We had the good fortune of connecting with Leah Martin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leah, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
For many years leading up to my discovery of art, I appreciated it, but I didn’t feel I belonged there. I watched the art world like a child with their faced pressed into the glass outside of a toy store – longing, but not having. “I’m creative, but not artistic”, I would say. Then in 2013, my doctor found a tumor in one of my kidneys and proclaimed it was most likely cancer. I sat in my doctor’s office questioning everything. If was going to leave this world, if this was the end – Was I leaving a positive mark behind? Was I proud of the person I was? Fulfilled? The resonating answer to all of these questions was, N-O!! I left that room altered forever. Over the next few months, I changed quite drastically in some ways and more subtly in others. I continued to evaluate my whole life from the outside looking in. It allowed me to examine my past and what I wanted my future to look like. I discovered what I was no longer willing to compromise. I was and continue to be so thankful for this time. A part of this process brought me to self-portraiture. I had always loved taking pictures, but I had never taken a step in front of the camera to express myself in this way. That was the beginning. The love affair. The metamorphosis. I stopped the naysaying of my artistic abilities and embraced them. It started like a tiny spark and as I waved it with trips to New York, collaborating with other artists, acting, painting, drawing, it grew into this inferno of drive and passion. That was my path to art. I have been fortunate to live two lives in one lifetime and I will never take that for granted. We all find a catalyst. Some of us find it earlier in life and some of us find it later. It isn’t always as dramatic as thinking that you might die and that is not what is important. In the end, what matters is what you do with your little spark. Do you suffocate it with convention and rules and expectations, or do you fan it until it ignites? I hope you do the latter. And if you think you can’t responsibly take a leap into art, that you must be a starving artist or you’ll be a sellout, you’re wrong. I am still working a “day job”. That job doesn’t inhibit my process as an artist and doesn’t take away from it. It facilitates it. It pays for my paint and camera equipment and allows me to travel. So, back to the question at hand, why did I pursue an artistic career? Because art is life to me. It is breath and passion and hope and it no longer feels like a choice.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My work has been and still is a process. I am still exploring and finding new mediums, new subject matter, and new expressions of myself. I try to create work that is personal or that is therapeutic to make. This keeps me feeling true to what I do, even if it doesn’t always seem cohesive. I have learned to release the expectations I put on myself based on the imaginary or real expectations others have of me. Legitimizing ourselves as artists is always a challenge. Do I need to make a lot of money to be a legitimate artist? Do I need to star in a studio film to be a real actor? Art is one of the only self-proclaimed career choices. Calling yourself an artist of any kind takes some guts! On top of that, by the way, here is my soul, please love it, please buy it. I continue to explore my past to find new ways to explore art. My most recent works combine childhood crafting with my geometric style. These pieces were recently featured at a folk art show for Calico Brooklyn.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
The iced coffee is amazing at Sunset Junction and when they have pie, it is a must. Nonaka Hill is an unsuspecting art experience with unique curating and location (if you don’t accidentally walk right past it). Wonderland is always a fun spot to hit for window shopping or scoring something neon and whitewashed. Getting outside and taking in some landscapes is also worthy of taking a day trip somewhere to get away from the hustle. Terroni is a delicious choice for dinner and if you laugh obnoxiously you may even get a glare from Laurence Fishburne, sorry Laurence!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My parents have always been supportive, but especially through the radical changes in my adulthood. My life is almost unrecognizable from five years ago. They both just roll with it. They love me, support me, brag about me, and help me any way they can. As far as artists go, I first met Victor Leon by chance in January 2017. He had messaged me about shooting together should I find myself in New York. A trip with a group of friends presented itself and Victor took an hour off work to shoot with me. It would be the first of so many shoots. He loved my work and helped me believe in myself. His signature editing style was inspiring. We established a wonderful friendship and often collaborated. I can always count on him to push me and give me honest critiques of my work.