I spend a good bit of time regularly crafting “Artist Statements” about my work, to explain things to curators when I am proposing my work for an exhibition. This is a painfully painstaking process, but I find it to be very valuable, since I don’t always know what things might mean while I am making them. So this step of reflecting on work using words, after the fact of the act, has become part of my artistic process. I also find it invaluable to have a studio open to the public, because this allows me to test how my work is coming across, and the feedback from people sometimes helps me to understand the work in words. For example, I hadn’t seen how the Celestial Bodies might be images of microscopic things until I showed some early pieces to visitors. Now this fact has become very important to my process of creating the pieces as well as thinking about what they might mean, especially how they relate to cosmology and fundamental forces in physics.
I would like to share here a version of a recent statement about my process.
Through the activities of collecting, assembling, layering, and morphing, Leda Black explores the interfaces between things, people, psychological forces, and nature’s patterns and rules. In these works of assemblage and photo-based digital images, the found-objects themselves have a generating potency in the process, as if they speak to the artist. The artist replies by creating a deliberately constructed arena where particular items engage with each other, the artist, the viewer, and the world. There is an essential openness to the work, and a purposeful place for accident, since meaning and amazement happens in the meeting between independent elements and minds. In a sense, each new encounter with a viewer creates a new meaning in the work, tying this process to the cultural engines of ritual and myth, while remaining open to new potential each time—for a wrench isn’t always just a tool and a round thing isn’t always just an eye.
Leda Black’s process might begin with: (1) an experiment; (2) the application of simple rules; or (3) an elaboration on an observation.
(1) An experiment: is it possible to create something that is outside of our mental categories? The Pseudomorphs are specimens of things that are animal, plant, and manufactured all at once, and so are none of these things. But in the process of creating and naming things a new category leaps into being so these specimens are no longer outside of our mental categories.
(2) A rule (from the Jewels series): if you put two things together because of a shared quality (color, shape…) you will find (by accident?) that a deeper message is passing between the objects, something that maybe can’t be expressed simply but is absorbed by being present with the two images. So, in a very real sense, two Buddhist monks really are two sea stars holding resolutely to a stone at low tide.
(3) An elaborated observation: when objects are represented with a sudden drop in focus, we are unsure of their scale—they could be massive or microscopic. The Celestial Bodies series joins an experiment (combining the three categories from example (1) above) with a rule (radially organized or round things) and the elaborated observation becomes a rumination on the vastness of space and our origin in exploding stars. As Mark Jenkins writes in the Washington Post about a small selection of this series, “Whether they’re glimpses of worlds too vast or too tiny for human apprehension, these ‘Celestial Bodies’ fascinate.”