We had the good fortune of connecting with Jackie Leishman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jackie, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to be an artist. It was quite the opposite. I thought I would be running a big Fortune 500 company. But things began to shift for me in college as I started being exposed to more creative outlets. I took a photography class and was instantly hooked. I loved the darkroom. I then went to study abroad in Paris and met a lot of creatives and artists living there. It was a magical experience and planted the seed that the creative life is what I wanted to pursue. After returning from Paris, the next summer, I did a summer intensive photography program in Missoula, MT. I never really looked back after that. I finished my degree in International Business and then went on to receive a MFA in photography. I realized that it was a need of mine to express myself, to be curious about the world and I didn’t want to fit it in when I could or hope for that far distant someday when I could take a chance on myself. I didn’t have a lot of money and I also realized that there might not be a lot of money in being an artist, but I was driven. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art has evolved over time, largely due to photography going digital. I big part of what I loved about photography was the darkroom. I loved the chemistry and magic of it, so when darkrooms were closing and I knew I didn’t want to sit in front of a computer to make my creations, I started experimenting more with the photograph being less important in my art until one day it completely disappeared. I also had to change the way I work because I started having children and I didn’t want to be around toxic chemicals all the time. It took a long time to transition from photography to a more mixed media based practice, in part because I was having children during that time. I would work when they slept. As the kids have gotten older and I have more uninterrupted time, the work has evolved to what it is now, a mix of printmaking, drawing, painting and collage. I discovered that the photograph used to hold the narrative of the pieces and now my drawings do. My current work uses the landscape of the American West to investigate ideas about tension and duality. The pieces are formal studies delving into the paradox of holding two opposites. These ideas are embodied in the wilderness. The only constant in the wild is that it will change, that an element can and will be both violent and passive, opposites held in a balance. In a world that is increasingly contentious, the need to feel peace within the chaos becomes more desperate. Annie Dillard wrote, “You can heave your spirit into a mountain, and the mountain will keep it, folded, and not throw it back…” My pieces are my attempt to sift through all the stimulus and unrest. By drawing, painting and collaging, I seek to find an equivalent to the peace found in wild places.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Let’s assume this itinerary is pre or post pandemic. Day 1- Hike in the mountains by Mt. Baldy. Get amazing tapas from Viva Madrid in Claremont. Go to Rhino Records and discover new music. Day 2- Go to the Arts District. Spend time at Hauser Wirth, Night Gallery, Vielmetter, and Wilding Cran. Get ice cream from Salt and Straw and lunch from Gratitude cafe. Shop at Poketo and other fun shops. Day 3- Downtown LA- Go to the Broad Museum and MOCA. Eat at Grand Central Market and ride Angels Flight. Day 4- Go to the Griffith Observatory and do some hikes in Griffith Park. Possibly listen to live music at the Hollywood Bowl. Day 5- Westside LA. Hang at the Hammer museum and get an ice cream sandwich from Diddy Riese. Go listen to a lecture or music at Royce Hall at UCLA. Get food from Milo and Olive. Head to the beach by Ocean Park. And get an herbal chai latte from Urth Cafe while we are over there. Day 6- Venice. Eat at Gjelina. Shop at all the stores. Go to the beach. And if possible try to get to the Getty Museum.
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?
Absolutely. It took a village. A big shout out to my high school art teacher, Mr. Hollander, who let me come in during my lunch time to make art and hide from everyone at school who was mad at me for breaking up with my boyfriend. A big thank you to my college photography teacher, Cheryl Harrison, who saw something in me and encouraged me to keep pursuing art. Thank you to my teacher and mentor from my MFA, Lon Clark, whose voice I still hear in my head. He saw that photography was not going to be enough for me and encouraged me to take other art classes, like papermaking and metalshop. His views on how to see and to create visual space are still some of my favorite thoughts about art. And to Elizabeth Gilbert, her book, Big Magic. Her writings about creativity and how to live as a creative are a continual source of inspiration.