Chaos Extended

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:

COMMUNICATION

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

participating

 

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!

Marietta

 

 

 

2020 Update

Hoping you are all well and safe during these surreal days of the virus pandemic. I haven’t written a NEWS in 2020 for the reasons that we are all living and adjusting to—coronavirus. My schedule was eradicated—exhibits, travel—as was that of so many. But I am fortunate because I always work a great deal alone with my studio steps away from my home. My life has diminished in some regards but has not stopped and I am well. The pandemic world/human conditions does permeate and distract my days with an assortment of sadness, uncertainty and chaos. But there are the small precious positive things that I embrace everyday that nature and human connections provide.


I’ll share a bit the artwork in progress that I’ve been up to. I recently completed a series of copper and matte black paintings titled Eclipse; exploring the boundaries of dark and light.

These recent paintings of black and copper inspired me to extend that theme to a couple of wall reliefs. The wood was burned by the Shou Sugi Ban Japanese method that I like for its extraordinary range of black effects and the symbolism of burning wood.

Also I’ve have finally gotten to the first stages of painting the round shape of our earth’s colors on wooden formats. They will also be painted on the concave side.

My idea for these pieces has been evolving for a long time and this pause has given me the time to focus on them. As the concept evolves I will share more with you.

Poetry has been a mainstay during this period and I now have the budding of a stay-in-place group of work. I will revisit and edit them after our pandemic emergency when I have more insight and distance from the emotional onslaught of the situation.

_______

Familiar

Stay @ home
Work from home
All familiar to me

The silence
The stillness
My life pattern

Write my thoughts
Paint my feelings
My practice

But difficult
when virus
dictates

Not me
_______

If you feel so inclined please let me know how you are doing-I’d love to hear from you.
All my best wishes, for your safety and health,

-Marietta

Old Year/New Year

As a greeting for this New Year I’m quoting the words of Kurt Vonnegut that hang in my studio:

“Be Soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.”

2019 and 2020 are overlapping in my life because some of my exhibits that began in ’19 are running over into ’20. Also talks of exhibitions that began in 2019 will find fruition in this year.

I like the smooth transition as I prepare new work in the studio.


Sharon McCawley, a Curatorial Docent at the New Mexico Museum of Art wrote the following piece for their website that reflects on trees and the Alcove 20/20 exhibit at the Museum in which I am participating.

THE WOOD WIDE WEB:

THE ARTISTRY AND MORALITY OF

MARIETTA PATRICIA LEIS

AND

ROBERT MACFARLANE

            It is worse than boorish, it is criminal to inflict an unnecessary injury on the tree that feeds or shadows us.                                                                                  Henry David Thoreau

No, the title is not a misprint; both the world wide web and the wood wide web are templates for connections and communications. The world web connects humans and the wood web connects trees. Together they are essential for sustenance, support, and solace. Together they are the basis for the visual art of Marietta Patricia Leis and the verbal art of Robert Macfarlane.

            Marietta Patricia Leis is exhibiting selections from her series ENGRAINED: Ode to Trees (2019) part of ALCOVES 20/20 No.2 at the New Mexico Museum of Art until February 9, 2020.  The exhibit is a symbiotic ode to trees and their representations, an appreciation of their value for supplying  shelter, food, shade, rest, purification, and beauty. Ultimately, trees and their replications as created by Ms. Leis are the purest forms of physical rebirth and spiritual regeneration. The artist reflects about “walking among trees to dispel the stress of life and maintain mental health.” The viewers of her works can achieve the same transformation.

            Her paintings Symbiosis I, II are green portals or windows into the forest, glowing with a subtle illumination. They are not monochromatic, but varied in tone and texture, a result of many layers of painting and sanding. The paintings actually grow like trees, gifting us with translucency and peace. The layers of paint can symbolize the rings of the tree. The viewer actually feels like falling in and moving through the canvas, as if entering the world of Green Mansions (1904), the romantic and ecological novel by W. H. Hudson which praises the wilderness while warning of the danger of man encroaching upon nature.

            Resting on the floor below the canvases are Traces 1,3,2 parts of a salvaged limb from a mimosa tree which fell on her roof during a storm. She saved the pieces of the tree and transformed them, granting us continuity and reclamation. The association with worldwide deforestation due to clearings, fires, pollution is inevitable.  Another one of her trees, this time a spruce, is the inspiration for Splinter. The 30 foot high tree died on Ms. Leis’ property and, unfortunately, had to be cut down.  Again she preserved the pieces which she sanded, equating grains of wood with brushstrokes.  She also equates the living form with the dead lying on the same spectrum of our world.  The ultimate experience is of memory for loss and hope for rebirth.

            Ms. Leis uses the forms of print, paint, sculpture, video, photography to express her environmental concerns; “I worry about our incredible blue and green planet’s survival.” We honor her theme when we appreciate her artistry.

            We can support the sustainability of trees with protecting forestlands, controlling land clearing, and reversing climate change. Trees support us with providing food, medicine, and literally air.  What is remarkable is how trees support each other. Robert Macfarlane , author of UNDERLAND (2019) provides the verbal counterpoint to Ms. Leis visual imagery. The book convinces the reader of the vital interconnection between the human and the natural world.  Just as humans generously empathize with and help each other, so do trees. Macfarlane describes how trees can sense when one of them is lacking nutrition or is falling under stress. They actually develop joint underground root systems to share nutrients to nurse the patient back to health. The healthy trees develop hyphae, microscopically thin fungi, which connect at the cellular level and weave together underground root systems, a true wood wide web. Individual trees do not compete for resources, they collaborate and nurture each other. This is a lesson we can all follow.

            If there is human meaning to be made of the wood wide web, it is surely that what might save us as we move forwards into the precarious, unsettled centuries ahead is collaboration: mutualism, symbiosis, the inclusive human work of collective decision making extended to more-than- human communities. (113).

            Marietta Patricia Leis sculpts and paints, Richard Macfarlane writes and explores. The least we can do is to consider their thoughts and expressions.

Sharon McCawley

Curatorial Docent


Please take a look at the article that the New Mexico alumni magazine, Mirage included about me and my art


 

 

Travels, Exhibits and Making Friends

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!

Vinci

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!

 

 

Leis & Rothko in Latvia

I am honored to be having my solo exhibition AIR at the Mark Rothko Centre in Daugavpils, Latvia this summer.

AIR

a solo exhibition at the Daugavpils Mark Rothko Centre, Latvia

Mihaila street 3, Daugavpils, LV – 5401, Latvia

Opening Artist Reception: Friday, July 5th 2019 at 4pm – Open through Sept. 8, 2019

Artist Lecture: My Life in Art Saturday, July 6th, 11am-12pm

Master Class: The Armature of Abstract Art Saturday, July 6th, 12pm – 3:30pm



AIR
by Marietta Patricia Leis

 

everywhere, everyplace

moving—quivering

indoors, outdoors

here, there

common denominator

necessary, essential

equalizes, unites

destiny

sharing, sharing

polluted, dirtied, gray

smoke blackened

murky, brown

disrespecting

trees cleanse

purifying our air

Attention!

your exhale, my inhale

connected mutuality

affecting all

baby’s first, elder’s last

time marked

by breath

molecules interweaving

mine, yours

dependence dance

embraced

long poignant song note

deep dive, swimming

rhythm in

and out

newly mowed grass

fragrant spring morn

after a rain

smelling you

southern humidity

northern light

blown by a wind

feeling you

respect, gratitude

guardians take care

take care

caring of

AIR


The Backstory

 A while back I had one of those 21st century internet moments when the name Mark Rothko Art Centre lit up across computer’s monitor. I don’t remember the original context, however, seeing it led to the fortunate circumstances of my participation in their programing and my solo exhibition, AIR, this July 2019.

Knowing that Rothko made his mark as a leading American painter who did emigrate from Russia I was intrigued about how a Mark Rothko Art Centre happened to be in Daugavpils, Latvia. Ah, Wikipedia comes to the rescue. Well, that city which was part of Russia at the time was the birthplace of Mark Rothko on September 25, 1903. Now it is the second largest city in Latvia and residents speak Russian and/or Latvian or both.

My curiosity led me to investigate and found that the Centre in Latvian is Daugavpils Marka Rotko mākslas centrs or DMRAC. It is a multi-functional institution of culture, arts and education, located inside the arsenal building of the Daugavpils Fortress in Daugavpils. This Fortress, is an early 19th century Fortress is the only early 19th century military fortification of its kind in Northern Europe that has been preserved without significant alterations. The construction of the fortress began in 1810 by decree of Tsar Alexander I of Russia

The Art Centre offers exhibitions dedicated to Mark Rothko’s artwork and biography, Mark Rothko Life and Art. Furthermore the DMRAC facilities include art galleries of changing exhibitions, residences for artists, a video hall, an archive/library, conference/seminar facilities, meeting rooms and a restaurant.

Mark Rothko Centre, Daugavpils Fortress in Daugavpils

Upon finding out about the roster of exhibitions I made inquiries which resulted in a formal application which was eventually accepted and viola’. Being an admirer of Rothko’s art and sensibility he has influenced the reductive/minimalist spirit of my art, that is the essence that can describe the whole.
The late New York Times Art Critic, William Zimmer wrote some years ago that my paintings followed in the “abstract sublime” tradition of Mark Rothko and called my reductive paintings “sublime”. Now I feel I am paying homage to Rothko by exhibiting at the Mark Rothko Centre in Daugavpils where I can also witness the atmosphere that influenced his early years.

Marietta with Rothko’s paintings, National Gallery, Washington, DC.

Venice Biennale 2019


The Silent Road, Acrylic on Tyvek™


Personal Structures
An Exhibition

presented by
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.



Entering the New Year of 2019

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

November 2018

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

Lucy R. Lippard Essay for the Marietta Tintoretto Story

Prolific author and arts writer Lucy R. Lippard contributed a deep and insightful essay for my 1994-1998 touring exhibition, The Marietta Robusti Tintoretto Story. I am honored to share Lucy’s essay with you below. The work celebrates the life of a near forgotten woman artist. Two paintings from this series are included in the Museo Italo Americano’s 40th Anniversary Permanent Collection Exhibit, on display until January in San Francisco.


A Legacy Framed

Commentary by Lucy R. Lippard *

 

Marietta Leis is reframing the life of Marietta Robusti Tintoretto, who died 400 years ago. She does this literally by making ornate gold frames an integral part of the work; and she does it figuratively, creating a series of metaphors for today’s women artists.

Leis weaves invisible references to her own life with more visible references to that of Marietta Tintoretto. The frames are cast with significant personal belongings, and she was attracted to the Renaissance artist because Marietta was also her mother’s name, and her mother had decided not to seek a career in the arts. Thus, with the aid of a feminist consciousness, a classic 20th-century woman’s story was contrasted with the total support that Tintoretto received from her famous father who dressed her in boy’s clothing, taught her all he knew, and was delighted by her success as a portrait painter. Even as a married woman, she stayed under her father’s roof (and Leis suggests that the father-daughter bonds were so strong that Marietta never found her own voice). Yet no sooner had she died in childbirth at the age of thirty, Tintoretto’s work began to be forgotten, until today scholars definitively attribute only one painting to her.

This is precisely why women artists have to think seriously about “posterity”; it is why Judy Chicago is making such an effort to have her feminist icon—The Dinner Party, permanently housed; it is why so many women artists look anxiously to museums to care for their work. It is, above all, why we know so little about our feminist art history. For centuries women artists’ work has been disappearing, sometimes beneath better-known male names. It is already possible to see the history of the most recent wave of feminist art (beginning in 1969-70) being hidden, forgotten, and rewritten by those who were not there.

Leis’s exhibition of lyrical, painstaking homages to another Marietta brings these issues to the foreground. At the same time, her works serve as bridges from the sense of formal beauty we inherit from the Italian painting tradition to today’s feminist investigations of opulence and reclamation. Even as their loving detail makes a point of scale, and their fragmentation makes a point of history, the very weight of these small works belie their size. They join Chicago’s Great Ladies, May Steven’s monumental Artemesia Gentileschi, and Miriam Schapiro’s homages to Mary Cassatt and other foremothers to whom all feminists must pledge memory, lest our contemporaries also be lost. These elegant frames protect both the art of Marietta Tintoretto and the art of Marietta Leis.

 

* Written for the brochure for the exhibition Excerpts from the series: The Marietta Robusti Tintoretto Story at the Jonson Gallery of the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.

Poet Miriam Sagan Writes on my work for Harnessing Light Exhibition

The esteemed Santa Fe poet, Miriam Sagan, saw the Harnessing Light exhibition and wrote this poem about my art that was inspired by the dark light of Iceland. Sagan had been to and referred me to the Gullkistan Artist Residency in Iceland so we had the same experience to relate to—one as a poet and myself a visual artist. Please read her lovely poem HERE.

Harnessing Light Exhibition at the Harwood Museum


The Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, NM will be presenting my work in the exhibition Harnessing Light:

Where: Harwood Museum of Art, Taos
Opening Reception: Saturday August 4, 3-5pm
Dates: Saturday August 4-Sunday October 7
Artists: Marietta Patricia Leis, Debbie Long & Mary Shaffer
Curator: J. Matthew Thomas
Roundtable Panel: Aurthur Bell Auditorium, Tuesday, August 7, 7pm

New Mexico based artist Marietta Patricia Leis will be exhibiting her multimedia works with artists Debbie Long and Mary Shaffer in the exhibition Harnessing Light. Curator J. Matthew Thomas selected these 3 artists who by different paths converge on a common focus: light on surface. Leis’ art contributes a contrast to the other artists as she captures light’s tenebrous illumination of darkness in her graphite acrylic pieces, prints on metal, small sculptures and oil paintings on wood. Her approach to this marriage of two extremes presents us with a duality of lightness and dark, for without one there cannot be the other. Becoming immersed in the soft nebulous incandescence of the arctic, Leis’ eyes forgot the programming of modern artificial lighting and she began to see the nuances and elegant shades of darkness more clear. Leis’ intention is to present unique visions of the natural world. Through her art, she hopes to make viewers more acutely aware of the fragile beauty and tenuous future of our planet so that we may seek ways to preserve it for generations. Taos was Leis’ first home in New Mexico after she migrated from Los Angeles in 1982. She considers her time in Taos as decompressing and centering after years of working in the endlessly illuminated cityscapes of New York and LA. Leis is honored to be exhibiting at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos, and feels a deep gratitude for the place that gave her such peace and serenity.