"Pieta (woman w child)"
Never-before-displayed works from the catalogue of local artist Leigh Brooklyn are featured in her new solo exhibition, "All of Me," at Tremont's Kaiser Gallery. Early works showing the evolution of her multidisciplinary practice and the development of her figurative style can be appreciated. The show’s opening reception will be held on Friday, Oct. 7 from 6-9 p.m. It runs through Nov. 6.
“The title "All of Me" is about showing where I came from and where I'm going,” said Leigh. “Tapping into the very beginning. What may seem like a new path to others is one I've been down before. Things are coming full circle, again and again, being remixed like a new hot soundtrack. I want it all out there.”
Featuring large-scale oil paintings and drawings, the exhibition highlights Leigh’s signature gloomy and sometimes dystopian surrealism while revealing her meticulousness and precision when it comes to the anatomy of her subjects. Studying scientific illustration has given her the skills and experience to use her knowledge of the human structure and apply it to her subjects while tapping into their distinct essence.
“When working, it's almost like I'm looking in a mirror where I will unintentionally mimic the facial expression of whoever I'm portraying,” Brooklyn explained. “There's this quiet conversation happening that's deep and real. I think that comes out in the work. Especially in the eyes. The smallest change can drastically impact the whole expression. It's just so cool.”
Originally from Elyria, Leigh attended Elyria High School, after which she spent a year in Columbus before moving to Cleveland Heights. There, she attended the Cleveland Institute of Art, majoring in Biomedical Illustration. After graduating, she moved around all over the country before coming back to Ohio.
“There were a lot of times when my work and materials would be boxed up for months and some places, like Vegas, where I had no access to my studio supplies for almost a year," Brooklyn said. “Because of all that there's a part of me that feels like I'm kind of just starting as of 2020.”
Some of her work, which has yet to be shown, goes all the way back to her high school years. Brooklyn won a multitude of awards as a young artist, including a gold medal in the best of show American Vision category from the National Scholastics Art and Writing Awards. She and her mother traveled to New York where she was exposed to the New York art world.
“My eyes opened up after that award and that trip,” said Brooklyn. “I came back and started making all these crazy drawings and entering them in the shows. These drawings are from that time, mostly my junior and senior year. Some won some big awards. Others were done shortly after graduation as I prepped for doing a solo show that never happened, so some were never shown.”
Brooklyn, with the help of her high school teacher, continued to enter competitions, win awards, travel and get more intimately engaged with the art world. In order to expand her horizons as a painter, she began reading art business books, and listening to audio books and artist talks. Brooklyn absorbed what she could from videos and studying artists and their practices.
Her latest series, titled 'The Women's Militia,’ consists of paintings, sculpture, street art, and some digital work. The concept was developed through the empowered women who continue to inspire her, and in response to a civilization where women seem consistently under siege physically, emotionally and psychologically. Through this series Brooklyn aims to empower and unite women.
"American Portrait (woman camo)"
“Lately women have essentially been under attack on the national and international level and we are fighting back,” said Brooklyn. “In Iran right now women are leading the protests, burning head scarves and hijabs, screaming "death to the dictator!" in the face of Iran's militarized soldiers. This is not just for women, this is for every group or individual that has ever been abused and controlled. It becomes a trauma response, either fight, flight, freeze or fawn. I started painting "Love" on grenades in reference to the term "love bombing." The grenades to me are an incredible symbol for how powerful this tiny little thing can become once it's triggered. That no matter how small you may feel at time, you have a lot of power within you. You just need to release it.”
In the piece “Pieta,” Brooklyn depicts a woman holding a child as the city smolders behind her. She has on military boots, and her dog tags dangle loosely around her neck. Her face is resolute, she is a survivor, she is a soldier. The realistic detail conveyed in the painting shows mastery of the medium. Its power has a lasting impact on the viewer. Expect big things from Brooklyn.
This exhibition should prove to showcase her early ambitions, display her more refined compositions and start conversations about our human cultural evolution. Brooklyn’s sharp eye, her carful observations, her laser focus on anatomical precision, all nestled into her dystopian backdrops enliven the exhibition with glimpses into Brooklyn origins, her current direction collectively showing us 'all of her.'
“I want people to see the evolution of where I came from, where I started and how that is now playing out in my work as well as where the work is headed,” said Brooklyn. “There's a lot of big things that I'm working out for the future that I'm so excited to share with everyone. I feel like I've lived multiple lives and all these skills from surrealism, digital scientific illustration and animation, photography, street art, painting, sculpture and welding — it's all going to come together in a unique and beautiful way.”
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