EveningCreepsIn_webInterview with Leah Jay on the occasion of her solo exhibition Child-Site at KALEID during the month of Aprl 2013. Interview conducted by Donny Foely.
KALEID:
Does your work reflect your own personal dreams or dreams you’ve once had? If so, do you still have dreams so vivid and fun?

Leah:
Yes. Let me be clear, though: my dreams at night (the rapid eye movement sleep kind) are mostly random, or I simply don’t remember them. However, what I’m most interested in capturing as an artist are waking dreams, daydreams, and imagination. I have to make an effort to get into that headspace, but I can do it. And yes, when I’m there, that world has bolder lines, broader strokes – more energy and color. I think young children do this easily. They hallucinate in their “pretending” space all the time while awake. For example, kids can have imaginary friends that they establish in reality (i.e. reserving a chair for them) or play dolphins on the playground, where the other kids are dolphins and the play space is defined as water. As adults our minds work to keep us grounded and sane, but at the same time, we’re cut off from this early childhood access to our fundamental creativity, too. It’s pretty neat to purposefully allow myself to get back to this state of mind.

KALEID:
You use a lot of animals in your work. Is there a reason for that?

Leah:
Don’t get me wrong, I love people! A few years back I was doing some portraits and really loving those, and they are still in my portfolio. I love trees and plant life too. I think using animals in a piece is useful, to put something moving and living in there, that a person can identify with and have feelings for….so I’ll probably always do that. I’ve also been moving generally toward things being more primeval in my work. So everything’s pre-civilization, pre-history, no buildings, cars, etc. Just nature in its most raw form. I love imagining where my house sits today, what it looked like here 5000 years ago. Nothing but hills and forests, rocks, birds, and lizards….and hidden places nobody had ever seen. It’s a phase, though – man-made structures may be back on the menu eventually, but for now this is my happy place.

KALEID:
A lot of your pieces are very intricate and look like a lot of time and thought goes into them. What do you find most challenging about your process?

Leah:
Well, the details are not the most difficult part. If anything, the more I separate from my traditional art background and get in touch with the core of myself as an artist, the more details I need to put in there. For me, reality is fractal/iterative. The closer you look at something the more details it has, and the relative scale isn’t that important. All those years teachers told me to leave out unnecessary detail to create focus, but for me that’s just not how reality presents itself. The whole thing is detail, and it’s my job to point that out. We spend our lives way too focused; in doing so we have blinders on to all the cool little stuff that’s actually going on. I think the hardest part for me is starting, getting into that initial idea and planning stage, and convincing myself that what I’m about to do is going to be worth it. I also know I need to work faster and produce more work in a shorter period of time, but getting lost in details does take a lot of time, so that’s how projects usually go – slowly.

Leah Jay
KALEID:
Do you paint when you’re in that head space or do you wait till you come back?

Leah:
I wish I could say I could be in that creative place all the time, but it’s a come-and-go sort of thing. Sometimes, I’m in that mood but I have to do something else. It’s great when I’m in the zone, and I have an hour or two in front of me, and I can just go with it. If not, then I can always do art-related research on the computer, or prep for a class, or prime surfaces or something, so I stay productive.

KALEID:
I’m curious what you do when you’re not painting?

Leah:
I think I’m like a lot of other people, I fulfill many roles as mother-of-a-teenager, wife, daughter, taking care of the house, cooking, paying bills, etc. I also help my husband run another home business. I know that’s not a very exciting answer, but it’s the truth. There’s always something that needs to be done.

KALEID:
Out of all the pieces in your feature show, which one is your favorite and why?

Leah:
That is a tough question. Every piece is a different adventure to me, so I like them for different reasons. I think favorite is “Spirit of the Lake”. It’s a self-portrait, really, very personal. That muddy, bottom of the lake green is the same color I painted my studio. So, that water dragon is like me – comfortable deep in the water, but always looking up.

KALEID:
You were recently featured on the cover of the Metro, that must have been really exciting. Tell me about that.

Leah:Leah Jay
Yes, it was, and is, and will be – exciting! There was that initial discovery, which was a rush. My husband found out before I did, and during a normal “what do you want for dinner” phone call, he got to surprise me with the news, himself. That week, “Yesterday’s California” got in front of the Metro Silicon Valley’s readership of 70,000. Nothing much directly changed or happened to me….however, I think the Metro’s cover was responsible for a lot more foot traffic through Kaleid Gallery that First Friday. Some folks wanted to go look at the original hanging up there. I’m glad for everyone who did and who still does during the next couple of weeks before my feature ends at Kaleid. The best long term thing about that cover is just that a lot more people got to see the piece than would have otherwise. The work is my story about discovering California for the first time, but I hope it will help others remember their first views of this amazing landscape that we live in….and natives to realize how darned lucky they are.

KALEID:
Do you have any odd habits you do when working on a piece?

Leah:
Well, I talk to myself, and make faces. I wouldn’t know that except my husband told me so. According to him, I am an awful person to share a studio with. We now have two separate art studios. I must really be that odd!

KALEID:
What feelings do you wish people to leave with after viewing your show?

Leah:
I’m not really big on content. I mean, in my work there are stories behind things, and layers of meaning, sure, but I don’t think it’s necessary for art in general to require a whole lot of intellectual contortionism. I don’t need it to do anything more than just entertain and give a little positive lift of emotion. Just a flash of beauty, a jolt of color, a cheerful thing in your day. I can think of no better reasons to make art!

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