Currents/Undercurrents

Leisa Rich’s art dichotomies
I am attracted to creating works that have a push/pull, Yin Yang, enticing/repulsing, tense dichotomy, using materials that attract/repel, and employing strong concepts. These ideas are often realized in other-worldly environments that people can actually walk amongst; through touchable works of play that invite them to be my co-creators, and in 3D printed systems that encourage communal symphonies of sound. 
 
Artists are conduits through which the currents and undercurrents of society are reflected and expressed. Life is good and bad and lovely and messy. Recent political and social events of the day have sucked me deeper and deeper into a quagmire of raw emotion that is affecting how I see my art, my role in society as an artist, making me mull over how to creatively express these strong feelings, and what I should be making in order to make a positive impact. Should I make charged art that spits in the face of viewers in order to make them pay attention to the obvious issues and challenges of the day -- as many artists and exhibitions are doing right now -- or should I create a saccharine world in which to whisk viewers away from the horrors, if only for a brief moment in time? 
 
Since I am being very vocal in my social media and personal life about the current politics and challenges of the day, I am getting out what I need to express in that forum. So, I chose the path less followed by my socially-conscientious, art-maker peers who are doing specific art that is about specific topics reflecting contemporary politics and culture. I have been making fantastical worlds of loveliness, inhabited by nature and devoid of humans, in order to visually transport the viewer into a kind of nature/animal Where’s Waldo. I want to subtly remind viewers of the beauty, humor, and sweetness of the natural world. I want to catch their attention, bring them closer, see their faces light up as they find the little treasures hidden within! Transporting someone for even a few brief moments from the on-going angst of living in the world is a gift I give to others that also makes me feel great.
 
In order to realize this new direction, I was thinking about what surface I needed to work on. It had to have an unreal, hyper-reality feel to it. A trip to New York to the garment district yielded just what I wanted: commercially printed fabrics with cabbage roses in sugar plum fairy colors. I took the fabric back to my studio and began manipulating it using dyes, heat transfers from my original photos, acrylic paints, and free motion machine embroidery – a method of “painting” with common sewing thread on a sewing machine – and mounting it on a panel board frame in order to have it read as a painting. Just like life today, my new work is a yin yang….viewers will see it as one thing (oh look at that painting!) yet not quite comprehend the surface (what are those things sticking out from it?) so will get drawn in for a closer look, and therefore drawn into my world… a world of fantastical animals with no humans anywhere around to muck it up. 
 
For more information visit www.monaleisa.com.
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