1. Who are you and what do you do, and what is your background?
My name is Leisa Rich. I describe myself as an experimentalist, although I was formally trained in the fiber arts — I began as a weaver in 1975— and continue to incorporate fibers processes and materials in my work, particularly free motion machine stitching, something I began doing in 1971 when my Mom taught me to use a sewing machine to darn and I used it to draw a dog instead. One year ago I purchased a 3D printer and am doing art work incorporating biodegradable plastics, bamboo, coffee and other interesting filaments, and just this week I got my second 3D printer, so I can really up the output and experimentation using this fascinating technology. I was born and raised in Canada, but went to Interlochen Arts Academy (now Interlochen Center for the Arts) for 10th through 12th grade, originally as a pianist and dancer, but switched to art early on. I graduated from there in ’78 as an art major. I was accepted into RISD, Parsons, etc. but due to the higher cost of paying U.S. tuition using Canadian funds at a time of a 40% exchange rate, went back to Canada to continue my art education. However, after attending one semester at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, I opted to return to the states fall of ‘79, ending up at The University of Michigan School of Visual Art, now the Stamps School of Art & Design. I received my BFA from there in ’82 and returned to Canada, where I owned a small art gallery, married an American, became a designer for an international clothing company in Toronto, had one daughter, got a Bachelor of Education in Art in ’93, sold everything and traveled around the world with my husband and daughter for a year, ran a wearable art design company for many years, had another daughter, and taught Drama for four years at a high school in Vancouver, British Columbia, until my husband’s job took us to Kauai, Hawaii in ’98.
Surrounded by Leisa Rich
Materials: Thread, plastic, fabric, recorder, vintage lace, vintage stand
Technique: Free motion machine embroidered- 3,500 ears! sewn, constructed.
It was there that friend and painter Sally French encouraged me to return to my non-functional art roots. A move to Dallas led me to attend The University of North Texas, graduating with an MFA degree in fibers in ’07. I moved to Atlanta that year. Since I have been in Atlanta I was a Teaching Artist at The High Museum for 2 years, ran the after school art program at The Galloway School for 6 years, have taught classes at Chastain Arts Center and Binders, taught 7 years of Callanwolde summer art camp/adult classes, run private classes and workshops in my studio, was on the roster as a SCAD professor (right when the economy tanked- I was never able to actually teach and they bump you off the list after 3 years! Darn!) and I travel to teach at arts centers around the U.S. My focus for the last year has been on developing my art career after I became an empty-nester! I do conceptual art, and sculptural art-to-wear once in a while. I write occasionally for art magazines and have also written locally for Burnaway and ArtsATL. I recently curated my first art exhibition, Invisible:visAble, featuring 16 international and local artists whose art is informed by their invisible disabilities. That was a project near and dear to my heart, as I am completely deaf in one ear and partially deaf in the other. I also recently published my first children’s book, a five year labor of love, that is made up of 26 dioramas and 26 3D type pages, in tongue twister format, for children (but all ages are seeming to love it!) to work on their speech, and it is about traveling and living different places and enjoying doing fun things and having experiences no matter where you are. I also sell my art on clothes at Print All Over Me, and recycled sweater stuffed animals at Atlanta MADE and Vintage ATL and my art at Signature Gallery. I work very hard and am extremely prolific, but am downsizing my diversity as I age and face some physical limitations, exacerbated by recently having a very bad slip and fall and car wreck. Therefore, I am streamlining my career, focusing going forward on my art.
2. What’s integral to your art and or art career?
Materials explorations intrigue me and are often the catalyst for realizing conceptual directions. Lifelong medical challenges I have faced and overcome have led to a fascination with the organic, and growing up in Canada — where I spent much of my childhood alone in, or on, lakes, walking through verdant woods, in thick snow, and summers spent going to camp, communing with the water, land and wind — have inspired me to create a manufactured nature that make up a Utopian world in which to lose oneself. I am still developing “an art career” and am still not quite sure what that is for me. Keeping an open mind, learning, constantly trying new things and growing, is so crucial to me.
3. What themes do you pursue and what medium do you use?
Creating environments that invite viewers in, and art they can actually interact with, is of huge importance to me, as is creating art or curating exhibitions that encourage human connection. I enjoy a yin yang approach: a push/pull, entice/repel, positive/negative dichotomy, emulating the complexity of life’s opposing polarities. Nothing is sacred medium-wise…I will use whatever techniques and materials are suitable to get a concept across. That can mean vintage, recycled anything, plastics, wood, paint, fibers, and more and the techniques of 3D printing, sewing, printmaking, painting, construction, etc. It is all fodder to bring an idea to fruition. I think a use of mixed media was fostered when I went to U of M and disliked the fibers professor, which led me to explore classes in photography, woodworking, sculpture and other mediums instead. My BFA exhibition featured woven strips of colored Xerox explorations.
|Knowledge Overcomes Ignorance As Sunlight DarknessArt work by Leisa Rich|
Materials: Fosshape, paper, fabric, thread, acrylic
Technique: Free motion machine embroidery, sewn and constructed
Unfortunately, I am hyper sensitive to most things, so I get very angry at bad human behavior. Especially the use and abuse of animals for human consumption, that one is my biggest pet peeve and a cantankerous one to have in this meat-centric world! Social media has brought too much war, intolerance and fear too closely into our lives and damaged our hearts but on the flip side, it has also brought so many good things into my own life: places to stay/new friends when I travel to teach, wonderful, talented individuals who care deeply to be inspired by, new ways of thinking, and alternative ideas that help me expand both as an artist and as an individual.…connection. Regarding art: I get super upset at exclusivity, which I see as the practice of favoring someone(s) for who they are or who they know as opposed to for their abilities and talent and integrity. I get angry when I am taken advantage of. I get angry when people don’t follow through on promises or commitments. I am happiest when I am alone and making art. I am at peace when I am with my kids and grandkids. I adore my husband. He is my best, best friend and has evolved over the years to be my biggest champion and moral and financial supporter. I am happy when I secretly do things for social good.
5. Who and what inspire you in your work and or in your life in general?
To list who inspires me would fill a room! I have great admiration and art-lust for so many talented people!!!! Art-wise- I have never wavered from my endless admiration for Tara Donovan, adore Do Ho Suh, love Ernesto Neto, am amazed by friend and fellow Canadian Jennifer Angus’s art and the way it has blossomed over the last few years- so happy for her! I worship Iris Van Herpen, whose exhibit is presently up and is a DO-NOT-MISS at The High Museum, and am enamored of many more not- quite-as-famous artists. I love art that uses inconsequential things and turns them into consequential, art that involves viewers, art that envelops, art that creates new realities, art that makes me think deeply, and art that makes a difference. I don’t like pretty pictures that match sofas. I am inspired by the vegan movement, having been a vegetarian of every type for 28 years now, settling on vegan at home and vegetarian out, so I have been following John Robbins for 28 years. Food inspires me, I love trying new ways of cooking. Cooking is a great stress-buster at the end of a long day. I love Obama’s sense of fun and humor he has employed during his presidency and am truly scared for what the next election will bring, adore my home country Canada’s inclusive and positive approach to humanity, but most of all- I admire nature. It endlessly provides me with the joy that humans do not.
6. What superpower would you want?
Healthy longevity. I consider that a superpower. To be able to keep going with health and create art and food for umpteen more years would be so amazing. Since we are on the cusp of downloading our consciousness into post-human form, I am hoping to be able to accomplish that. My husband and I will be first in line to become robots. I don’t know why everyone is so skeptical and fearful of this phase of evolution we are IN. We need to pull our heads out of the sand and be pro-active.
7. What is your favorite artists and or other person?
|sTriangulation (detail) by Leisa Rich|
31" X 36" X 36" X 1
Materials: PLA, thread, resin, graphite
Technique: 3D printing, drawing, free motion machine embroidery
I think I answered that above….but hey! Throw the Dalai Lama in there. Love his sense of humor!
8. What advice would you give to other artists?
I used to think I had advice to give but as I age, I realize how little I really know.
9. Contact details if any?
Review on invisible:visAble
Children’s book website