We had the good fortune of connecting with Leslie Foster and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Leslie, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I feel like my journey into art has been a series of small decisions over a long period of time all guided by my need to find a medium and a language with which I could truly express the weirdness and beauty that kept colliding inside my brain. I honestly don’t know if I had a choice when I think about it. Once I stumbled onto my particular dialect of visual language (experimental film and installation art) I was hooked. I am able to embody ineffable emotions and ideas by creating little pocket universes that allow viewers to step into dream space while still awake. How could I resist that? So I had to keep pursuing this career because I struggled to imagine myself doing anything else.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
When I attempt to sum up my current art practice, I say that I’m exploring Black futurism and queer futurity through a lens of dream logic. Put another way, I’m trying to be part of a beautiful project to imagine better worlds and my unique approach to doing that is through the language of the beautifully weird and surreal. I really love creating multisensory spaces in which the films I’ve made can fully come alive, whether my films are flickering across the surfaces of candles I’ve hand-poured or suspended above a floor covered in moss, crushed cedar, and rosemary.
It took a really long time to get here! I took a few detours through the film industry, spent six years working as a janitor, juggled a few social media manager gigs, and just kept trying to make art I loved through it all. I wouldn’t have made it (and I mean that really seriously) without the various communities I’m part of. I guess that’s a lesson I continue to take away from my journey so far: if you can, find people who make your life better and whose lives you can also make better. I’d also say that it’s important to hold things lightly, that is, to not be too precious about your work, and be willing to experiment with everything. I’ve discovered some really amazing things through that process.
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?
I love wandering through LA and discovering its nooks. If I was taking a friend around LA sometime after the pandemic, there would definitely be a lot of eating and a lot of art! Smorgasburg is always a good place to start (shoutout to Todo Verde’s amazing plant-based Mexican cuisine and Cheezus and Big Mozz for satisfying all my cheese cravings). Grand Central Market is also a wonderful place to wander through, especially right before or after swinging by The Last Bookstore. I’ve happily spent a lot of money on Sticky Rice and Sarita’s Pupuseria. I spent 7 years of my childhood in Indonesia so a visit to Kasih to have food that’s a pretty amazing twist on my childhood memories would definitely be in order.
As far as art goes, I’m a really big fan of the Hammer Museum and I think Hauser + Wirth has consistently strong curation, so I’d want to make some long stops there. If the timing worked out, I would make sure to visit the Bendix building for their Saturday evening gallery openings. The California African American Museum is also a favorite spot of mine to visit, which is even better if the rose garden at Expo Park is in bloom. Residency in Inglewood and The Underground Museum would also absolutely be on my list.
I live pretty close to Griffth Park so if my guest was down for a good hike, a walk to the Observatory would end up in my plans as well. I’m an avowed public transit user and haven’t had a car for the 13 years I’ve lived in LA, but I would probably want to rent a car so we could spend some time wandering through the Angeles National Forest or drive through the Malibu canyons. Finally, I don’t know that any trip to LA is complete without a good wander through the Venice canals, they’ve definitely become one of my happy places!
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?
I am grateful to so many folks who have helped on this journey, but I specifically want to shout my sister, who has flown all the way from the east coast to help me with more than a few installations, and my partners over the years, who have been an incredible source of love, support, and inspiration. I’m really lucky to get to collaborate with amazing folks, like Scott Arany, Heather Dappolonia, Dennis Hill, Scott Fogg, Jess Knippel, Avery Holliday, Jade Phoenix, and Theo Brown who dreamed with me in big, ridiculous ways. I also want to give a special shoutout to my friend Cole M. James for always being down to plot with me and push me to keep doing more.
The tricky thing about this is that I’ve been really lucky to be surrounded by amazing community, so I could go on forever! I know I’ve forgotten people in this particular moment but it doesn’t change how grateful I am for them! One final shoutout to the team at the Level Ground Art Collective who put their energy and faith behind my work when I was first stumbling into my art practice. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.
Tanya Musgrave Tina June Malek