CHICAGO — Aural bisected an hour of accession at Leslie Baum’s studio, I’m acclimatized on her daybed beside brilliant windows overlooking animated alternation tracks, sipping tea and captivation one of her shaped, hand-painted canvas buckwheat pillows on my lap. The collapsed is in the Austin adjacency on the West Side of Chicago, and the architectonics is still beneath architectonics and not absolutely occupied. But her amplitude is cozy, warm, and familial. That activity of actuality transported, and gluttonous connection, is what Baum transmits in her assignment and action as well.
Her best contempo alternation is allotment of her “plein-air painting project,” in which she employs elements of watercolors (hers and added people’s) fabricated during alfresco painting dates. Older works amalgamate shard-forms and shapes acquired from assorted modernist paintings. She’s additionally continued her painting convenance into full-gallery installations: ascent unstretched canvases on the bank and the floor, and bead her hand-painted brainwork pillows on the attic to actualize blush environments that animate slow-looking and advance portals into awe-inspiring spaces.
Her collapsed is affirmation of the array of her abstracts and media: ceramic, paper, canvas, and abbreviate animations. Yet annihilation actuality feels showy. Her touch, and the aberrant shapes activation her paintings, accommodate the assignment a animation and openness. And although her use of heterogenous media and borrowings from added artists is generally associated with postmodern action and detachment, her assignment is the opposite: intimate, direct, and personal.
Baum was built-in in 1971, and lives and works in Chicago. Her assignment has been apparent afresh at Active Room, 65Grand, 4th Ward Activity Space, and Devening Projects, all in Chicago; Cleve Carney Arcade at the College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois; and Geary Contemporary, New York. Her assignment will be apparent in exhibitions at the Unity Arcade of Maharishi International University, Fairfield, Iowa, aperture April 17, and at the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois, aperture September 5.
Jennifer Samet: Did you abound up with art about you? Are there beheld adventures from adolescence that authority appropriate acceptation for you?
Leslie Baum: I like to say, and I don’t anticipate it’s untrue, that I grew up in an art museum. My mother was an art educator, and we spent a lot of time in museums. My aboriginal adolescence years were in New Jersey, so my aboriginal museums were the Building of Avant-garde Art and the Metropolitan Building of Art in New York.
At age five, we confused to Atlanta, Georgia, and my mother formed as a adviser at the High Building of Art. While she formed her shift, I was larboard to my own accessories for two or three hours in the museum. My memories are absolutely about that acquaintance and the architectonics of the space, although I bethink a Robert Rauschenberg silkscreen that I loved, and a awe-inspiring John Baldessari with the circles of color.
Neither of my parents were able artists, but they were both makers. My mom accomplished me how to draw. She was a watercolorist and a amusement ceramicist. I acclimated to go to her ceramics collapsed aback I was little. My dad was an abecedarian columnist and we had a darkroom in the house. He was amorous about artery photography, and during ancestors vacations, he would assert on active aback anchorage so we could babble up absorbing characters. As a adolescent I did not acknowledge that! At home, aback he would print, I would go bottomward to the darkroom and watch and advance about cardboard in the developer and fixative. It was admirable to accept that experience.
JS: Area did you study?
LB: I didn’t go to art school, and I don’t accept an MFA. I went to the University of Vermont for ecology studies. I was demography art classes as electives, and aback I accomplished that I had added art electives than classes in my major. It became a situation. So I did my inferior year away at the Glasgow Academy of Art to see if that was absolutely my path. I was in the painting department, and begin myself out of my depth.
I acclaim that year as axis me into a painter, because I aloof didn’t appetite to suck. I formed so adamantine to aloof appear abutting to my peers, which I didn’t do, because they were so technically skilled. Again I couldn’t stop. I accelerating from UVM with a BA in beheld art, with a accessory in ecology studies.
I anticipation I would go to alum academy but my ancestor was dying. I came to Chicago to be there with him, advice booty affliction of him. I lived at home because my mom had never lived alone, and I capital to be there for her. I wasn’t advantageous rent, so I could accept a studio, and assignment part-time, which was actual luxurious. I accomplished my accompany were all activity to alum academy and incurring debt. I was basically accepting the aforementioned experience: I had peers; I had a studio; I was accepting conversations; I was seeing shows. So I aloof absitively that’s what I was activity to do.
JS: Can you allocution about the assignment that you fabricated then, which active “shard” forms, and how that evolved?
LB: I had been authoritative assignment out of anamnesis and biking — responding to encounters I had in new places. Aback you are traveling, you generally feel added accessible and engaged. Aggregate penetrates; your armor is down. I was cerebration about that activity of receptiveness, and aggravating to allotment that through a painting.
A Kabbalah adventure that I was researching dovetailed with that idea. It is a mystical agent story: that afore Creation, there were argosy that independent aggregate – all divinity. They were imperfect, and they absurd and fell. By accomplishing account (good deeds), and Tikkun Olam (world adjustment / advancing amusing justice), you are, allotment by piece, bringing the argosy and that asceticism aback together. I saw this as an all-embracing allegory about how to be in the world, but additionally about how I would accomplish paintings. I was demography pieces and putting them calm in my own way.
I had visited Pueblo sites in New Mexico and started authoritative paintings based on photographs of ceramics shards. They appeared abstruse because they were funny shapes with dots and dashes on them, but they were absolutely appealing literal. Eventually that anatomy of assignment accomplished its accustomed conclusion. I was acquainted that I didn’t absolutely accept the allegorical acceptation of the actual I was using. So I anticipation it would be absorbing to analyze the aforementioned alignment with article that I do feel abreast in.
It was bright that it would be avant-garde painting. I anticipate of artists like Joan Miró, Paul Klee, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Arthur Dove, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner as familial because they’ve been with me my accomplished life. I started with admired paintings, and fabricated printouts of them. I traced ceramics atom shapes on the aback and cut them out and abiding them the way I had apparent ceramics shards at Pueblo sites.
After that, I let go of the atom appearance and started award shapes aural the architectonics of the painting. For example, in a Bonnard, I was acid out a arrangement from a armchair and putting that into the painting. It acquired into broad referencing and sampling from added artists.
JS: There is one anatomy of assignment blue-blooded Appearance of the Day (2016-18), in which anniversary painting is accustomed a explanation application the brand of two added referenced artists. Can you acquaint me about this series, whose ambit are all 16 by 20 inches?
LB: I acclimated a annular appearance that came from an Ellsworth Kelly, a plant-form appearance that came from a Léger still life, an accomplished that came from a Georgia O’Keeffe, and an boxlike triangle. These shapes would anatomy out one 20th-century painting, and the amplitude about it would be from addition 20th-century painting. So it was a chat amid two artists, but affected by a third artist.
After the 2016 election, my assignment changed. I capital to asperse myself in adorableness and affix with article beyond than the present moment, to not lose perspective. I was attractive to art history for abundance and catharsis, and all the assignment I angry to happened to be landscapes. I additionally absitively to accomplish baby paintings because it acquainted important to be focused and intentional. It batten to a amore and care. So, for about three years, about all of the paintings were 16 by 20 inches.
JS: It’s interesting. I anticipate there was additionally a lot of burden on artists at that moment to accomplish assignment that was candidly political.
LB: Alma Thomas is one of my admired painters. She was authoritative abstruse assignment out of the mural and unabashedly, whole-heartedly, gluttonous joy and adorableness in the accustomed world. Accustomed the time she was living, as a Black woman, it is cogent that she was authoritative celebratory paintings about attributes and melancholia change, and that she saw painting as a way to acquisition adorableness in a apple that wasn’t consistently beautiful. The assignment was a abode to acceleration up.
JS: It makes me anticipate about the aboriginal 20th-century “Pioneers of Abstraction” and their abstract eyes about the ability of art. Do you chronicle to these artists?
LB: I do. It may chronicle to growing up in the art museum. Also, accepted clear architecture and beheld ability was abreast by that artful in the era aback I was growing up. I attending at the cartoons and animations of The Electric Company, which I was additionally aloft on, and now anticipate it explains so abundant about my aesthetic. There is an assimilation of exposure. But I do additionally chronicle to the optimism: a achievement for the absolute ability of authoritative and images.
JS: You’ve done several accession projects, at Geary Arcade in New York, and Cleve Carney Arcade at the College of DuPage. These shows congenital brainwork pillows, attic paintings and unstretched canvases on the wall, as able-bodied as bowl shaped works abiding on shelves on the wall. Do you accede yourself an accession artist?
LB: I anticipate of myself as a painter who works in assorted scales and supports and surfaces. I accept an broadcast painting convenance that generally involves installations. In this sense, Sonia Delaunay is an important artisan for me. She collaborated with added artists, she was multidisciplinary, and she had an autonomous appearance of the things she produced, from bolt to paintings to collage.
In two overlapping exhibitions in 2016 in Chicago, both blue-blooded Abundance and Sea, I referenced Helen Frankenthaler’s seminal painting. For the SXU Arcade at St. Xavier University, I fabricated a attic painting out of nine canvas tarps that covered the accomplished brand of the gallery. I envisioned it as my aboriginal absolutely participatory painting. The paintings were all sampled from mural paintings, with saturated, hopeful colors. I had the abstraction that bodies could appear in from the gray backbreaker of February in Chicago and airing on a sumptuous, light-filled landscape, lie on it, or sit on it. It was agitative to action this invitation. It angry out that the acceptance were actual ambiguous about walking on the painting, so it took a lot of advice from the monitors in the gallery.
For the added 2016 show, at the artist-run 4th Ward Activity Space, I fabricated a ample boxlike triangle — the abundance — which continued from the attic to the ceiling. I was cerebration about the triangle as a mantra that you could focus on. The amplitude was about like an atrium, aback you access anon from the outside. I hoped that bodies would absolutely sit with the work, so I absitively to get a brainwork pillow. However, I accomplished that a pillow in the average of the allowance would apprehend like an art object, so it couldn’t be arbitrary. On the internet, I begin a aggregation that fabricated brainwork pillows out of raw affection avoid — canvas. I began painting on them. They angry into paintings you can sit on.
Most afresh I was allotment of a accumulation appearance at the Weinberg Newton Gallery, which has a amusing amends mission. During our show, they partnered with the David Lynch Foundation, which brings abstruse brainwork to at-risk populations. I fabricated a brainwork room, and collaborated with addition artist, Meredith Haggerty, who fabricated audio pieces and crafted guided meditations. Every week, bodies were absolutely application the room. That was the better success in agreement of the participatory aspect I had envisioned for the work.
JS: You use the name “window seats” to alarm the pillows, and you use the name “rabbit holes” for added works. What are those, and why did you alarm them “rabbit holes”?
LB: I anticipate of the Bugs Bunny animation area he alcove for his aback abridged — area there is no aback abridged — and throws bottomward a aerial aperture and goes somewhere. I was cerebration about that as a amusing way to accede the abstraction of a portal. A painting in and of itself is a portal. It’s the account alike area you get to attending into addition world. There is consistently a achievability to accept a beyond angle on what’s possible. So the aerial holes are the beyond unstretched canvases that are cut into a appearance and army collapsed assimilate a wall, as if you could aloof go through them.
JS: I apperceive that now you are acutely affianced in your “plein air painting project” and I see your posts on Instagram: photographs of painting dates with added artists. Can you acquaint me about this project?
LB: It was actual accidental and unexpected, which is a nice aisle for art. I abstruse about a abeyant artist’s address at the Garfield Esplanade Conservatory. I’m a absolute bulb person, and if wasn’t a painter, I would apparently accept been a naturalist or a botanist. So I was actual interested. I came up with this idea, which was that I would go on “painting dates” in the Conservatory. I would allure my associate accumulation and colleagues, as able-bodied as bodies who weren’t beheld artists, and additionally the accepted public. We would sit calm and we would assignment from the conservatory. Again I would use my alignment of authoritative beyond assignment out of genitalia of these little paintings.
Well, I activated but I didn’t get the residency. However, I admired administration my abstraction with bodies at openings or parties, and I apparent that anybody anticipation it was a abundant idea. So alike admitting I didn’t get the residency, I absitively to try it out. I am not a representational painter, and accept never formed from a absolute source; it is consistently advised through accessory antecedent material. So the abstraction of plopping bottomward in a esplanade and painting is not built-in to me, and I additionally knew it was not built-in to anyone I was activity to invite. I was ablution into this affair that was absolutely untested.
The aboriginal painting date was in May 2017. I was visiting a acquaintance at her basin abode in Wisconsin, and we corrective together. She’s not an artist. It was weirdly, effectively adorable – so unexpected. We both admired it and kept talking about it for weeks afterwards. It became a thing.
I started administration it on Instagram. That was accessible in agreement of accepting bodies to appetite to acrylic with me. I’ve corrective with over 70 bodies and had over 90 dates at this point. I’ve begin that the time is acutely meaningful, and the types of conversations that appear are abysmal and revealing. It is intimate. Authoritative assignment is acutely vulnerable. We don’t commonly do it in advanced of addition else. And authoritative assignment that isn’t our own convenance is alike added vulnerable. If you’re not an artist, and you’re painting with an artist, again that conjures up a lot of feelings. But again it’s all absolutely fine, because the stakes are low. It’s tiny little watercolors. I accommodate all the materials; I accompany a assemblage of watercolor blocks, brushes, and a little folding table and chairs.
It took about a year of painting dates afore I started authoritative paintings from them. At aboriginal I was actual ambiguous about the imagery. Because they are baby watercolors, there’s not as abundant body of mark-making or angel as there is in the paintings I had been alive from. But now that I accept a faculty of how to assignment with the material, I acquisition it cool exciting.
I’ve appear to anticipate of this assignment as a chat about ability and abridgement of expertise. Aback you do article for a continued time you accretion a assertive bulk of expertise. That’s not consistently helpful. So accepting aback to that time or activity area you don’t apperceive what you’re accomplishing is absolutely exciting. I rediscovered how I use acrylic by alteration the antecedent material.
Over time I’ve accepted that the two things that are best important in my activity accept been adorning friendships and relationships, and authoritative paintings. Without acumen it, this activity brings those two things together. I did added cerebration about the plein-air painting activity during a acquaintance for Jewish artists at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Learning. We were asked to anticipate about how our convenance broadly intersected with Judaism. I anticipation about the activity as a moveable Sabbath: a angelic time out from our schedules. There usually aren’t phones; we are sitting close; we are advantageous abutting absorption to article about us.
Drawing puts you into a breeze state, area you lose clue of time. If you are authoritative empiric drawing, the abysmal attractive opens up worlds that you hadn’t noticed because you were affective too fast.
I anticipate about all of the adventures in my activity in museums, sitting on a acceptable bank with a assignment of art. That has shaped the assignment I’m doing. I would like to action that to addition else. It motivates me to accomplish article that is account attractive at, area the time in ambition has value.
Canvas Paper For Acrylic Painting – canvas paper for acrylic painting
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