Leslie Neumann, Artist's Statement 2018

After 68 years on the planet, I have a lot of stories, and I have lots of experiences. Some of my past doesn’t even feel like me. But one thing has always been true. My family was brilliant, liberated, and creative, and they instilled in me these dual primary objectives: follow your dreams and do good in the world.

Follow your dreams? I make art because I love to paint. I make THIS kind of art because I’m awed by the beauty and the raw power of nature.

Oftentimes, I paint nature from the “kayak point of view,” up close, nose to nose with the wetlands. These paintings are full of vibrant colors and lush textures. Occasionally, I paint nature from a flying bird’s point of view, when I float above it all in the clouds, but I’m still within view of the earth. And once in a while, the journey is deep into the cosmos where’s there’s no attachment to land, and I feel free from time and gravity.

My medium is encaustic – or hot wax – which is an unpredictable and seductive material. It supplies luminosity to my work, and intriguing surfaces, along with “happy accidents.”

As to the other primary objective, do good in the world: I am a citizen activist, focused mostly on land conservation along the Gulf coast area of Florida. I belong to a small, but mighty local land trust that works to protect environmentally sensitive land by placing it into public ownership. We have a notable record of success, so much so, that if you look at maps of Google Earth on the Gulf in west central Florida, you can see the swath of “green” that shows our influence.

Some artists are activists in their art – using their art as a form of protest, to point out injustices or society’s ills. I’m an activist in my day-to- day life, not in my art. I leave the studio to speak on behalf of land conservation to people who have the power and the purse strings: county commissioners, state legislators and other government agencies like DEP, Army Corps of Engineers, or the Water Management District.

But when I paint, it’s a different story. As Amanda Cooper, the Curator of Exhibitions at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, said to me, “I think this is what you were meant to do…make beautiful paintings that underscore the importance of the natural environment. Your happiness and contentment are contagious through your art work. That’s your role…the happy activist.”

The Happy Activist — Essay About Leslie Neumann by Amanda Cooper

Leslie's Inspiration
In 1991, I moved from New York City, population 8 million, to Aripeka, a small fishing village of 500 people on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida. My home and studio are surrounded by more than 14,000 acres of coastal wilderness. I hear no traffic. Instead, I listen to the fish jump at night, while seeing stars reflected in the water. All of this beauty has inspired and influenced me as an artist. Every day I’m engaged by the raw, primitive energy of the wetlands, as well as the vast cosmic night sky.