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Entanglements Detail

Entanglements: Arlington Arts Center detail ink on hand cut paper, sewing pins, acrylic paint 2016

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About Leslie

Baltimore City

Leslie Shellow's picture
​Leslie Shellow is a Baltimore based artist who grew up in the Washington DC area. Her work consists of ink drawing on panel and paper, oil painting on panel, bookmaking, printmaking and cut paper installation.  Pulling her imagery from observations of nature, both in the visible world and through microscopes, Leslie addresses natural processes such as growth, decay and regeneration. Mold, lichen, corral, cells, viruses and bacteria are among the many natural elements that influence her work.... more

THE SUBSTANCE OF MATTER: Vis Arts Gibbs Street Gallery 2018

THE SUBSTANCE OF MATTER

Careful observation is at the core of my practice. An appreciation for the complexities of the natural world drives my desire to work slowly and methodically, meditatively building one small element on top of another. The deliberate process of meticulously drawing and cutting everything by hand allows for a more intimate examination of the materials, which in turn draws me closer to the subject. The methodical pouring of thin layers of paint and the waiting for it to dry requires great patience and the opportunity for reflection. Once the observational drawings are complete, I then stop looking and start responding to the essence of my experience. How did it feel to be in the presence of the hot springs in Yellowstone? Not just how did it look, but how did it feel? This is where the more imaginative elements of the drawing come into play.

The Substance of Matter is a series of works that resulted from my observations of three elements in nature: Water, Air and Rocks. “Rocks” is a result of a winter residency in Wyoming in 2018. “Water” is derived from observations of sea grass, as well as, the mineral pools in Yellowstone National Park. “Air” is a response to a flock of chimney swifts that migrate every year to my neighborhood. All of these elements in nature behave and respond to their surroundings in different ways, yet they all have the same planet in common and are all interconnected.

This first Portfolio is about Air and Water:

AIR

Birds represent the opposite of stillness. Birds and air are inextricably bound. Air is ethereal and illusive and can literally slip through your fingers. While humans only dream of being able to fly, birds have harnessed the power of air to defy gravity and travel unimaginable distances. Every year around late September, a flock of chimney swifts stop over in Baltimore during their fall migration south. At the end of my street stands an old bookbinding factory with an enormous abandoned chimney. Each night, at dusk, thousands of chimney swifts gather near the factory to engage in a swirling whirlpool of motion before diving head first into the chimney for a good night’s sleep. This installation depicts the spiraling motion of the birds as they prepare for their dive. I have always been mesmerized by their ability to plunge one at a time into the chimney at top speed without ever crashing into one another.

The birds are composed of Japanese wood veneer paper. They are formed by burning and laser cutting. Each bird is dipped in melted wax and attached to the wall with an entomological pin. As the birds get closer to their destination their shape morphs into an abstract form. The flow of the birds becomes a wind tunnel. The painted wall represents what I imagine is happening to the air as a result of the many bodies careening through space.

WATER

Of course, we all know that everything is made of water, or at least formed by water, but do we really examine the infinite ways that water presents itself? Whether in a wave in the ocean or in our bodies, water is moving all the time. Water is shaping the land, shaping the rocks, shaping the clouds. Water is reflecting color, illuminating minerals, and transforming things that lay beneath it. “Mineral Pool” came from my observations of the reflecting colors in the hot springs at Yellowstone in February. The pure beauty of these pools is awe-inspiring. There are no other words to describe it.

  • Stillness in Motion

    Acrylic ink on hand cut Reeve BFK, video installation, 48" x 90" 2018 This video installation depicts a small section of beach on the Caribbean ocean where sea grass is gently caressed back and forth by the waves as they come into shore. I am interested in the vulnerability of the sea grass and how it allows the water to determine its direction. It does not resist. It is at the mercy of the water, as is everything.
  • Instinctive Navigation

    Burned and laser cut paper, wax, entomological pins, acrylic paint 16 feet x 15 feet x 3 inches 2018 At the end of my street stands an old bookbinding factory with an enormous abandoned chimney. Each night, at dusk, thousands of chimney swifts gather near the factory to engage in a swirling whirlpool of motion before diving head first into the chimney for a good night’s sleep. This installation depicts the spiraling motion of the birds as they prepare for their dive.
  • Instinctive Navigation Detail 1

    Burned and laser cut paper, wax, entomological pins, acrylic paint 16 feet x 15 feet x 3 inches 2018
  • Instinctive Navigation Detail 2

    Burned and laser cut paper, wax, entomological pins, acrylic paint 16 feet x 15 feet x 3 inches 2018
  • Instinctive Navigation Detail 3

    Burned and laser cut paper, wax, entomological pins, acrylic paint 16 feet x 15 feet x 3 inches 2018
  • Mineral Pool

    Acrylic ink, charcoal, paint pen, on hand cut Yupo and Reeves BFK papers, entomological pins 54” x 50” x 3” 2018 This piece was made in response to a trip to Yellowstone National Park in February 2018. While observing the Mammoth Falls mineral pools, I was mesmerized by the way the water moved across the mineral deposits and how the colors of the minerals were illuminated by the glassy surface of the water. This piece is partly made from observation and partly made from my imagination.

ROCK PORTRAITS: 2018

ROCKS

In February 2018, I spent 4 weeks at The Jentel Artist Residency tucked away on a 1,000 acre cattle ranch near Sheridan, Wyoming.

As a person who is terrified of the cold, Winter in Wyoming was a bit daunting. Regardless of the temperature, which dipped down to minus 15 some mornings, I spent every day outside exploring the environment. In my first week, I took a walk along the road. Listening to the crunching of the snow beneath my feet. For a moment, I stopped to take in the vastness of the rolling snow covered hills against the backdrop of the Bighorn Mountains. What I experienced next was something completely new to my ears. It was complete and utter silence. I felt a ringing in my ears that was almost painful. Unnerved, I resumed the walk to break up the silence. I stopped again to see if what I had heard was truly real. I finally let go and allowed my ears to sink into the silence and absorb the absolute stillness of the air.

What in the world was I going to do in the studio? My work was typically about movement and fluidity, water, wind and growth. This place was so still I could not see a blade of grass moving or hear a breeze blow through the trees. Where was the life?

It was not until my second week that I realized the life in this ice covered, muted world was in the rocks. On my long walks up into the foot hills, I discovered these creatures that had lived in this land for millions, if not billions, of years. They were green and yellow, red and blue and peeked out from beneath the snow as if to say, “You can cover me with a blanket, but I will always find a way to the sun”. They basked in the warmth as the snow melted around their peaks and valleys and alone, away from civilization; I began to see them as alive.

I spent hours outside drawing the rocks, sitting on the rocks, photographing the rocks and climbing to the highest rocks. Most of the rocks I encountered were igneous rocks formed through the cooling and hardening of molten lava from volcanic eruptions of millions of year ago. The Red rocks, called Scoria, had deep rich red colors charred by the spontaneous ignition of coal underground. From oceans and glaciers to dinosaurs and volcanoes, this state encompasses the entire geological history of the earth. I began to understand the love of the rocks and possibly the love of the coal. As I thought about this further, I wondered back to the first people who came to know the physical properties of this combustible rock that provided fire and energy and the budding relationship between man and his surrounding geological landscape.

The drawings that came out of these explorations began as spontaneous brush and ink drawings of the jagged red and green lichen covered raised rock parts protruding out from the blankets of snow. The deep crevices inside the rocks filled with snow, while the raised areas popped out like stop signs in my path.

The drawings started out calm and quiet like my experience in Wyoming and evolved and transformed to incorporate the more chaotic and frenetic life to which I returned home.

ROCK PORTRAITS: 2018 Continued

In February 2018, I spent 4 weeks at The Jentel Artist Residency tucked away on a 1,000 acre cattle ranch near Sheridan, Wyoming.

As a person who is terrified of the cold, Winter in Wyoming was a bit daunting. Regardless of the temperature, which dipped down to minus 15 some mornings, I spent every day outside exploring the environment. In my first week, I took a walk along the road. Listening to the crunching of the snow beneath my feet. For a moment, I stopped to take in the vastness of the rolling snow covered hills against the backdrop of the Bighorn Mountains. What I experienced next was something completely new to my ears. It was complete and utter silence. I felt a ringing in my ears that was almost painful. Unnerved, I resumed the walk to break up the silence. I stopped again to see if what I had heard was truly real. I finally let go and allowed my ears to sink into the silence and absorb the absolute stillness of the air.

What in the world was I going to do in the studio? My work was typically about movement and fluidity, water, wind and growth. This place was so still I could not see a blade of grass moving or hear a breeze blow through the trees. Where was the life?

It was not until my second week that I realized the life in this ice covered, muted world was in the rocks. On my long walks up into the foot hills, I discovered these creatures that had lived in this land for millions, if not billions, of years. They were green and yellow, red and blue and peeked out from beneath the snow as if to say, “You can cover me with a blanket, but I will always find a way to the sun”. They basked in the warmth as the snow melted around their peaks and valleys and alone, away from civilization; I began to see them as alive.

I spent hours outside drawing the rocks, sitting on the rocks, photographing the rocks and climbing to the highest rocks. Most of the rocks I encountered were igneous rocks formed through the cooling and hardening of molten lava from volcanic eruptions of millions of year ago. The Red rocks, called Scoria, had deep rich red colors charred by the spontaneous ignition of coal underground. From oceans and glaciers to dinosaurs and volcanoes, this state encompasses the entire geological history of the earth. I began to understand the love of the rocks and possibly the love of the coal. As I thought about this further, I wondered back to the first people who came to know the physical properties of this combustible rock that provided fire and energy and the budding relationship between man and his surrounding geological landscape.

The drawings that came out of these explorations began as spontaneous brush and ink drawings of the jagged red and green lichen covered raised rock parts protruding out from the blankets of snow. The deep crevices inside the rocks filled with snow, while the raised areas popped out like stop signs in my path.

The drawings started out calm and quiet like my experience in Wyoming and evolved and transformed to incorporate the more chaotic and frenetic life to which I returned home.

ENTANGLEMENTS: Loyola University 2016, Arlington Arts Center 2016, Sondheim Semi Finalist Exhibition 2015

DESCRIPTION FOR ENTANGLEMENTS, CAUSE AND EFFECT AND SUBTLE DISTURBANCE

Much of my free time is spent walking in the woods, along seashores and riverbeds looking intimately at fallen objects, looking up at the sky, looking down at growing and dying organisms and trying to understand the essential tendencies of nature. Water, wind, clouds, rocks, moss, algae, insects, birds. Each of these has a pattern in life that is driven by different motivations, but each of these also lives within an ecosystem that inextricably binds them together. The way a flock of a thousand chimney swifts dive into a chimney one at a time never bumping into one another but moving at the speed of a thousand race cars. The way that the sun rays beam through a billowing black cloud formation just in time to cast a yellow light on the reddest Japanese Maple in the whole neighborhood. The way a powerful wind storm can churn up the waves in Lake Huron so much that is looks like the ocean. These are the things that influence my work. Within each of these observations is the essence of Nature.

The natural world can be simultaneously beautiful and destructive. Although humans have developed technologies and medicines to overcome the powers of nature, we are often reminded of its omniscient force when we are faced with natural disasters or incurable disease. For me, nature is a friendly presence, but I am also wary of its ability to surprise us with unpredictable behaviors. I honor its strength by never assuming that I know too much and by keeping my sense of individual power in check.

I am baffled by the way nature disintegrates, destroys, rejuvenates and restores itself in spite of human interference. I am interested in the rhythm of life that beats inside living organisms, as well as the revolving cycle of decay and growth that occurs in the world as a whole.

I feel that this work underscores the opposing forces in Nature: Magnetism vs. repulsion; contraction vs. expansion; growth vs. decay; and beauty vs. ugliness. The combination of these polarities is functioning internally and externally in Nature simultaneously. Though these terms would tend to suggest both positive and negative forces working at odds within Nature, it is important to withhold judgment when considering the framework in which these forces function. Whether a process is benign or malignant is almost irrelevant because each process operates under a basic presumption: It is just doing what it's been programmed to do. Every organism, whether it is nourishing or damaging (to humans), ends up going through this process of decay as well. You see it in everything. The only reason we judge it as good or bad is in the context of whether it hurts or helps us. This is a reflection of what I feel is happening in nature

PROCESS

When I sit down in the studio to create this work, I don't have a grand plan of how it is going to turn out. I allow my response to visual stimuli navigate me through the creation of multiple elements that will eventually go into the installation. I tend to be keenly in tune with my surroundings, which can be both a benefit and a curse. I say curse because I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the expansive visual stimuli within the world. But this is what drives my desire to work slowly and methodically, meditatively building one small element on top of another. I set before me a task that is seemingly impossible to complete as I collect, cut, paste, and draw everything by hand. However, this time-consuming, arduous process forces me to spread the task out over time and gives me a chance to truly examine the materials and the subject to their fullest capacity. By focusing at smaller details, I am able to concentrate on subject matter that is easier to digest.

The making of the elements is a very controlled process (I am compensating for the fact that I have no control over Nature). The only elements I can control are my detailed drawings and cut paper. While the task of making the objects takes months and sometimes years to complete, the installation itself is a fluid, intuitive process that is conceived on the spot and completed within a week. As I approach the gallery, there is no preconception of how the work will take shape. The landscape seems to grow of its own volition and often echoes what goes on in nature, both inside and outside our bodies.

MATERIALS

I use a lot of recycled materials: Phone books, wax, toilet paper rolls, old drawings, found paper, dirt. Though I am not making a political statement on conservation, my consideration of materials is a personal choice and is reflective of my desire not to leave a heavy footprint on the earth with my art; I want my art to add awareness without adding clutter.

Moreover, I feel that it is important to use materials that have a long process, or history, behind them. That is, I consider the materials and their origins and the processes by which they become transformed into objects used in art. Basically, I am considering two separate but integral levels; there is the actual object and from where it came and then there is the transformation of the object into something new.

INTENTION

I believe if the work is successful it should compel the viewer to recognize himself/herself on a more cellular level, like recognizing what we are within our bodies. Think of a mirror as a microscope: Instead of seeing a face or any external features, you see the internal make-up of the person. The subconscious may then begin to recognize that we are all made up of the same elements as every other living organism on earth.

I also want the viewer to notice things they might normally disregard or overlook and to be reminded of the invisible world that exists beneath the surface of our awareness.

I encourage the audience to come into the space and be enveloped by it and allow themselves to respond to it. Do not feel that you have to step back from it and maintain a safe distance. I invite you to get close to the materials, to smell them, to view them from different angles, going as far as to lay on the floor and look up at the components from your back! It is important that you interact with the piece.

Therefore, this is not a static piece of artwork. It is a piece that continues to grow in my studio and actually changes as it travels from gallery to gallery; it is evolving and developing as it goes from one place to the next. I don’t consider the components as finished works of art. Instead, I consider them as works in progress.

LARGE CUT PAPER DRAWINGS 2015- 2016

LARGE CUT PAPER DRAWINGS 2015-16
In response to the linear flat quality of the larger scale installations, these drawings are an attempt to focus more on depth and space within each drawing. While the large scale installations such as Subtle Disturbance and Cause and Effect sought to reconfigure the space they inhabited, these smaller drawings invite the viewer to step inside the atmosphere created by layered ink on paper.

SMALL CUT PAPER DRAWINGS 2015 - 2016

SMALL CUT PAPER DRAWINGS 2015-16
I see these drawings as small installations. They behave in much the same way as the large scale installations by occupying the space in a three dimensional way, but their small scale makes them look more like specimens.
These drawings are not preconceived. I first create a variety of drawings on paper and then cut them out. Later, I arrange the drawings in formations that work together and attach them to the surface with sewing pins.

CAUSE AND EFFECT: Sylber Art Gallery Goucher College 2012

SEE DESCRIPTION FOR ENTANGLEMENTS

SUBTLE DISTURBANCE: King Street Gallery Montgomery College 2011

SEE DESCRIPTION FOR ENTANGLEMENTS

HANDMADE ARTISTS BOOKS 2010-2016

These pop-up books are made from hand cut photo polymer etchings on paper and assembled by hand. The photos weretaken from my own explorations in nature.

  • Book 3 detail

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, pva glue
  • Book 3

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, pva glue
  • Book 2 detail

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, pva glue
  • Book 2 detail

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, pva glue
  • Book 2

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, pva glue
  • Book 1 detail

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, pva glue
  • Book 1

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, pva glue
  • Book 6

    Hand cut drawings assembled into artists book, book board, pva glue, various papers and mixed media
  • Book 4

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, pva glue
  • Book 4

    photo emulsion etchings on paper cut with xacto knife, book board, paint pen, pva glue

PEN AND INK AND GRAPHITE DRAWINGS 2009-2016

Some of these are straight observational drawings and some are my interpretations of observations in nature. The drawings from my imagination are done without looking at any objects but simply derived from the memory of what I have seen.

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Leslie's Curated Collection

This artist has not yet created a curated collection.