz photographed thirty second exposures of these individuals’ breaths. Looking at these images reinforces the similarity between the cosmos and the human body; this interconnection is referenced throughout the exhibit. Stuart Allen Soap Bubbles, Bubble No.12, Bubble No.10, 2015 has created videos and photographic prints of soap bubbles which contain the volume of human breath. The bubbles like clouds float and radiate color. The evanescence of a bubble puts into perspective the span of an individual human life in the universe. Alison Keogh Sumi-Scapes 2009 uses ink and brush to record the patterns of her own breathing. She also creates ceramic spheres Black and White Spheres, 2015 which contain the volume of a human breath. These orbs can refer to individual molecules in our bodies; the materials of earth and clay again connect the individual to the entire world. Marietta Patricia Leis Breath 1, Breath 2, 2019 presents us with ink patterns printed on silk panels. The fabric is so light that it moves in response to the air circulating around it. You can stand and try to match the movements of your own breath to the movements of the fabrics creating a relaxing and harmonious emotion. The colors seem to range from celestial to fatal, pastels which evoke the dawn and grey which evokes a shroud or a winding sheet; it could be the span of a human life. Meridel Rubenstein Respiration (New Mexico), 2009-2011 clearly presents the symbiosis between people and the environment. Her photograph displays the actual transfer of oxygen and carbon necessary for the continued existence of our planet.
Dating back to the Renaissance is the concept of correspondence, the relationship between the microcosm of the individual human being to the macrocosm of the universe. John Donne wrote “I am a little world cunningly made.” There is a connection between our movements of breathing in and out and the movements of air in the world which cause wind, hurricanes, rain, drought. The literary conceit of “pathetic fallacy” maintains this inner and outer correspondence, our sighs are winds, our tears are rain, our rants are storms. In our age, this is more than symbolism. It is apparent that actions of humans deeply affect our environment just as strongly as the forces of the environment affect humans.
The symbolism of air and breath are universal leitmotifs evident in many cultures. Realize that breath communicates and it infects. It carries music and it carries death throughout the world. Ancient Egyptians believed that Shu, the God of Air, connects earth and heaven. Air literally carries our prayers up to Heaven. The Chinese believe in Tao, the breath that never dies, and is the Mother to all creation. The Inuits literally define Death as losing your breath.
The Sanskrits write in their sacred text UPANISHADS “Just as spokes are held together in a wheel-hub, everything is held together in the breath.” This reminds us that the rhythm of breathing matches the rhythm of the universe.
There are many allusions, both literal and numinous, to this rhythm in the works you will see and experience.
“ I Can’t Breathe” the final plea of George Floyd lasted for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. Think about what you can accomplish within that length of time if you are cooking, drawing, knitting, reading, dancing, composing, playing a musical instrument or singing. For a quick reference, note that the Star Spangled Banner lasts for 3 minutes 30 seconds, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro lasts for 5 minutes 9 seconds, and Hey Jude lasts for 8 minutes and 9 seconds
We constantly need breath to speak, so reflect upon the connotations of these words and phrases that we use everyday:
taking a breather
getting some air
time to catch your breath
breathe a sigh of relief
breathing down your neck
don’t breathe a word
mention in the same breath
Take a deep breath as you experience BREATH TAKING at the New Mexico Museum of Art.
There is a saying in Neverland, that every time you breathe a grown-up dies.
– PETER PAN by J.M. Barrie
It is only the farmer who faithfully plants seeds in the Spring, who reaps a harvest in the Autumn. ~ B. C. Forbes
I hope this finds you well and cautiously optimistic and hopeful as we start looking at ‘live’ art again for inspiration
I’ve been making art throughout the pandemic but the work has had a mind of its own influenced by the virus, and I had to yield to its voice. Thus the diverse group of paintings I made in ’20-’21 is more about internal landscapes than the outside environment. But, since the human is comprised of the same elements as our planet we are intertwined and what affects us impacts everything and vise versa.
The Eclipse series of work I referenced in my previous News has made its debut in January at the Michael Warren Contemporary in Denver
Here is other new work:
This group of 16 paintings completed in 2020 called, Reveal (oil on unique wood forms) really led me a merry chase.
They demanded a variety of colors which led me veering from my original intentions by finding influence in the Covid-19 virus.
disclose, tell, let slip, let drop, give away,
release, leak, make known,
make public, broadcast, publicize,
circulate, disseminate, let on, show, display, exhibit,
disclose, uncover, unveil, uncloak.
bring to light, uncover, lay bare,
Other Side of Numbness
January of 2021 brought some positive changes to our forecasts and I found that I could relax a smidge and express some of my frustrations and thus feel more grounded in doing so. This inspired a group of 12+ paintings 3 of which are are large 60″ x 60″ canvases, I call Other Side of Numbness.
After so many restrictions and fears of Covid-19 something switched for me in these 2021 ink and gesso paintings. I threw off the chains of confinement and struck back. The transition was not planned–my mind did not control the hand. My heart knew I had to beat my fears into submission by letting the ink express the chaos and heaviness I felt. It was then that I started to settle and began to feel a new grounded-ness.These paintings reflect the internal landscape of the pandemic eon and also the ‘other side of numbness’.
Work on Paper
Some of my ‘work on paper’ that has been residing in my flat files, needed to escape its confinement–I think we can all relate to that! Now they have smart new white frames.
This work is ready for installations of groups or a single work strikingly holding its own!
Nightscapes – 5 framed works
done in residency in Doi Saket, Northern Thailand observing unpolluted night skies (pen on paper).
Chimes – 15 and 3 larger pieces,
done in residency on a barrier island off the coast of South Carolina, US-with shimmering waters (watercolor on paper).
Mercurial – 5 framed pieces,
Done on Flores Island, Portugal during storms at sea that prevented
boats from coming into harbor. (Ink on paper)
Fluidity Focus – 18 framed pieces,
Also done in residency on the Azores Island, Flores, Portugal while watching the fickle seas change hue frequently. (watercolor on paper)
May our lives continue to open and expand with caution and hope. And, may we carry forth the lessons we have learned during the pandemic trial.
During this extended time of chaos and pandemic I hope that you are okay. Like many of you I am entering my seventh month of staying-at-home that sometimes glides by with ease and sometimes seems interminable. For me this is a supreme exercise/lesson in yielding—to overlook that the to-do list that doesn’t get completed and to not judge myself or others for how they are coping. This is hard times and I need to remind myself that we need to be gentle with ourselves and others.
My MailChimp newsletters tell you of my goings and comings so I hope you are signed up to receive them. I am so impressed with galleries and museums and their staffs that have opened with protocols— people really need to experience art for inspiration. My art is currently showing at my Denver and California galleries. Also at the newly opened Curated Creative gallery in Albuquerque.
I am also adding some photos of the exhibits that went ‘live’ in July and December in South Korea and Istanbul so you can appreciate the global community keeping art alive!
In the studio I have some newly finished wood sculptures and am painting on round shaped wooden formats. I am also busy framing some of my work on paper and printing books of my series of art. My studio practice set in stone a long time ago gives my days structure and bliss.
My book, The Silent Road, can now be ordered through Blurb. It documents through my words this sculptural painting that was an important part of my 2019. CLICK HERE: THE SILENT ROAD BOOK
I leave you with my recent poem, Communication, that I’ve added to my growing ‘pandemic’ file:
My art isn’t completed without
the viewer participating
where is the dialogue
alone in my studio
Yes, of course I make art
to express my ideas,
concerns and feelings
but not just for me
No, I am saying something
putting it out there
for discussion as I would
speaking over a coffee
Of course, a viewer
might not agree with me
my abstract thoughts
may not suit their sensibility
But a friend would listen
would consider my ideas
and even disagreeing
a dialogue would ensue
Art is communication
it is not complete
without the viewer
So the work feels lonely
abandoned and sad
sitting on studio walls
with no one to speak to
– Until next time stay well and see art whenever possible!
The two years prior to setting off on my travels in early June this year to Italy and Latvia were spent largely designing and executing the exhibitions I shipped to Venice and Daugavpils. My itineraries included both exhibitions but my first stop was Tuscany where my husband David and I wanted to regroup and have a little R&R—Italy always seems to achieve both of those goals for me.
We stayed outside of Florence in an agriturismo- a small farm that accommodates guests. It was in one of those lovely green enhanced settings and offered us fresh grown food and quiet reprieves.The European heat wave settled in around us but we ventured a couple of outings-one to Vinci the birthplace and childhood place of Leonardo that tourist books deride (and therefore was uncrowded) and we found enchanting! The lovely views from this town can be found in the backgrounds of his paintings and the museums were well done with replicas of his work and demonstrations and plates of explanations. We got totally into all of it including the hologram of an actor talking to us as Leonardo!
When we tore ourselves away from Leonardo we went to Pisa and arrived to see the last glimmers of light and then the tower lit at night. I had not been back since the last restoration so it was a relief to see the magnificent ‘wedding cake’ tower still standing though, of course, not upright. And, the night views are magical even with crowds.
Our most impressive tripping was definitely going to Carrara. I have wanted to see this place of white marble for many years with it’s stories of Michelangelo choosing the marble for his Pieta. I never even imagined it would be a mountain range of marble—vast pits of glaring white owned by families for generations. We went into a mine where the cavern’s ceilings, walls and floors were of white marble and then went high up the mountain to walk among the pit—unimaginable—the vastness and the beauty. I kept seeing Michelangelo pointing to the slab he wanted. Carrara emitted a chilling visceral feeling that only living history can give me.
The heat wave followed us to Venice where the humidity and crowds made it intensify. I have been in Venice several times and its architectural beauty never fails me, but I must confess that the cruise ships have dampened my enthusiasm. These large monsters overwhelm this paradise in mere size as they glide into the Grande Canal and let off their thousands of passengers that crowd the narrow streets with the selfie sticks. It’s displaces the romantic picture I have carried of Venice for years.But that being said Venice is not mine to share or not—I have no say in this and why should not everyone have a quick peek at its wonders?
It is the year of the Biennale and my sculptural artwork, The Silent Road sponsored by the European Cultural Centre hangs in Palazzo Mora. I finally got to see it installed in the site it was designed for and I am gratified as it looks as it did in my mind over the many months of designing and execution. The architecture of the stairwell and the artwork complement each other and the paradox of textures of the old and new enhance the art.
We visited it several times and did a photo shoot in the heat of the old palazzo with a Venetian photographer, Riccardo Grassetti that had us all melting while we documented the work.
While in Venice we saw a lot of art in the Biennale and all over Venice while eating savory food with new friends, relishing the cool evening rides on the water vaporettos and crowd-watching, inevitably getting lost. I had the distinct pleasure of giving a presentation of my artwork, The Silent Road, during the Art Night of Venice. It was to an audience at the Palazzo Mora and sponsored by ECC. For me all art is a form of communication and if I can make my work more knowing to people by speaking to them about my intentions—that is something I truly enjoy!
We bade a farewell to the still hot Venice and took a water taxi to Marco Polo Airport–yes that’s how one gets there from Venice–and off we go on a Polish airline to Vilnius, Lithuania enroute to Daugavpils, Latvia. We stayed one delightful night in the old town section of Vilnius and ate their renown capelinai-a dumpling with filling that was delicious.
The next morning we drove off to Daugavpils, Latvia to find the Mark Rothko Art Centre Museum of Modern Art and my exhibition there. The verdant drive was lovely and restful and we were in Daugavpils and the Mark Rothko Centre in a couple of hours.
I had been reading a bit about Latvia and its history of occupations, repression and hard-won freedom. On the advice of a Latvian American man I also read The Glass Mountain, a well regarded fable that is really a metaphor for encouraging the Latvian people to strive for their freedom. All this background set the stage for my budding understanding of the country.
The Rothko Centre is, of course, named for the abstract painter that emigrated to America with his family when he was 10 years old from the town of Daugavpils that was at that time part of the Soviet Union. It is housed in a beautifully detailed renovated Russian fort from the last Czar’s reign.
It is large and has many galleries, a library, artist workshops, conference halls and a large area of exhibitions devoted to the history of Rothko. It is the cultural center of the town and holds many events and brings in many international groups and artists to exhibit, teach and entertain. The Centre is impressive in it’s programing, it’s staff and professionalism. Luckily Rothko’s son Chris and daughter Kate endorse the Centre and lend his original paintings for the community to see.
While my exhibit, AIR, was being installed I gave a radio interview to a Russian program as Russian is still widely spoken in Daugavpils and also did a TV interview with a cultural newscaster from the capital, Riga.
I was happy to do this as I wanted to explain the intention of my exhibit; that the earth’s air belongs to everyone on the planet without exception. We all inhale and exhale the same air. There are no boundaries or fences that keep air separate from one another and as such we must then all be guardians of the air that we all share.
The crew installing my art and the curator, Tatjana Cernova were excellent and very accommodating—getting the lighting adjusted and attending to details. The exhibition notes and my Poem/Statement was translated and displayed into English, Latvian and Russian. AIR was beginning to come together the way I had conceived it which was very exciting!
The exhibit consists of paintings on birch panels, photos on metal and on silk—all intending to give a visible impression of air—both light and dark.
The events that followed were all memorable. The opening reception had me and all the other artists that were exhibiting saying a few words and translators were there to make our words understood by everyone in the large audience. Then the following day I presented a slide lecture—again happy to be able to convey my thoughts about my life’s work.
The Master Class that I taught “The Armature of Abstract Painting” was full of enthusiastic artist/students and we really worked hard for almost 4 hours. Each student completed 6 paintings with each one being a different assignment. We had a translator there as well and she worked right along-side me encouraging the student’s best work. I think I was quite a sight to the more reserved Latvian sensibility as I waved my arms, raised my voice and demonstrated openly my caring enthusiasm. But we had fun, made progress, made friends and colleagues and made lots and lots of great art!
We left for Riga shortly after the class but had a bit of an opportunity to observe people viewing AIR—always liking to be that fly on the wall watching people respond to the art. The weekend after I left I was thrilled when I saw photos of Kate Rothko Prizel and her husband IIya Prizel viewing my exhibit when they were at the Centre for the event surrounding Kate’s loan of some of her father’s paintings original paintings that had not yet been seen in Daugavpils.
We stayed in the Old Town part of Riga—very charming with dramatic changes of weather coming off the Baltic Sea. Riga is not one-dimensional—there are many nuances to the city. One new architectural interest is the Latvian National Library that was influenced by the earlier mentioned book, The Glass Mountain and shaped in an abstracted version of that mountain. There are industrial and gentrified parts of the city and also remnants of the Soviet era squared apartment buildings along with more contemporary districts of coffee shops, art and commerce.
We were there only a couple of days but luckily the US Embassy in Riga had arranged and sponsored a panel at the contemporary art center KIM? In Latvian the acronym would mean What is Art? On the panel was myself, the American artist and a Latvian artist living in the Netherlands and the moderator was a Latvian curator soon to visit the US. The exchange was lively and funny and provocative and I was so happy to have this last stimulating experience before my journey home.
One thing that have reflected on since I’ve returned that I’ve always believed but now feel in an even more visceral way is that art is a great communicator and a common denominator and a way to connect people globally. Art slips through borders and enters hearts and joins hands. Happily some of the people I met along the way and I’ve mentioned only a very few here will be social media friends, will be lifetime colleagues, support systems and professional networks.
Now just a few words as I prepare for the fall agenda back in New Mexico….The Longer Table group exhibition at the Santa Fe Community Gallery (Sept-Jan) will show my wax sculptures, Vapors. Vapors were made after my artist residency in verdant Thailand. Being in Northern Thailand made me viscerally aware of the paradox of abundance and scarcity as food was seemingly plentiful in Thailand but lacking in neighboring Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
The NMMoA Alcove exhibit (October-December) will excerpt my exhibition Engrained;ode to trees in which I try to seduce people with the beauty of trees to contemplate our need to preserve, plant and have gratitude for all the gifts that trees bestow on us and the world we inhabit.
Stay tuned for more upcoming news
& have a good fall and winter season. CIAO!
The Silent Road, Acrylic on Tyvek™
The European Cultural Centre & the GAA Foundation
2019 Venice Biennale
Preview: May 9 – 10
Exhibit: May 11 – November 24
Palazzo Mora, rm #218, Strada Nova
Leis’ artist statement for The Silent Road
The Silent Road
Marietta Patricia Leis
The Silent Road is a dialogue between painting and sculpture. It is a road that leads in two directions, reaching upward toward the ancient beamed ceiling of the Palazzo Mora and winding downward to its staircase landing. The Silent Road was inspired by my time in Iceland during the dark months of the long Icelandic winter. The treeless, volcanic, landscape revealed the earth’s curved horizon, confronting me with a stark image of all that is infinite—both visually and metaphorically. My acute sense of this fascinating and haunting place provided fertile ground for germination of The Silent Road.
I have always made art using a variety of mediums, choosing those that best serve and amplify my intentions. For The Silent Road, graphite painted on Tyvek ™ (a paper-like plastic sheeting used to insulate houses) evoked the shimmering darkness of Iceland’s volcanic rock. I hand burnished the graphite until it radiated that luster. Thus, the Tyvek ™ is magically transformed, as old traditions meet modern technologies on The Silent Road.
My handwork has traced every inch of surface on The Silent Road, marking a path and leaving a record of my artist’s journey for others to follow. The Road’s reductive surface texture offers hidden complexities for the viewer to ferret out—an opportunity to engage with the work without straining to understand it—simply traveling The Road with me for a journey in silent contemplation.
In today’s noisy world, we can become distracted, numb to our deepest natures. The road to authenticity is by its very nature traveled in solitude. It is an internal road that, with patience, can lead deep into the core of our being. As we each embark on the journey to this rich and fertile place, we can discover a common thread of the shared humanity that binds us.
My intention is for my art to be palpable, transmitting a sensation of adventure, beauty and peace. I invite you to travel the undulating Silent Road—welcoming your own perceptions and experiences.
Photographic reference work – a frozen silent road from Leis’ time in Iceland
Backstory and process
During my career I have found that professional relationships as well as the resulting exhibitions, articles, or residencies take patience and a maturation period—this one seven years! The career aspect of an artist’s life echoes, in part, the necessary maturation of the art-making process itself.
The Venice opportunity is a prime example. My first contact with the Global Arts Affairs Foundation that is sponsoring my work at Venice was in 2012. A Dutch artist Rene Rietmeyer, whose work I very much admire, was featured in an art magazine that told of his exhibiting during the Venice Biennale with GAA. Because GAA exhibited the work of Rene, who has a like sensibility to my own, I contacted them to learn more about their organization. And now all these years later my art is in their exhibition, Personal Structures, during this year’s Venice Biennial.
The Silent Road evolved over a one and half year period. GAA and I explored several locations in the Piazza Bembo and Mora until I selected the one that I felt gave me the most opportunity and challenges. Then there were several sketches with that location in mind. These always told of the ‘road’ but varied in size and form until one felt right for a beginning point. Once I had that form in mind I researched materials eventually moving away from paper to Tyvek™ for durability. Prototypes large and small were made to test the graphite and the burnishing, how to keep the backside clean with the process of dirty burnishing-how the Tyvek™would drape and to also conclude the exact dimensions for the piece.
The slow and laborious but zen-joyful execution of painting and burnishing the 60’ x 34” piece took several months and culminated in a test hanging at a local theatre (thanks Highland and NDI). By then I had a solid team of my photographer-assistant, Stefan Jennings Batista, my colleague in arms, Heidi Pollard, the sculptor and installer, Ian Jones and my husband David an all-purpose helper and videographer—who all contributed to the success of the trial installation. The wonder of resulting piece exceeded my sketch! Listening to the work itself and not being catholic about the sketch led to better possibilities.
Afterwards installation instructions were written and the packing and shipping commenced. Voilà it now enters the auspices of the Venice Biennale 2019.
ENGRAINED: ODE TO TREES exhibited at WNMU
Marietta’s multimedia solo show Engrained: Ode to Trees exhibited though February in the McCray Gallery at Western New Mexico University as part of the Milner Women in the Arts Lecture Series.
This year will finally see the art, that has been my main effort over the past year and a half, culminate in it’s first exhibit at Western New Mexico University, Silver City, opening February 7th The heartfelt theme of trees and forests-beautiful and endangered is one that demanded my toolbox of media—so there is much to see. You can thumb through the exhibition catalogue by clicking on the ISSUU booklet below.
The essay in the booklet is by the gifted writer, Ann Landi,
and reproduced here for your reading:
Marietta Patricia Leis: Engrained: Ode to Trees
In the course of a long career that has taken her from New York to Los Angeles and finally to Albuquerque, NM, Marietta Patricia Leis has mastered just about any medium at her disposal—printmaking, sculpture, painting, video, and photography. Her subjects have often been inspired by her travels worldwide: to Scotland, Southeast Asia, Greece, Iceland, and other far-flung spots. The experiences she gathers from place, whether it’s the humid green of the tropical jungle or the billowing clouds and black-velvet nights of the Scottish Highlands, become distilled into the different series she’s pursued over the years. The common thread is that Leis brings to all her works qualities of elegant understatement, a thorough knowledge of craft, and an approach that marries thoughtful restraint with a sensuous feel for her materials.
For her latest project, Engrained: Ode to Trees, Leis found inspiration quite literally in her own backyard, when a 30-foot-high spruce tree on her property in Albuquerque, NM, died shortly after she moved in. Parts of that tree have made their way into the Engrained series: slices from the trunk, lovingly varnished and stained, stand like proud sentinels on Lucite shelves in Gentrification I and Gentrification II. Fissures I and Fissures II, a pair of ink-relief prints, and the sculptures Splintered I and Splintered II similarly find their origins in that same fallen tree, as does Keepsake #2, an image burned into linen from a section of the trunk. When a mimosa tree, also on her property, lost a big branch during a windstorm, Leis used it as the source material for the series of sculptures called Traces, which stand in front of two large oil paintings, Symbiosis I and Symbiosis II, densely saturated with the bright fresh green color we associate with trees just coming back to life in early spring. The installation seems to juxtapose the living against the dead, and speaks to the possibilities for renewal and rebirth.
Specific trees may have provided the inspiration for many works in the show, but Leis’ travels—and her self-description as an “outed tree hugger”—have made her sensitive to the plight of trees in general. She’s flown over the Amazon and witnessed the burning of rain forests; she’s seen firsthand Iceland’s barren landscape, the result of devastation by early settlers; and, like the rest of us, she’s concerned about the clear cutting, wild fires, and deforestation that are quickly eroding our landscape. The videos in the Engrained were all made in Finland, where she had an artist’s residency above Arctic Circle, and show how forest after forest has succumbed to destruction.
But the message in Leis’ methods—if indeed we need a message—is far from hopeless. There is ghostly beauty in the 82-inch-tall photos of the Evanescents series, joy in the sprightly arrangements of paintings that make up Tree, and throughout the series reminders of how much pleasure we get from the colors, textures, and presence of those mute and stalwart citizens who share our planet. In examining all the qualities of “treeness”—from seeds and leaves to the battered husk that remains after a tree dies—Leis gives us tangible proof of the loveliness of these silent gifts of nature along with intimations of how barren our world would be without them.
Ann Landi is the founder and editor of Vasari21.com and a contributing editor of ARTnews.
As an extra enticement here are some photos of the Shou Sugi Ban method of burning wood that we used in the making of the Remembrance pieces in the exhibit:
Photographs by Stefan Jennings Batista