So What/Leslie Wayne

June 7, 2014 § 3 Comments

Okay, so I overreacted and was a ridiculous girl like the ones I can’t stand. We all have our moments. Moving forward.

Here’s my review of the Leslie Wayne:

My Thoughts on Leslie Wayne:

Last night, I attended a lecture and opening reception for Leslie Wayne’s exhibition “Mind the Gap” at UAB’s AEIVA, a brand new space created with three galleries, an intimate (and in my opinion, too small) lecture hall, state-of-the-art classrooms, and offices for the Department of Art and Art History faculty. While the lecture itself wasn’t terribly informative, I enjoyed hearing the artist speak “on the fly” about her work as she flashed through images of paintings over the last 30 years of her career. Pictures speak 1,000 words anyway, don’t they? I for one was thrilled by the chance to see so much of her work, though she only let us savor the slides for a few seconds each. 

Wayne is one an artist who I judged far too quickly, completely misunderstanding the substance of her work and assuming I knew what her paintings were without going in for a closer examination. Her works constantly bridge the gap between paintings and sculpture, tricking the eye into thinking paint is some other material while forcing the viewer to see paintings for what they are: PAINT. So often the viewer is tricked into seeing not the paint in front of them, but the illusion the artist has created. Some artists use impasto, of course, to reveal the painted surface and disrupt the illusion of the image, but Wayne pushes past this, creating no illusion, offering the viewer only paint to consume. 

As always, the downside of seeing slides or photographs of artwork is that the viewer is robbed of a sense of scale, wrongly assuming dimensions based on some kind of inner intuition about how large or small a piece should be depending on the amount of detail in it. Perhaps it was wishful thinking for me to assume these works were large, 32×42” or bigger, but the reality is in some ways better. Her paintings are quite small in size with most of the works in the exhibition coming in around 12×18”. She does have some later series with far larger works but alas, they were not in the show at UAB so I can only dream of dazzling they must be when seen in person. 

The small size of these works is a benefit, despite my desire that they be far larger. Were a viewer to take them off the wall and hold them (which I obviously cannot stress enough that you NOT do that), they would fit comfortably within his or her arms. The effect is striking, forcing viewers to really get close to the works, encouraging an intimate experience visually for once must properly examine them from less than a foot away. More importantly, in my opinion, this close proximity enhances the sculptural nature of the paintings, drawing a correlation between the art objects and our human bodies, impressing on the viewer that these paintings are alive in some way, animate, *breathing*. The impulse to touch them is so strong that each painting is guarded by a sign that reads “DO NOT TOUCH,” underscoring how tempting their soft wrinkles, bulges, and crevices are to the tactile sense of a human being. 

We want to caress them, pinch them, hold them, but they’re not solid sculptures that could sustain that intrusion; instead they are merely and completely paint, delicate and fragile as the oils continue to dry over a period of years. Unvarnished, they reveal the true texture of the paint, retaining the glossy areas where the linseed oil has not yet dried and the cracks where the paint has dried and split from the stress of holding itself together. I assume they are rather weighty objects despite their small size, the layers upon layers upon layers of oil paint, stripped away, twisted, and molded into three-dimensional sculptural forms no doubt requires a certain amount of strength to move. She is an artist who plays with the physical nature of painting, the act of destruction and creation, paint as sculpture/sculpture as paint, and the differences between size and scale. She is an artist who works almost solely within a process-oriented studio practice, though she constantly evaluates the intellectual component of her paintings, their relationship with the earth and landscapes, and their dialogue within the contemporary art world. 

In short, I recommend you see this exhibition. Try your hardest not to touch the paintings, though lord knows the temptation is as strong as the apple was for Adam (technically, it was a pear but apple is more in line with the current Christian tradition and the alliteration is pleasing).



§ 3 Responses to So What/Leslie Wayne

  • Leslie Wayne says:

    Ms. Hayes. Thank you for coming to my lecture and for your thoughtful review. I’m curious though. You say that the lecture was not terribly informative. What were you hoping to find out?

    • alexalhayes says:

      Thank you for coming to UAB! We’re so lucky to have an artist of your caliber exhibiting here in Birmingham. I really wanted to know about the following: the meaning of titles, your color palette, and your process. Your titles are all so specific (rather than “Untitled #”) but I didn’t feel like I understood where they came from and what their relationships were to the works of art. Your color palette changes dramatically over time (you started off with lovely earth tones and ended up with these intense, bold colors) and between different series — I would love to know more about how you identify with color and how you choose your palette per piece (ex. do you decide colors ahead of time or is it a totally organic process?). Lastly, I would have LOVED to know more about your process. I know you mentioned cutting, scraping, and molding paint, but I still don’t understand how you go from a blank panel to the stunning works you display. I even tried to find a video on youtube of you in your studio but was unsuccessful. I’m also curious about other technical things (though these are probably too unimportant to be mentioned in a lecture such as the one you gave at UAB) like how you store these works, how your studio is arranged, what you do with the paint you scrape off and save for later works, how you prefer viewers to see your work, and so on. I always want to know more!

      • Leslie Wayne says:

        Dear Alexa,

        Your questions are legitimate – and many! There’s only so much one can fit into a 45 minute lecture and leave room for questions at the end. I would have been happy to answer any of yours in person!

        My process is idiosyncratic and a bit complicated to describe, so I would suggest you look at the video on my website On the homepage at the bottom is a link titled Studio Interview for Halsey Institute for Contemporary Art, which takes place in my studio and shows my process. It may answer some other questions you have as well.

        As for my color choices, they are intuitive as I did not study color theory and have no prescribed methodology.

        And finally regarding the titles, they are inspired by the forms the work itself evokes once it’s done, or sometimes by things I’ve read, music I’ve listened to, other artists I’ve been looking at, or issues I’m concerned with, as in the series devoted to landscape and the environment. I think I spoke at length about the Paint/Rag title so I hope that was clear.

        Thank you again for coming to the lecture and for spending the time to express your thoughts about the work. Best of luck with your studies and future projects in the arts!


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