BLACK SNAFU (Situation Niggas: All Fucked Up) – André Ramos-Woodard

I’ve been told plenty of times that in order to understand the present, I’ve got to know the history. I find that funny as a Black person born and raised in America. It’s not that I disagree, it’s just that I know that my history on this land—Black history—has been distorted and fucked-up to perpetuate the racist repercussions of European colonialism and white privilege in this godforsaken country.

Anti-Blackness at the hands of racist America seems inescapable no matter what context I place it into; literature, science, government, health, art… look into any “field” and see for yourself. My people have had to cry, scream, and fight for respect throughout all these fields of study for centuries, and we still haven’t gained the respect we deserve. Even in the visual arts, the field I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to, the history of racism against Black people runs rampant. To move on from this shit, we must acknowledge the many ways that this country has implemented a racial hierarchy since these lands were first colonized and stripped from indigenous peoples, and Black people were stolen from their native land and brought here.

BLACK SNAFU (Situation Niggas: All Fucked Up), gets its name from “Private Snafu”, a series of cartoon shorts made in the 1940s by Warner Bros. in the hopes of educating American WWII soldiers about military and warfare tactics. In BLACK SNAFU, I appropriate various depictions of Black people that I find throughout the history of American cartooning and beyond—from the 20th century racist characters in Don Raye’s “Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat” to more contemporary, uplifting, and pro-Black characters like Huey and Riley Freeman from Aaron McGruder’s “The Boondocks”—and juxtapose them with photographs that line up more authentically with a (my) Black experience. These photographs are made by my hand and come from my camera, allowing me to fight back against the historical racist tropes I reference with my own authentic Blackness. By combining these ambivalent visual languages, I intend to expose to viewers America’s deplorable connection to anti-Black tropes through pop-culture while simultaneously celebrating the reality of what it means to be Black.

PITIT TIG – CHILDREN OF TIGERS

Viktor El-Saieh is available for private tours of the exhibition on Wednesdays and Sundays between Noon and 4pm. If you would like a private tour with Viktor, please reserve your appointment during his available hours, and send us an email at ifoundleon@gmail.com requesting that Viktor be present. Please request Viktor’s presence at least 24 hours in advance of your appointment.

Click here to make an appointment during regular gallery hours.

Pitit Tig / Children of Tigers is an introduction to contemporary Haitian art for the Denver, Colorado community. This group exhibition draws on the richness of Haitian history, spirituality and language to form a sample for those who are less familiar, and a reminder for those who are already acquainted.

Featuring the work of Lissa Jeannot, Herold Pierre-Louis, Marithou, Hugue Joseph, Jacky Charles, Wildaine Charles, Ferret Charles, Mme Moreau, Viktor El-Saieh and Pierre LouisPitit Tig / Children of Tigers is a multi-generational project which includes mentors, siblings, masters, disciples, offspring and grandchildren (among others) of individuals who’ve made and continue to make a major impact in the world of Haitian art. The children of tigers are facilitators, teachers, leaders, helpers, and, most importantly; revolutionaries.

“By creating a society in which all people, of all colors, were granted freedom and citizenship, the Haitian Revolution forever transformed the world. It was a central part of the destruction of slavery in the Americas, and therefore a crucial moment in the history of democracy, one that laid the foundation for the continuing struggles for human rights everywhere. In this sense we are all descendants of the Haitian Revolution, and responsible to these ancestors.”

A mixture of wooden and ceramic sculpture, textile works, paintings and drawing will give those interested a window into the universe of contemporary Haitian art; a universe which holds within it many worlds — each with its own unique symbols, characters and messages — woven together carefully by artists whose personal vision is always buoyed by a shared history of overcoming impossible odds.

This exhibition is ultimately an invitation to share in the sublime glory and captivating beauty of art produced by individuals with deep connections to a specific place; the land of many mountains — where the Children of Tigers battle and find solace.


Viktor El-Saieh was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and raised in Miami, Florida. He holds a BA in International Affairs from Florida International University (FIU), and an MA in Teaching Secondary Social Studies from the University of Colorado (CU). El-Saieh’s work has been exhibited at Locust Projects, Miami; David Castillo Gallery, Miami; Central Fine, Miami Beach; and El-Saieh Gallery, Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, among other venues. El-Saieh’s work is part of the collections of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami and the Pérez Art Museum Miami. He lives and works in Denver, Colorado, and is represented by Central Fine in Miami Beach, Florida.

Muscle Memory – Tya Alisa Anthony

November 13th, 2021 – January 8th, 2022

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On Saturday, November 13th, at 7pm, Leon will premiere Tya Alisa Anthony’s much anticipated exhibition “Muscle Memory.” Since her debut exhibition “Skins” at Leon in early 2017, Anthony has become a central figure within the Denver art community, as an artist, a curator, and an educator. She is a Redline Residency Artist Alumna, has had her worked featured in MCA – Denver’s Octopus Initiative, has been acquired by The Denver Art Museum for their permanent collection, and curated “From This Day Forward” at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art in spring of 2021. Recently she was awarded a sizable grant from The Sharon Prize, to assist her with the preparation of her upcoming exhibition at Leon.

Due to safety concerns for our artist and our community we have suspended the Tea with Tya appointments.

Artist Statement:

Muscle Memory is an interactive performance, photographic and sculptural exploration intended to offer communal healing and catharsis in honor of those who have lost their lives due to the global coronavirus pandemic, civil unrest, police violence and those incarcerated in the preschool to prison pipeline. While reflecting on Black and African-American experience, healing practices and traditions, hand plastered white flowers and framed white plastered bouquets that look like the plaster is still dripping, float along wall papered walls encasing the space with images of the black body in movement, rest and play. The wall paper reflects a patterned collage of photographs of the black experience and community representing contrasting monuments for those stories that continue to plague our radios, televisions, newsfeeds, social media and advocacy spaces. Inspired by a fusion of African, Indigenous, European and Dutch healing influences, I will sit on alternating days one on one with viewers where I offer a warm cup of tea and conversation offering comfort and space to be heard.

Artist Bio:

Tya Alisa Anthony is an Interdisciplinary Artist + Curator, who explores themes of social justice, human rights and identity. She incorporates photography, collage, and sculpture to give a voice to narratives of often marginalized people as well as the social, economic, and natural environments that surround them. She is interested in reimagining histories and in creating autonomous spaces for bodies of color.

As the Founder of Mahogany Vu Contemporary Art, an online thriving gallery for BIPOC, Tya recently curated a thought provoking and socially responsible, action driven exhibit, FROM THIS DAY FORWARD, shown at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMOCA) where eight diverse artists of multiple practices and mediums addressed and explored how we as a society move toward true equity. 

She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, (SUMMA CUM LAUDE) honored as Valedictorian, from Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design. Presently, living and working in the city of Denver, producing performance, photography + installations. She is currently a TANK Studios artist, 2018 Redline Residency Artist Alumni and serve on the Advisory Board for Leon Gallery, a non-profit gallery and creative space dedicated to mentoring emerging artists across multiple disciplines, along with the Board of Tilt West, a non-profit dedicated to fostering critical dialog in art and culture in Denver and the Colorado Photographic Arts Center advisory board. Tya has exhibited in Baltimore, MD and the Colorado region including a permanent collection commissioned by the Octopus Initiative of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Center for Visual Arts, Leon Gallery, and at RedLine. 

Halah Mohammed’s exhibition review can be read here

Eyes on the Road – Preston Utley

Pop-up Exhibition and Book Release – November 4th – 6th, 2021.

Leon is proud to present a pop-up exhibition from Thursday, November 4th through Saturday, November 6th, to celebrate the release of Preston Utley’s new photography book, “Eyes on the Road”. The exhibition will feature large scale prints of the images published in the book.

Preston Utley is an American photographer working primarily in Denver, Colorado. He has been documenting the American West and the American road trip for the last decade. Focusing his camera on the relationship between people and the landscape, his work captures a region transformed by transportation, tourism, and development, clinging to old myths and Hollywood clichés.

Utley’s work has recently been presented in group exhibitions, including The Act of Selection at Dairy Arts Center in Boulder, Masquerading at the Downtown Aurora Visual Arts (DAVA) in Aurora, Colorado, and Photoville’s The Fence in Denver, Colorado. Additionally, he has exhibited in numerous juried exhibitions and been featured online at LenScratch.com. He hosts workshops regularly with the Colorado Photographic Arts Center. In addition, he volunteers with Pablove, an organization that teaches children living with cancer to develop their creative voice through the art of photography.

Since 2013, Utley has been annually self-publishing a series titled The Snapshot Diaries, exploring his vision throughout the year. His 2016 edition is in the permanent collection at the Phoenix Art Museum. This fall, his series Eyes on the Road, featuring work centered around the American road trip and the Southwest, will be published as a Peanut Portfolio with Peanut Press Books and exhibited at Leon Gallery in Denver, Colorado.

Eyes on the Road is a limited edition book release of 100. You can order your copy here

The Lilac Hour – Kaitlyn Tucek

September 17th – 19th, 2021 – Ashcroft, CO Ghost Town

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The Lilac Hour is an exhibition of two dimensional works (paintings, textiles and works on paper) as well as an unfinished poetic essay. The writing will be read by me on site on Saturday, September 18th around 3pm.


With encouragement from my husband, Matt Tripodi, and Leon Gallery, I enrolled in a writing course at Lighthouse Writers Workshop in early 2021. The intention was to capture the remaining memories I have of my father, who passed away ten years ago. I constructed a slightly abstract piece of writing that also interlaced current observations. Those observations seemed to highlight or put my memories into a new perspective, leading me to think about time,
and the non-linear journey of life. (For a beautiful example of this, please look up a favorite book of mine, Ava, by Carole Maso).


Instead of following a curated path, I allowed myself to take the next step that presented itself to me, believing that each impulse was something to explore whether or not I could see it’s greater connection to a whole. I began to work concurrently on two dimensional works. After many months I could see that I had given myself space to explore in a naive way. I could see the difference in the freedom I had working in a medium that I couldn’t judge myself in vs. visual art I have been immersed in for over twenty years. I would return to my paintings after writing, finding that same feeling, freeing myself in marks and abstractions even within a representational work and letting go of the consideration of the outside world and how it might be perceived or whether or not it “fit”. I find through all of this I am rejecting even more the sense of a “brand” or a single identity. My writing practice has illuminated the deep feelings and motivations I have in creating works that describe how I think something feels, rather than how it looks. It has also confirmed my belief that my process and my works are an ongoing conversation and discovery.


I share this body of work with you, but I am also sharing it with myself. I hope to reflect on what I have created so far in the hopes that I can look upon the works in this place and let them back into me. Then I can start to consider how to conclude this particular piece of writing.


Gertrude Stein:
You will write if you will write without thinking of the result in terms of a result, but think of the writing in terms of discovery, which is to say that creation must take place between the pen and the paper, not before in a thought or afterwards in a recasting..

And:
Whenever you get there, there is no there there.

The LIlac Hour:

I am not a poet.  I am a painter.  

I am a poet.  I am a painter.  

I am a poet.  

I paint.  

Give it back to the weight of the earth. 

Perhaps we could release the heaviness. We could walk out into the clearing or to the wet edge of the shore. We could kneel and pretend to pray, we could breathe it out like a lion’s breath, shooting forward. First from our lungs, then deeper, retching it from our bellies- caving into the space before us, arching to get it, every last bit of it, out of us. 

And then we’d brush off our knees, little pebbles and sticky shells glued to our skin. All that remain are deep pink dents on my knees where those seashells dug in. The pressure, once there, only a memory. 

Oh, 

 to carry you 

into the sun. 

                the wind 

Fingertips fingers palms up    outstretched 

out the window 

        go faster! 

Pointing, but, to nothing 

Just to fight 

    the

Pressure of the wind 

Pushing the hand up, Pushing against

keeping it afloat 

keeping the momentum – keeping – up 

   falls.

Just like 

I hold on, you      Hold on

To you       me

I held on- tight, loose, hands, bodies 

      Memories 

Touching fingertips, in my mind, touching light 

And I strap you to my core, my middle. 

Like the baby I held in my womb

I hold on             for my ever forever 

isnt 

Until we meet the Sun.  

    the Wind.  

Until.  

Memory. 

I have a memory, and that is a lot for me. It starts with a trip to West Virginia.  My dad asks me to accompany him somewhere, a minor errand in his red truck.  I get in and allow the open window and bright sun to envelop me.  I close my eyes occasionally.  I was allowed to be quiet with him, peaceful.  I wasn’t prodded.  

He pulled over and entered the drive of an old colonial with a large presence and wrapped porch. Southern, uncovered by trees, drenched in the sun in the open space.  Brick.  I didn’t ask what we were doing, I followed.  

I don’t remember much more now except the flowers. As we moved to the back of the house there was (or at least, I think there was) an enormous span of foxgloves.  The whole yard.  Stunning colors, bees and flies and petals everywhere.  They towered over me. I moved in and out of them.  I loved it so much.  I lost myself among the pink and white and violet and blue jewels.  And I know it was all on purpose, just to see me so pleased.  

I love that memory.  

OYSTERS

I spent the last twenty minutes googling crawfish boil shipments. The task, the one I was assigned, was to look at two tarot cards and respond to them. These cards make me nervous, and therefore I prefer to think about and peruse celebratory food and food related items.  

What even is a pentacle? Why is it so ominous looking? In all of my studies of symbols the pentacle has not been a popular one.  I recall that creepy old movie with Johnny Depp I am pretty sure is titled Ninth Gate. I prefer to look at the crawfish in their freezer tubs. 

I googled the five-of-pentacles. I needed to know.  “One of Minor Arcana’s toughest cards”. Great.  I learn that this card raises more questions than gives us answers.  Two impoverished individuals out in the cold with possible salvation nearby. Do they see it? Do they want it? 

I go back to thinking about my seafood party.  We will spread the crawfish (or crayfish, or crawdads to some) on a proper newspaper covered table. The seasoning and corn and potatoes just like Mark used to do in Brooklyn years ago.  Beer (and champagne, because I am older now and more concerned with my waistline) and wet napkins and music.  

I plan on ordering East Coast oysters for this as well since they are the most interesting thing to me currently.  In fairness, they’ve always been interesting to me.  Also, Sarah had her very first one at Clay Club the other day and now I must crusade to make sure everyone knows how great oysters are.  

What makes the seafood party so exceptionally celebratory? It gets me ridiculously excited. I can see friends using their messy hands, reaching for the same shellfish. I dream of the heaps of heavily seasoned shellfish and those beautiful slices of yellow lemons strewn about.  The hot red of that shell. The way the oysters, wet and sloppy, glisten in their beds of quickly melting ice. Doesn’t it all seem so simple and yet so decadent? I want to suck down the taste of a low tide on Long Island or crunch the shell knowing we’ve got thirty pounds of Louisiana laying bare and ready in front of us. I want the sun to set and strawberry painted glasses to be emptied. I want to watch everyone lean back and close their eyes, content and bellies full. I want to hold onto these moments, maybe the moments that make us feel at home. I want to be home.  I want to feel home. 

 A List of Oysters

Peeko 

Blue Point (this choice is rather obvious, considering its ubiquity) 

The chargrilled oysters from Felix’s in New Orleans 

Fisher’s Island 

Pine Island

But really, 

anything coming out of the Great South Bay or the Long Island Sound.  

and anything you can get sitting at the counter at the oyster bar in Grand Central.

And I suppose I can appreciate the Pacific NW oysters such as the kumamoto, for their ability to sway non-oyster people into becoming novice oyster people.  

oysters

They track the heavens.  

I finished a book recently.  It had the word cosmos in the title.  In it, the author talks about living creatures and their relationships with the moon, the sun, and the stars.  One story stood out to me.  

In 1954, biologist Frank Brown discovered a wonderful thing about oysters. In February of that year, Brown transplanted oysters from Connecticut to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. They were placed in a lab where they were shielded from any major environmental changes or light. In their briny tubs, the oysters continued to open and feed around the time of their New Haven high tide.  But within weeks, the oysters, having settled into their new environment, adjusted their feeding activity to match the tide according to the local moon. That is, if Evanston Illinois were to have a high tide, those oysters could feel the gravitational pull of the moon above them and obediently open their shells for food. 

 I like to think that he illuminated the oysters’ relationship with the universe. 

FLOWERS

My father had an unusual and vast knowledge of plants.  You pointed, he named it.  He didn’t like cutting down trees.  He planted hundreds of tulips and lilies in our front yard under the dogwoods.  He had a stunning vegetable garden.  He knew what it meant. He made you love it too. You point, and I name it.  

Growing up, the lilacs were some of the first to bloom.  My dad maintained them, and my mother cut them and placed them on our nightstands every year. The comforting scent of a fresh lilac gives me home.    

MEMORY 

After a week in New York, I started to have heavy thoughts about my own memories of home. Had I created these memories from only small fantasies? Was this place, that I wear like armor, that I consider my rock, was this ever what I remember it as? Could a person’s memory of home, could it actually be a person- a person that manifests those things, that creates the place in their simple existence in that place? Memories of a person are really memories of the things they loved. Could my father have loved Long Island so much that he became Long Island to me, in my memory? 

So I long for home. I’ve spent months aching to walk beaches, to feel breezes and cloudy skies, to find peace, 

only to find it doesn’t exist? 

Have I imagined this? That place that knew what time it was?

It never existed. I made it up. Or he made it up? And I lived and grew within his creation of the place. So those memories aren’t real.

So what is home? Especially when he’s gone. Home is nowhere. Home is heartbreakingly gone. There is no home. And I’ll spend the rest of my life only in the memory of home. Always searching for things that satiate me. Crooked cakes made by hands I long to hold.  

I had to go home, I had to lift the veil and see the wizard. 

Or, see that I was the wizard and I had sewn and lifted my own curtain. I admit I cannot transcend my personal anguish as Newman and Motherwell would want me to. But I want to express the moments where we cross the void. I want to express the moments where we’ve experienced our own sublime, our own totality. 

All space is reflective considering we must bring ourselves into it. 

Oysters and the creation of the pearl. I am the oyster.  

Glistening in my quickly melting bed of ice. 

Wisdom for composing my poetic memoir: 

See the Sky. 

Consequence of Vagrancy

In the opening stanza of her poem. 

Jubilance knows, and longing acquiesces. 

In the shops all along money acts like home. 

Not to be deciphered from her position

In the tasting delicately raised

Close eyes and see myself home. 

And so what of Colorado? 

SKY

I see the sky, I think about it constantly.  It welcomed me first.  It presented that October as dreary and cold.  It fooled me and made me question what I had done.  Why did I come here? When people ask, how was it when you first moved here, how did you feel having never visited? 

I tell them about the sky.  The sky was grey, it was wet and heavy and small. I thought I had made a mistake.  I waited a few days and drank away my worry at a bar with a kind tender.  I woke to a new sky, huge.  Enormous! It was the biggest sky I had ever witnessed.  How could this sky be so much bigger than where I had come from? 

The sky has been generous to me over time.  

List of things I have been gifted from the sky: 

Magpies (my absolute favorite and by far the most shocking of bird sightings upon arrival)

Red tail hawks

Turkey vultures 

Spotted towhee

Doves (A pair, of course, they often hang out on the electrical wires before coming to visit the space under the birdfeeder.  One usually follows the other) 

Steller Jay’s 

Red Winged Blackbirds (admittedly, I most often see these low in the sky and travelling from high grasses, back and forth near the creek). 

Hail

It is some kind of adventure to run out to your budding June garden with your at-the-ready tarps trying to shield little plants from the quick and immediate terror of the hail.  When I say terror, I mean anxiety-inducing spontaneous, terrifying hail that will pummel those baby plants and destroy the month-long effort you made towards a plentiful late summer feast of vegetables.  

Food is at the core of my existence.  Not because of its nourishment.  Currently my family is gathering around an extra (albeit, excessively) long dining table.  I imagine my sister has the table dressed in a spring themed decor, probably with a touch of tackiness, but also, totally comforting.  Everyone will yell and chatter, most of the time interrupting and talking over one another. It’s the way we do things.  Over my lifetime,  I have been frustrated by this, proud of this, then ashamed or in a place trying to overcome, and now I have circled back to pride.  Fuck it.  Be free, be open.  Don’t play with etiquette rules, get excited when you talk and discuss.  Get in arguments, raise your voice.  We do it in love.  We do it because we feel safe and loved.  Judgement is light and somewhat forgotten, overpowered by the longing for each other’s company.  

And there is Matt, my love, unexpectedly in Tennessee, sitting on a couch in the dark, no sunlight coming through those windows.  Still without a morning boost of caffeine.  Every man for himself down there.  

I can look out the window and see for hundreds of miles.  I see small foothills speckled with stubborn snow.  I see wispy clouds and every now and again, a large hawk gliding.  

When you see the hawk, the space compresses. As if miles and miles of land become just a number of yards in the sky above it. What must it feel like to own so much territory so easily? If I were to traverse the same amount of space, I would have to navigate man-made roads and barriers, I would have to wind around the hills.  It would take me much longer and I would need a destination.  I couldn’t swing around, looping and improvising.  It sometimes stops for a moment on the top of a tall pine.  Maybe a blue spruce? We have a lot of those nearby, the one in our backyard must be at least sixty feet tall.  

I sit here now, leaving the doors open to the back. I can see the spruce.  I can hear so many bird calls.  A layering of the morning sparrows and towhees. I don’t really know what they are, but I like to pretend. But I do know I didn’t hear any of them back in Brooklyn.  I don’t even remember seeing them. I don’t really know if they weren’t there.. Maybe? But I know I didn’t notice. 

the lilac hour

Two. 

I have two homes. 

Two that hold me in their arms.

Two that claim me, two that 

    Share me

I have two homes 

Two that tell me I am safe, I am here, my feet can attach to this ground.  

Two that take me off that ground. 

Two that set me free.  

I have two homes.  

      Two. 

One that rises with majesty.  

One that sweeps the horizon with silver.  

Two that wrap me in their beauty.  Two that tell me they are bigger than me.  

Two that tell me 

in breezes, in space, in smells, in taste, in being, in memories, in suns, in moons, in breathing, 

I have two homes.  

SEA

I think most people think of the sea as something vast, uncontrollable, angry.   

I know that holds true.  

I just don’t think of it that way.  I think of it as calming, all encompassing.  It stands to remind me that I am small,  I am insignificant.  That’s a good feeling after all. As much as I try to control and manage and conduct and construct, 

It doesn’t matter.  

and that helps.  

SEA

I fell in love with Matt on the beach. It was his first time on Fire Island.  We had separated from the group on my sister’s boat, walked over the stile toward the dunes to the horizon-spreading-buff-colored sandy beach.  The water, as always, was silver and sparkling.  We sat down on a long piece of driftwood and I will never remember what we talked about. I can recall the way my chest filled up.  I was overcome.  I remember this feeling, sort of like soft air filling my body, slowly making its way up toward my eyes. I looked at him and I just fell in love. It was just like that.  Who knew it could be so simple? 

People love to talk about aqua or turquoise colored water, but have you seen the New York beaches? That silver sparkle.  

It’s something you didn’t know you were looking for.

Space. 

SPACE 

(And in the best and least mature way possible, I write the word space and hear Conan O’Brien sing “In the year 2000…” ) 

Space. 

The sensation of touching a blank, newly stretched canvas is a phenomenon.  I tingle.  The amount of space ready to be filled (or not) is tremendous, no matter the size of the canvas. In each step of the process, no matter my concept or however in love I am with my own marks, I ache to keep the negative space.  The untouched.  

It isn’t just that the space is negative, “empty”,  or innocent.  The space is saddled against life.  It’s edge to edge with human expression.  The broad stroke of a rough oil slick brush against a dry, matte and vast piece of raw canvas.  That action, that juxtaposition compresses the space.  And by compressing it, it activates and energizes it, giving it tension, making it just as powerful as the positive, figure-filled space.  

I continue to contemplate the irony in the feeling of totality achieved by immersing yourself in a large expanse of space.  

LIGHT

Somehow, and for some unknown reason, at seventeen I made my way down to DC to see a top tiered show at the time, Elton John and BIlly Joel.  Why I didn’t see Billy in NY is beyond me, but typical of my increasingly bad memory, I have no idea why I was in DC for this show and I am just guessing at who I was with.  I think John? But then sometimes I can see my mom. I can’t make sense of it.

I can see, however, quite vividly, this ridiculously hot wave of light.  The show was just days after George Harrison had passed, and in a breathtaking tribute, Elton and Billy played Here Comes The Sun.  

I can see them on that enormous stage, dueling pianos, (post Billy gyrating and humping his), gently singing and swaying with a respectful heartache.  Each time they would reach the chorus, a massive bright yellow light would pass over the entire venue, a sun rising in a fast forward. It was spectacular.  Somehow it felt warm.  It enveloped me even in the bad seats.  All while little piano notes played the soft and melancholic melody only George could write.  

This morning, on my way back from dropping Nico at school, a standards and stories spot came through the speakers. The DJ said that, interestingly, the most streamed Beatles songs since their portfolio appeared on streaming platforms about ten years ago, was not what you’d expect.  Instead of the ever loved Yesterday by Paul or the beloved songs like Hey Jude by John, it was George’s songs that have received the most play.  Here Comes the Sun is so needed by people that it prevails as the most listened to above all others. 

I drive and think about my paintings.  I see Mateo’s face soaked by sunlight streaming through a large old window. Surrounded by plants, face comforted by two soft hands under the chin.  His eyes are closed, still and peaceful, safe even. The brightness covering his eyes and nose and the tops of his lips are a terrific hansa yellow.  

I can feel that hot soaking sun. It stops me, I gain energy and stillness from it. I crave hours sitting in the grass, eyes closed, letting that hot burning sun onto and into my body, scorching me a deep pink like a grapefruit until I just can’t bear it any more.  

LIGHT

They promised you heaven, but hear me, see it, it’s been here the whole time.  You’ve been here the whole time.  

It’s been here, 

                  Always.  

It isn’t easy to speak of the stars

Moon

Celestial things

It isn’t easy to comprehend 

Cosmos

Dark sky spots, 

Rich depth

Ultramarine

Violet

Magenta

I see it and I float.  I float off my feet and into my mind.  I have no grounding.  I have no place.  

I am one. 

I am a part of something.  I am the 

Violet

Magenta

Ultramarine 

LIGHT 

I struggle to find hues bright enough to express the radiant light of the humans I paint.  As vibrant and delicious as I can get them, it still isn’t enough. 

The lilac hour

The words hold more pigment than the sight of it 

Newman’s concept of the sublime: Something that gives one the feeling of being where one is, of the here and now, courageously confronting the human fate.  

Sublime is an absolute emotion, sublime as exaltation, boundlessness and divinity.  

I think I live in a state of the sublime, if it means I stare into human fate. It’s my constant and persisting existence. Sometimes, it allows me to live in gratitude, looking around me, savoring.  Sometimes, it creates a pit of dread in the depth of my chest.  I ache thinking of the possibility of death. This is not a selfish feeling, I dread everyone’s death.  Most of all, my children.  I think of how beautiful life is and how absolutely false each breath and step is that we take.  

I don’t want death.  I don’t want any more of it.  

The most brutal part is that I couldn’t be more out of control of this certainty.  

OYSTERS

He used to laugh as the piss clams would squirt up and get ya.

I researched piss clams today.  I haven’t read it all through but so far it’s very entertaining.  Also, what a delight to find my fathers name for them was fairly common New England speak.  Piss clams.  Otherwise known as steamers.  They are incredibly phallic, to the point that no one would want to be photographed unassuming with this in their palm.  They are also, apparently, delicious.  I can’t recall ever catching them to bring them home in the lot.  We would poke at them so they would spit their little defense juice at you. They would then sink down again into the silt. We didn’t feast on them.  

I can see Stony Brook harbor.  This remains the most clam friendly little marsh in my childhood memory.  I can imagine the clam rakes and the way my toes felt in the muck.  What a word, muck.  That mineral rich silky mud.  Filled with creatures.  Clams and crabs and little bugs.  And enough birds to eat them all.  To be honest, I don’t know if we ever clammed there.  My parents partied there.  I got many a bagel with an excessive amount of cream cheese there. But, did we clam? I don’t know.  

Friends of my parents had a beach house in Stony Brook.  Right on West Meadow Beach.  The sunsets were memorable.  The strip was a straight line of little houses, all the decks spilling out onto the best little private beach in the area.  So many of my childhood photos are from Rody and Donald’s house.  One of me on the floor with a vodka bottle in my hands.  I was probably a year old. One of me on the deck in someone’s captain hat, a stinker of a face.  My hair was sun streaked blonde and my bathing suit frilled at the shoulders. I visited again when I was a teenager.  I had my first drinks there.  Christy, Rody and Donald’s daughter, gave me some Malibu rum and pineapples and we walked up and down the strip of sandy pavement, wobbling and sugared up.  

Those houses are all gone now.  The town took them back. The tenants had a hundred year lease (or something like that) and it was up. The beach belongs to itself again. Sunsets for the birds to sing to.  

MEMORY – MEMENTO

(imaginary memory) 

As I put this little measuring wheel in my hand, I sense a small chill. Goosebumps roll over my skin.  It stays here now. It has a new home on my dresser.  A home not deserving of it. My mom really surprised me this time, bringing me so many little things when previously I was told there was nothing to give. 

But what did he use it for exactly? Was he just keeping it, like a little treasure, like he did with so many things he found admirable? Did he ever take it out, scroll it along a map with his silly glasses on, making measurements? The numbers look so tiny on it’s measuring face.  The little roller still works great.  

I can see him now, sitting at the table, a large map splayed out under his nose, the sound of the paper crinkling. Maybe he’s deciding on a new route down the coast.  

My father must have planned many drives in his life. He was familiar with corners of my neighborhood in Brooklyn I didn’t know about. I had definitely spent more time there, but he knew the shortcuts.  He knew where to find the magic.  

List of odd things my dad collected: 

An antique Native American bow and Arrow that was taller than me

A brass lamp I was told was worth hundreds

A perfect pencil sharpener 

Ancient cookbooks

Old bottles (various glass colors, I remember a lot of blue) 

Furniture.  All kinds of “to-be-restored-beautiful-wood” furniture. 

Wood planers – 

This includes all kinds of incredible woodworking tools. I thought these were just the most wonderful things when I was small. My fathers czech family came from bohemia as cabinetmakers, woodworkers, furniture makers.  They continued that when they arrived in NY in the late nineteenth century and my father himself was brilliant at restoring old furniture. He loved to save things and bring them back to their original glory.  He took on too many projects and didn’t finish many of them. 

I miss his grumpy face. I miss him unexpectedly showing up at my door at the crack of dawn. I miss the from-the-early-morning cold Handy Pantry coffee cup still sipped at 4pm in that little red truck.  

MY FATHER

James

I once had a dream.  It wasn’t long after he passed.  My father walked into a room, and the crowd of people parted, knowing he was meant for me.  They created an avenue and he slowly moved through it.  I remember standing up, making only a few steps happen but somehow reaching him. And there it was.  The warmest and most powerful embrace. My head reaching only his chest,  tucked under his chin.  He felt fuzzy.  I could feel it.  I can feel it.  This fuzzy sweater, knitting him and I together, his arms wrapped around me.  He held me, and I let go. Not of him, but of the pain. I know he said something to me, he said something comforting and quiet just to me. But I can’t remember it now. It’s gone like so many things about him.  But that feeling stays with me. I have that. I can still feel it when I want to, that warm fuzzy sweater and that safe place. 

My Father loved. 

fishing

my mom

drinking (in fairness he might have hated this too)

cooking.  My dad should have been a chef. 

his pets, especially Sylvester.  

Me

Flowers

At my first opening, I stood in the front hall of the gallery as the director spoke to the crowd.  I could see my dad crying in the very back of the room. 

Sun 

The sun, in all its splendor, 

that hot soaking sun. 

That sun, with dappled light

freckling my hand my face my neck 

That sun, pulling us near it, 

the fundamental ticking clock 

FLOWERS

The dandelions have started to arrive.  In the last week, both children (separately) have come to me, clutching hands around their burst of yellow petals, eyes bright staring at their treasure.  Both of my babies called that little yellow flower a daffodil. Both let me know that bees love yellow and that this flower will be crucial to their existence. Of course, they ignored the fact that the flower was no longer attached to its roots outside.  

When I corrected Rowan, she confused the name I gave it and the little flower will now forever be known to me as a lion dandy.  

SEA 

I have another memory.  

I am on a boat.  It might have been the last time we went fishing. I liked to sit on the bow of the boat and taste the salt in the air.  Daddy and Jr. were driving fast.  We had just passed through the Shinnecock Canal.  I didn’t catch anything that day.  I was now a college student.  I was hungover. I am pretty sure we came home with a bucket of lobsters that day, like so many other days. 

I told Marsha today that sometimes I cry when I run.  She said that sounded nice actually.  

Love 

Love spun into gold

Love 

Spins

The world

Into Gold 

Magnetic

Luster, shine

Tawny, Ruddy

Sensual

  Gold. 

The lilac hour

A frequently googled question: What determines the sky’s colors at sunset and sunrise? 

Scattering.  Molecules and small particles in the atmosphere change the direction of the light rays, causing them to scatter. The difference in the sun’s location, against the horizon in the case of sunrise and sunset, means more room or a longer path for the colors to separate.  The blue and the violet move and allow the other colors to reach your eyes, such as yellow and orange and of course, red.  

Here 

    Is home 

Where 

Home 

is

            home is there         where    over here  there 

There it 

               is           home     there

is         home 

Home

Is      

         Here 

                      I am 

        Home 

    Am 

Here 

I am 

Home 

I  

  Am

home.

WATERMELON SNOWFALL – Matthew Harris

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September 4th through October 16th, 2021 – Opening Reception Saturday, September 4th, 7-11pm.

On Saturday, September 4th, at 7pm, Leon will premiere new work from acclaimed local artist, Matthew Harris, for his second solo exhibition, Watermelon Snowfall. The exhibition will include new paintings and sculptures created throughout the past year. A favorite among other artists in the local community, Harris boldly explores painting techniques from the perspective of an artist who typically works in three dimensions. Unrestrained by the standard rules and techniques of more formally trained painters, Harris is able to breathe new life into the medium through his individualistic vision and playful explorations of composition through mark-making, layering, texture, rhythm, and in particular, his unique and unusual use of color.

Artist Statement:
We currently live within a plethora of immediate information, opinions, and entertainment. This stream of unfettered content is seductive and gives the illusion of easy answers to our problems. Sometimes I feel as if I am slowly and unconsciously being trained to turn to the digital landscape to try to understand my physical existence. While I am easily hypnotized by this endless source of novelty and drama, I desire to intentionally cultivate areas in my life that involve slow attention.
The studio is one place that forces this slow attention from me. I cannot google what color to use next or how to fix my current composition. The knowledge gained is from a physical lived experience that accumulates slowly and doesn’t immediately reveal itself. I have to sit with it, stare at it, make mistakes, and learn from it. The answers, if there is such a thing, often feel tangled, slippery, and elusive. To me this much better reflects my experience of the world than the carefully marketed and algorithmically controlled digital experience in which I frequently lose myself.
My hope is to make work that I do not immediately understand. I want to confuse, surprise and disorientate myself through my work. This can create somewhat of a dilemma when asked to explain it and to be honest, I don’t have the answers at the moment. I could tell you it’s about color and pattern, order and chaos, abstraction and figuration, but I’m not sure that would actually provide you with a greater personal experience of viewing it. I encourage you to stop reading this statement and return to the artwork. Let it reveal itself slowly and don’t try to name it too early. I’ll do the same and maybe in a few years we’ll both have a better idea of what it is.


Artist Bio:
Matthew Harris received his MFA at the University of Colorado Boulder (2011) and is currently the Head of Fine Arts at the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design in Denver, CO. When he’s not making art or teaching, he enjoys napping and reading books. The exterior of his house is painted grey, his dog won’t stop barking, his wife is amazingly supportive, and his two-year-old daughter enjoys being silly. Further details may be found on his website at http://www.matthewharris.net.

To read Gretchen Marie Schaefer’s essay click here

Below you can view Matthew’s conversation with Donald Fodness, which was originally broadcast via Zoom on Tuesday, October 12th.

ICONOCLASHGIFTSFELD – Angie Eng

or the ambiguity of image destruction in a poison field

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Exhibition on view through Friday, August 27th, 2021

photo credit: Amanda Tipton Photography

Artist Statement

I have this on-going side agenda to push creativity beyond the conventional art object and space as a strategy to surprise people into loving art. My first professional art exhibit was a sound piece that took place in an elevator at Art in General,  an alternative space for emerging artists in downtown New York City. Iconoclashgiftsfeld, or the ambiguity of image destruction in a poison field was originally conceived of as a street tourist kiosk to analyze the destruction of monuments and the power of the image. I took the position of an archeologist and hence dug up as many images on the internet regarding modern iconoclasm of the past thirty years. I then reproduced the images and video footage on tourist items (t-shirts, caps, mugs, postcards and key chains) at tourist prices. It’s not the most lucrative art sales model, but completes my commitment to disseminating new perspectives on our contemporary social climate with non-traditional art forms.  

Biography
Angie Eng was born in San Francisco, California and recently relocated from Paris, France to Boulder, Colorado to pursue a Ph.D. on Kosmorganic aesthetics in the intermedia arts program at CU Boulder. Prior to Paris she lived and worked in New York City for 15 years developing a professional art practice on expanded media and installation art. Although known for her experimental video performance and installation, she was trained as a painter at UC Santa Barbara. Light, color, pattern and gesture continue to inform her work that have manifested in many genres such as AV performance, video art, sound art, conceptual art, and new media. Earning her label as a ‘peripatetic artist’, this year she worked on a sound walk, an audiovisual mapping projection, an interactive sound poetry installation, a series of paintings highlighting 36 landmark civil rights cases,  a public art project of recycled materials in conjunction with Iconoclashgiftsfeld for Leon Gallery.  Her work has been presented worldwide in venues such as The Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, Lincoln Center, The Kitchen, New Museum of Contemporary Art, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Eyebeam Art and Technology Center, Roulette Intermedium , Bronx Museum, Artists Space, Anthology Film Archives, Le Cube, CNES, and Cité de la Musique. She has received numerous awards and commissions for her work from New Radio and Performing Arts, Harvestworks, Art In General, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, New York State Council on the Arts, Jerome Foundation, Alternative Museum, Experimental TV Center Finishing Funds,  Foundation for Contemporary Arts, and the Boulder Arts Commission. 

You can read an essay written by Jillian Blackwell here

Orders for merchandise can be placed by sending an email to: ifoundleon@gmail.com

Please specify if you would like:

Baseball Cap $34.99

Coffee Mug $19.99

T-shirt $49.99.

For T-shirts please indicate size: S, M, L, or XL.

Please specify which saying you would like printed:

  1. Buddha
  2. Columbus
  3. Franco
  4. Gaddafi
  5. Gandhi
  6. Lenin
  7. Leopold
  8. Rhodes
  9. Robert E Lee
  10. Saddam

entangled // embodied – Jullian Young

MFA Exhibition – One week only

Opening Reception – June 26th, 6 – 11pm.

On view through July 3rd.

Sunday June 27th – Noon – 5pm

Monday & Tuesday June 28th & 29th – by appointment only. To reserve and appointment send request to: julliandyoung@gmail.com

Wednesday – Friday, June 30th thru July 2nd – 10am – 6pm

Saturday July 3rd – Noon – 5pm

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Artist Statement:
entangled // embodied investigates the tangible relationships humans share with their immediate natural surroundings mitigated through the intangible lens of memory. The visuals throughout this series of works contemplate the nature of local versus global connections. In particular, the reflection of intimate interconnectedness is derived from the artist’s connection to the trees that once stood in front of her childhood home, the processing of grief when those trees contracted disease and were removed, and the larger global implications of mass deforestation, and how this destruction impacts our ability to breathe comfortably. The show utilizes digitally fabricated ceramics, projection mapped video art, site specific installation, 3D scanning and animation, and augmented reality.

Artist Bio:
Jullian Young is an artist based in Denver, Colorado where she has just completed her MFA in Emergent Digital Practices. She works with various tools including 3D modeling and digital fabrication, data visualization, interactive technologies, algorithmic processes, animation and techniques in video art. Jullian’s work engages with the critical dialogue surrounding networked systems, and our participation as a species with the environment at large. Her artwork seeks to make connections between ecosystems and organisms that often go unnoticed, and challenge the dynamics of care, control, and power in an interwoven network of creatures that ultimately necessitates balance.
Links:
www.jullianyoung.com
IG: @jullianyoung

Future Self Storage – Laura Shill

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May 8th through June 19th, 2021. Opening reception, Saturday, May 8th – 6:00 – 10:00 PM

Artist Statement –

The disembodied plaster, clay, and fiber figures in Laura Shill’s sculptural installation, Future Self Storage, reach, tumble, and spill throughout Leon Gallery, resisting the vessels that try to contain them while grasping at something perpetually beyond reach.  As an installation artist, Shill employs repetition of form and accumulation over time to create environments that immerse visitors and engage the sensorial experience of touch.  When these objects are not being activated by the public, they rest in storage.  This exhibition presents new iterations of the current (and future) contents of her storage and unpacks the motivation behind the act of keeping. 

Each new version these objects embody, affords them another chance to fulfill their ideal potential.  To keep them is to keep the hope alive that they will emerge from storage to one day become their fully realized selves, their purpose restored. 

Storage is a liminal space often marking a transition, objects held somewhere between remembering and forgetting. We keep the things that we cannot bear to confront and cannot bear to let go of, inexorably bound in aspiration and burden. We store our responsibility to the past and our ambitions for the future, keeping our objects in an unresolved state of waiting. 

Their condition parallels our own in this pandemic year of confinement and isolation.  As we emerge from a prolonged state of storage, what versions of ourselves will we find? 

Artist Bio –

Laura Shill is an artist based in Denver, CO.  Her work combines sculpture, installation, performance, and photography. Shill creates pronounced absences and addresses ideas of disclosure and concealment, agency and emotional risk, desire and discontent, often oscillating between humor and heartbreak. Her works explore the transformative potential of people and objects through early and experimental forms of image making that pair the sinister and beautiful.  Her sculptural and installation work borrows theatrical conventions to blur boundaries between public and private space to immerse participants. These works employ repetition to create environments that bring thousands of hours of invisible labor into material form. 

Shill has exhibited work nationally and internationally at an official satellite of the 57th Venice Biennale at the European Cultural Center, The Gallery of Contemporary Art, Colorado Springs, David B. Smith Gallery, Denver, Catherine Edelman Gallery, Chicago, and Durden and Ray, Los Angeles. She earned an MFA in Interdisciplinary Media Arts Practices from the University of Colorado, Boulder in 2012. Images from her Hidden Mother archive were included in the 2013 Photographers’ Gallery London exhibition, Home Truths, Photography and Motherhood, and were published in the catalog edited by Susan Bright. For her 2016 solo exhibition, Phantom Touch, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Shill developed and relied on a community-based equitable barter system for artistic labor and production to realize an ambitiously soft environment.

To read Jane Burke’s essay of Laura Shill’s exhibition click here

ORPHEUS – Scott McCormick

Scott McCormick -ORPHEUS

March 13th – April 24th, 2021

Book an appointment to view the exhibition here

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Photo credit: Amanda Tipton

Scott McCormick’s “Orpheus” is an orgy of mythology, dendrology, and geometry. The first piece that jumped out at me was an Esther Williams fever dream of bodies swimming in blackness. Each subsequent piece swims in meaning and technique. Handmade headdresses philander with painted backdrops, digital & analog photography, double exposure, and human models caked in clay. McCormick brings balance to chaos and finds structure in the organic.

Ryan Warner, public radio journalist, Denver, CO

Artist Statement –

“Orpheus” is the culmination of a year and a half of work from artist Scott McCormick. Mining the subject matter, compositional geometry, and visual aesthetic of 19th century French academic painters like Bouguereau, Cabanel, and Tissot, McCormick’s epic work defines an emerging and innovative photographic style. Utilizing both digital compositing and film photo techniques, combined with his own large, custom-built sets, expansive props, and headdresses, each image is a complex orchestration of divergent elements and techniques. The intricate composite images — sometimes utilizing over 600 photographs immixed together — achieve a sense of silent frenzy. The process of combining digital and film photography has allowed the artist to prospect a “prophecy-of-self” through his time spent learning.

In early stages of the work, McCormick immersed himself in the folklore of Greek, Slavic, and Mayan cultures. This sparked an exploration of the parallel between the art, as it was revealing itself, and the grandiose mythologies emblazoned on the world’s memories and creations. Throughout his process, the connection to these cultures illuminated itself wholly in the revelation that McCormick’s life as a musician, poet, and artist was reflective of the story of Orpheus. In, perhaps a divine sense of fate, each piece had a minimal predetermined direction at inception, and the connection (or purposeful disconnect) was often only discovered or understood after the photograph was finished.

Shedding the established traditions and procedures of his commercial work practice, McCormick limited the amount of preparatory sketching, and planned only the general idea of each photo, allowing each of the photographs to take on a separate life, unfolding in a through-composed storyline. The works in this exhibition explore ascension, disconnection, divergence, and a powerful sense of feeling for the audience all while thoroughly re-telling the story of Greek legend, Orpheus.

Artist Bio –

Scott McCormick was born in Waukegan, Illinois and started playing the piano at the age of 10. At age 13, he began a 21-year music career by playing gospel churches on the southside of Chicago. Since then, he’s performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, written/scored for ESPN and Disney, and led and performed in the internationally-touring band, Boulder Acoustic Society. He has taught music alongside Grammy, Tony, and Academy Award-winning artists at Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington in tandem with Julliard School of Music. However, in 2011, he drifted from performing music and began a new career — starting his company, McCormick Photos & Design.

Over the past 10 years, McCormick has photographed, designed, and directed over 350 album covers. Among the world-renowned artists he’s worked with are: String Cheese Incident, Railroad Earth, Mandolin Orange, Gregory Alan Isakov, Big Head Todd and The Monsters, and Infamous Stringdusters. Infamous Stringdusters’ “Laws Of Gravity” took home a Grammy in 2017, and the following year, Gregory Alan Isakov’s “Evening Machines” was nominated. In 2016, McCormick won IBMA’s “Best Graphic Designer” for Infamous Stringdusters’ album “Ladies and Gentlemen,” and was nominated again for the award the following year. He also developed branding for the Opera, “Qadar”, produced by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art. 

Scott can be found building sets, miniatures, expansive props, backdrops, and elaborate costumes to create a unique photographic vision from real elements. He works with startups and mid-level companies to define brand aesthetic and assists with marketing. His most recent Denver clients include Atomic Cowboy, Clinica Tepeyac, Swallow Hill Music, and Boost Counseling & Consulting. His photos and art have been seen in Rolling Stone, Vogue, The New Yorker, MTV, Vibe, and in Times Square. In 2020, he departed from music photography to pursue a career in fine art photography.