Artist of the Week

Leslie Baum

August 22, 2011

Leslie Baum is a painter living in Chicago, IL.  She received her BA from the University of Vermont and studied at the Glasgow School of Art.  Leslie recently had a solo exhibition at Devening Projects + Editions.

If you had to explain your work to a stranger, what would you say?  I make paintings, sometimes on paper, sometimes on canvas. Either way, the work is grounded in paint’s materiality and rummages through its history. I’d also say that it’s animated by my own fallibility.

What materials do you use in your work and what is your process like? I am pretty old school. I use oil paint on canvas. I also work a lot on paper with watercolor and gouache. I like to rework an image, painting it multiple times; each new version is based on the prior iteration. Lately, I have been cutting up the works on paper, sometimes leaving them as fragments and other times collaging them into new compositions.

What kinds of things are influencing your work right now? Anasazi pottery shards, the Book of Esther, Wiener Werkstaette textiles, and crappy printouts of post-war American painting.

What are some recent, upcoming or current projects you are working on? I am starting two collaborations. Collaborating is a new thing for me and super exciting. My pal and local renaissance man Frederick Wells and I are working on a stop motion animation. We’re using a beast of an old copy stand and some fancy software to animate my watercolor fragments. I am also working on a collaboration with the Los Angeles painter Portia Hein. This is a mail project, where we each work on the same watercolors/collages and send them back and forth, adding and subtracting as we go.

How has living in Chicago affected your art practice? Chicago is my kind of town. I like the pace of life here. Having time to think, be with friends and work in the studio adds up to me making better paintings. Being a little on the periphery also has it’s advantages, not quite like a monk in the monastery, but living in Chicago gives me the space to be less impacted by ever shifting trends and to stay focused on my own investigations.

What was the last exhibition you saw that stuck out to you? Most recently, Alexander McQueen at the Met. Bill O’Brien at the Renaissance Society. But the stickiest exhibition of the last few years was the Charles Burchfield show at the Hammer curated by Robert Gober.

How did your interest in art begin? I grew up in a household that was infused with art. My parents were both amateur makers, my mom a painter and ceramist, my dad a photographer. My mom was also a docent at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. When I was a kid she would bring me along on her shifts. I would spend hours exploring on my
own. The whole museum felt like my private play world.

What are you really excited about right now? Lobster rolls, hot springs, sitting still for ten minutes a day, and Jung’s red book.

If you hadn’t become an artist, what do you think you’d be doing? Bird watching.

Top 3 favorite or most visited websites and why? Two Coats of Paint, I really appreciate the solid writing and the focus on painters/painting. The Sartorialist, because fashion is my Achilles heel. The Met’s online collection for my daily fix of everything from ancient Minoan painting to Korean ceramics.