Tag Archives: Exhibits

Unfurling Poetry Book Release !

Unfurling is the third anthology in a collection of my poetry and art. This new book contains over two years of my selected written works exploring personal history, a troubled cultural present, and vast inner landscapes brought into focus during a global pandemic. The pages of Unfurling pair my  prose with glimpses of my minimalist visual artworks, shaping a cerebral and palpably relatable reflection of a creative life unfolding.
“I was not calibrated for the Covid Pandemic in 2020. It did unfurl a childhood time of polio anxiety but I did not learn that navigation, if there was one besides fear and hope. During the ensuing 3 years I’ve experienced isolation and the ‘tip toeing out’ that has evoked both past memories and present reflections in no particular order. These writings are the harvest of a back-of-the-stove soup with things added as conjured revealing my internal landscape.”

“…Thank you for this lovely read and reflection. I love the work and your deep witnessing. The visuals are as nourishing as the writing….” Hakim Bellamy,Inaugural Poet Laureate of Albuquerque, New Mexico (2012-2014)




This latest collection of poems is the result of my time as a 2022 writer in residence at the Fairhope Center for Writing Arts in Fairhope, Alabama. During my month long tenure on the Alabama Gulf coast, I was able to distill down from numerous poems and writings, with the help of the quiet and the water.


The Albuquerque (NM) Museum is exhibiting a wonderful show of Georgia O’Keefe’s and Henry Moore’s art and how the work resonates together.  I’m excited to share with you that three of Moore’s sculptures are in the lobby keeping my sculptural painting, The Silent Road, company. This is very cool! My painting, hanging 17’, will be up through December and represents my work as Visiting Artist to the museum.

Tag Archives: Exhibits

Changing Venues

Yes, I am in the process of downsizing and moving and what a move it is. My husband David and I have been talking throughout the pandemic about what energy it takes to maintain our property which is a compound of studio and house in the heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico, US. Even with zero landscape and minimalist sensibility we felt that it took too much time away from our pursuits—my art and David’s community work.

So we have looked about for the ‘next place’ that would require less time and effort—we covered 3 states and came back to our own New Mexico. In 2021 we found that a new apartment was being built in downtown Santa Fe and we decided that would require our downsizing and give us the urban experience we enjoy.

We spent a lot of time looking for my studio and an office rental and finally found accommodations across the street from the apartment. So the transition has begun. After unloading a lot of ‘stuff’ we moved into the apartment July 2, and the studio and offices will follow.

But as my recent newsletter can attest the move, though slowing me down a bit and requiring time, has not diverted my art endeavors. I enjoyed participating in the Portugal group exhibition “earth@Faro” curated by Paulo Duarte Filipe. We spent part of a morning ‘messaging’ one another to get my “Boundless” pieces hung. My regret was not going to Faro as seeing pictures of some of the artists frolicking on the beach made me very envious. It’s always an adventure and a pleasure to exhibit internationally. And there will be more exhibits in Portugal to report.

The group exhibition, “Arctic Summer” at The Curated creative in Albuquerque was beautifully curated by the Director, Brianne Clarkson. The events— an opening, an artist talk and a cocktail/poetry reading (by me) were an exceptional way to celebrate art and community.

My wonderful assistant, Stefan Jennings Batista ‑a talented artist/photographer/educator, is the curator, of my solo exhibition at the Taos Art Museum at Fechin House.  He tackled this task with much enthusiasm and we look forward to exhibiting in the Museum’s gallery space located in the former Fechin studio.

For this exhibit Batista selected the theme of WOODmetal because that aligned with Fechin’s own sensibility. and practice while he lived and worked in Taos. The exhibit will show my art made of or influenced by wood and reflected surfaces of metal. It opens September 9 with my reading poetry and will close October 16. Fechin’s house and grounds which have been restored are worth the trip to Taos!
You will hear from me next this winter as a Writing Artist in Residence in Fairhope, Alabama. I’m quite excited, stay tuned…

 

Tag Archives: Exhibits

Marietta in Lifetime Artist Exhibition

Marietta Patricia Leis participating in:
Lifetime Artists: Michael Warren Contemporary
McNichols Civic Center Building, Third floor, Denver
October 16 – December 19, 2021

 

Some artists are ephemeral, moving fleetingly in and out of the public eye. Others hold fast to their discipline, and move through the decades with a stalwart dedication to their evolving work.

“Lifetime Artists: Michael Warren Contemporary” salutes these artists of longevity, highlighting those who are at least 70 years old and have been practicing their artistic craft for a least 45 years. This exhibit features the mature work of twelve artists from the Michael Warren Contemporary Gallery, and is guest curated by gallery owner, Mike McClung with Featured Artists:

Natalie Alper, Rita Blitt, Eva Bovenzi, John Garrett, Jody Guralnick, Pamela Joseph, Marietta Patricia Leis, Robert Mangold, Lorelei Schott, Brian Shields, Allison Stewart, Floyd Tunson

Related events:
Opening Reception – Oct. 15, 5 p.m.
Virtual Tour/Discussion with Mike McClung – Nov. 11, 11 a.m.

To learn more click HERE

Reveal, by Leis, Installation of oil on unique shaped wood formats, painted on both sides

 

Tag Archives: Exhibits

A Welcomed Spring

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:

REVEAL


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.


 

Reveal 

disclose, tell, let slip, let drop, give away,

blurt (out)

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,

excavate,

expose,

unearth


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.
– mpl

Tag Archives: Exhibits

A NEW YEAR!

So happy to kick 2020 out of the Door and wish all of you a bright and
optimistic 2021! Michael Warren Contemporary will have a ‘live’ an exhibition of
gallery artists this month and I will be showing several pieces of my new work of 2020,
Eclipse. Following below, find both my artist statement of this work and also my poem. Enjoy!


ECLIPSE  
(hidden and revealed) a statement

Eclipse is a series of paintings of Flashe© and copper leaf on panel and linen.The series came about from my infatuation with the idea of a black surface that would not reflect at all—an echoless environment.

Black has been a thematic visitor in my work for a while. Mystery, fear, discovery, velvet, night etc…all intrigue me

I pursued this evasive black relentlessly for several weeks. After many trials I arrived at Flashe©, a black that one sinks into and doesn’t return, a black hole.
I then began to think of light trying to creep over the edges – like that of an eclipse when the light of the sun limns from the obscurity of darkness. The play of light and dark, what was dominant and what was subsumed, bifurcated and partial, became the intention of the work.

The paintings speak to the sublime and offer glimpses into the infinite landscapes of the internal and external.

 


ECLIPSE 
a series of paintings of Flashe© and copper leaf

 

Darkness absorbing light limned with copper
Dark days, dark nights, dark thoughts
with the promise of better times

Black obscuring light-but light sneaking out
Glowing hope and promise
Warming black’s mystery

There is a game of hide and seek
within an ecliptic peek a’ boo
But what is hiding

And as we move into the black
familiarizing ourselves with its velvet purr
It soothes and comforts

Black doesn’t eclipse the light
It accents the light, brightens it
Illuminating the night

Perhaps the light obscures the black
lessening its prominence
equalizing the power held

Partial eclipse hints at attempting balance
Weighing, evaluating, thinking
compromising, negotiating

No loss of significance, power, prominence
Deep thoughts evoke fairness
Black and copper both shining


 

Tag Archives: Exhibits

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

 

 

 

Tag Archives: Exhibits

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


 

 

Tag Archives: Exhibits

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.

Tag Archives: Exhibits

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.



Tag Archives: Exhibits

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