I “met” Leah Guadagnoli via Instagram. Better yet I should say that I started stalking her work via Instagram about a year ago.
As with most Instagram acquaintances I liked the images she was posting and so I ‘liked” them again via a small heart shaped button click.
The images that Leah, or for Instagram following purposes, Lavenderladysupreme (her name on insta) was posting were mainly of her paintings. I would consider them assemblage but they are not mine so we will call them paintings.
These pieces were dynamic in alternative shapes, sizes, textures and materials. The paintings looked slick, wild and exciting. I felt like I was seeing something really new yet super familiar and nostalgic. They were calling to mind memorabilia from the 1980’s and 90’s. The geometric pattern on the paintings were printed onto fabric and looked like something Zach, Kelly, Jessie or Screech from Saved by the Bell would have donned or Jem and the Holograms would have worn whilst working late at the Starlight Foundation. You don’t need to know these references to feel the nostalgia that I feel and am so attracted to in this work but it couldn’t hurt.
I decided to “reach out” to Lavenderladysupreme so I could get up close and personal with these pieces.
Leah and I corresponded a few times over a few months and finally caught one another in early December. Leah graciously invited me over to her studio in Prospect Lefferts Gardens, Brooklyn where she lives, works and also operates a small residency program called The Maple Terrace.
Leah was just returning from her residency at The Lighthouse Works in Fishers Island NY and will be off to the Wassaic Residency Program in January. Leah has been on the successful residency circuit for quite some time now having also been at Yaddo, Vermont Studio Center, and Soaring Gardens quite recently as well.
I initially wanted to know about how she made this work and what inspired and fuelled her work but sometimes as two artists can be we ended up talking a lot more of how these works are made. All great information nonetheless. We spoke about her Graduate Studies at Rutgers and how she began to experiment with various textiles more haphazardly tossed and placed creating her imagery to now the very architectural almost “tightness” of these polished more structured works.
Leah uses Illustrator to create her textile patterns. These patterns could still be inspired by a found piece of fabric, the upholstery on a bus coach, memories of the décor of her childhood home or a found image on the web. She pointed to one of her newer table top sculptures and mentioned how the patterning that inspired this piece was from the security envelopes that you would send sensitive materials in the post with like bills and checks. A camouflage envelope to keep your personal and confidential information secure which looks very much like the camouflage used in the military. We also spoke about how she is attracted to this type of camouflaging which is basically geometric patterning, often bright and colourful and found in public spaces upholstery, carpeting and textiles to hide stains and wear and tear.
It is important to Leah that the works have a hand-made quality, which from her online imagery I did not see. Now seeing them up close I definitely can see her hand in the process. This is not to say they are sloppy by any means. These pieces are meticulously built but Leah allows her hand to show more in her bringing together the various materials comfortably. Nothing is forced; it all just lives together quite nicely. Leah is able to marry pumice stone mixed with her paint, geometric textiles wrapped around foam insulation, acrylic type plexi-glass and regular old paint into these “meant to be” formations. The paintings command attention in their pastel, day-glow, smooth, bumpy, sharp edged, round, rigid, dizzying yet grounding presence.
It takes a lot of restraint to not reach out and touch this work. A problem I am sure she and the galleries must run into daily.
After I was finished gushing over the work Leah and I discussed another project that she has been working on for some time now, The Maple Terrace Residency.
Leah opened her home/workspace as a residency space for emerging artists looking to get involved in the New York Art world in some way. Leah explained how this happened over a period of time that while she would be away at residencies herself she felt that she could probably make a little cash renting her place out but maybe the live/work situation could be better utilized by another artist as this is how she set the place up for herself. If she was going to be out at another residency why not let another artist in need of this type of exposure and opportunity make use of this wonderful space?
Leah now offers artists to apply for spots when available to spend one month long residencies that she organizes herself that include all sorts of really wonderful perks. Leah organizes studio visits with friends and colleagues to come and visit the residents, which is invaluable. She also works with local community businesses that will offer things like a couple of slices of pizza from the pizza shop or a bottle of wine from the wine shop. The list went on. The amount of detailed organization is a true testament to Leah’s generosity as an artist but also a community builder and leader. I could not respect this pursuit more.
In an art world where many claim to be paying it forward (I have known a few) Leah is really, really doing it!
I commend Leah on this pursuit and cannot wait to see where the work as well as her other admirable pursuits take her.