Leah Lewman Laird
Leah Lewman is an artist whose current work focuses on the visual relationship between a viewer and a landscape when an architectural window separates the two. Lewman has exhibited her work in spaces across the country, including the 2012 National Juried Exhibition at the Art Institute & Gallery in Salisbury, MD, featuring juror Ethan Karp of the OK Harris Gallery in New York; Landscape at Escape Velocity, a 2015 Exhibition at Fine Arts Complex 1101 in Tempe, AZ; and the 2016 Wet Paint MFA Biennial Exhibition at the Zhou B. Art Center in Chicago, IL. Lewman received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting in 2013 from Salisbury University in Salisbury, MD. In May 2017, she received an MFA in 2D Studio Art at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where she served for 3 years as Instructor of Record.
The relationship between landscape and architectural structure is a complex one. Humans created buildings to ultimately provide one basic function: shelter. The desert of the American southwest presents a unique situation in this regard. The architecture not only protects inhabitants from the harsh climate, in many cases it also opens up to the landscape by way of large, pane-less windows that bring the landscape in, while keeping the heat out. My work explores the tension created from this visual divide between man and nature. It reflects my recent experience of three years living in Arizona.
I use a combination of installation and 2D works to mimic, but also stretch and manipulate the relationship between a viewer and their surroundings. The focus is on the architectural structure of the window, situating the viewer apart from a natural “beyond.” By using layers of paint, collaged layers of paper, and forced visual perspective in the case of installations, I create a visual divide between the spectator and their subject. The painted landscape, a beautified and idyllic image of what we think nature is, lies just beyond our reach – visible but also obstructed and inaccessible. The intimate architectural space now creates a complex barrier from a much wider outside universe. Oriented within this space, the viewer is asked to evaluate their own relationship to the land and sky surrounding them beyond the walls. Through this work, I question whether we can truly consider ourselves a part of nature anymore.