In 1991, I moved from New York City, population 8 million, to Aripeka, Florida, a small fishing village of 500 people on the Gulf of Mexico. My home and studio are surrounded by more than 14,00 acres of preserved coastal wilderness. I hear no traffic. Instead, I listen to the fish jump at night, while seeing stars in the water. All of this beauty has inspired and influenced me as an artist. Every day I’m engaged by its raw, primitive energy.
I'm a landscape painter, but "landscape" is a loosely applied word. As several critics have noted, what I end up with is hardly any commonplace landscape. Mary Ann Marger, former critic for the Tampa Bay Times, says that I create “scenes that seethe with haunting luminosity, as if permeated by spirits.”
Or as Joanne Milani of the Sarasota Herald said, “Aripeka resident Leslie Neumann is dedicated to preserving Florida’s wetlands, but the wetlands are scarcely recognizable in her color-infused paintings. Instead, they become places inhabited by sorcerers, where swamp grass erupts in flames that appear to have been started by supernatural forces.”
In the last couple of years, since we entered the “fake news” cycle of our country, I’ve been painting a new series called Transitions, in which we’re elevated above the horizon line with a bird’s eye view of the earth– and at the same time, we’re experiencing a bit of the celestial realm. The stormy nature of the clouds in this series warn of the perils we face, but the light gives us hope.
I paint with encaustic, which is hot bees wax. It’s a difficult medium to manage, and so I yield to the “happy accidents” that happen over and over. I’ve become adept at negotiating between control and chance.
As you view my work from across the room, the illusion of deep space transports you into my paintings. But what appears initially as a realistic type of scene when viewed from afar, quickly dissolves into abstraction as you approach the painting, thus offering both the dreamy quality of an imaginary scene from one vantage point, and the pure pleasure of color and texture from another vantage point.