Today we’d like to introduce you to Jackie Leishman.
Jackie, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I grew up with an interest in art. My great uncle was a well-known painter in New England, and we had his paintings throughout the house. We would go to art festivals. I think my mom noticed pretty early on that I had an interest in art. She signed me up for classes at community centers and set up a work space for me in the basement with a table piled with paper, glue, feathers, sequins, pipe cleaners — all the essentials for a child interested in exploring materials. But even with that background, it was a long time before I really took my interest and love for art seriously, in the sense that I thought I could actually do this with my life.
For the most part, people don’t encourage smart kids into the arts. I was a top student, and the smart kids were pushed into other fields. Nothing against pursuing STEM studies and careers — I’ve actually got kind of an obsession with astrophysics and star formation — but when I was growing up in the South, smart kids were pointed and sometimes pushed toward STEM fields, or business. It seems strange now to think about that because some of the smartest people I’ve encountered are artists. But I understand it, too. I was raised by a single parent who encouraged me to always have something to fall back on so that I could take care of myself. It was good, practical advice born of firsthand hardship and experience. Getting a practical degree isn’t really sexy or romantic, but when you have a single parent who is the consummate survivor encouraging you with a wild earnestness to do it, you do. It’s hard to argue with that kind of moral authority grounded in our shared struggle as a family to get by. So, I got good grades, earned a degree in International Finance from the University of Georgia, and then went on to earn my Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the Academy of Art in San Francisco with my parent’s blessing and encouragement. I ‘ve lived in the LA area for over ten years, teaching and exhibiting art.
We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
I was trained as a fine-artist and photographer and worked mostly with photography for the first years of my practice, but as darkroom work faded out and digital photography took over, my work shifted towards collage, although there are still often photographic elements and processes in my work. I don’t think it will ever really be entirely absent… The way I saw and worked as a photographer still influences the way I see and compose my works on paper. I learned to translate the world into black and white compositions, to notice formal relationships, to frame and crop and obsess about light and shadow, but I learned to accept and even invite surprises in the darkroom, too. Now, I use traditional and non-traditional raw materials, including fragments of old projects.
I still compose with rich blacks and shades of grey and white; when I reach for color, it tends to be deliberate, but often results in surprises; and I’ve adapted some elements of my darkroom process to my darkroom studio work now. For my most recent project, Yosemite, I’ve begun making reverse drawings using printmaking ink. I’m hooked on it right now because it reminds me of working with film negatives, how I would have to see in reverse to read the image.
My process is very process- and material-oriented. In exploring relationships among my materials, I find new ways to communicate ideas and feelings about subjects ranging from parenting to astrophysics, from artistic collaboration to women’ issues, and from the natural environment to the nature of a visual language of form. But in the end, the common theme in my work has always been exploring dichotomies and what happens
in the interstices, the spaces where two disparate ideas or materials meet.
How can artists connect with other artists?
Be bold. Know when to walk away from a piece of art. Show up every day. And always ask; if you don’t, the answer is always no. Cultivate a meaningful life, full of meaningful relationships, outside of your art. It will make your art better, and you a better artist.
Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
For readers open to traveling, I have a show opening May 4th in Utah. Details about the show, along with information about other available work, can be found on my website www.jackieleishman.com and or readers can follow me on Instagram, @jleishmanart. Studio visits are also an option for those in the LA area.
- Website: www.jackieleishman.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @jleishmanart
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/jackie.leishman.5