BILL LEECH

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Bio

I was born in the small town of Oskaloosa, Kansas. It was located in a more populated area of the state and the town of Lawrence was nearby. Kansas City was 40 miles to the east. There were no art classes in school which was good for me because I drew or painted whatever I wanted without having to worry if it was "good" or not. My parents were very supportive of my artistic pursuits. In high school I enrolled in drawing classes at the Kansas City Art Institute where I later went to college.

I was drawn to figurative and representational painting. In the summer between my junior and senior year I won a scholarship to the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. There I was exposed to many different points of view about making art. It was a difficult time for me after college because I was working through the many disparate influences. I continued to paint landscapes but I was confused about moving away from an optical representation towards something else.

I started coming into my own somewhere in my 40's. It took that long. Of course looking back at my work I can see my sense of composition and color through all of it but it took time to sort things out. I was pleased when my work started speaking to other people through a more evolved state. The Barbara Gillman gallery took me on in the mid 90's. She understood what I was doing and sold my work successfully. I also started showing in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, Provincetown and Kansas City. Since then I have also shown at The Hunterdon Museum in Clinton, NJ; The Trenton State Museum, NJ; Art in General, NY; The Montclair Museum, NJ; Ben Shahn Gallery at William Patterson College, NJ and Alan Stone Gallery, NYC. My work is included in the collections of many very supportive collectors: Nicholas Lehman, Judith Shuleveitz, Grahm Gund, Jack Nicholson, Joel Becker, Kitty Hawks, Yossi Friedman, Fred and Marlene Levinson, Steven Harris and Lucien Reese Roberts, to mention only a few.

I am opting out of giving my views about or philosophy on art. This seems all too often to lead to misrepresentations and distortions. I don't know why I am so caught up in this pursuit of art. There is not much financial gain in it. It is a bit like walking forward partially blindfolded, with only the slightest view of what lies ahead. I never know where the work will take me but it is an overpowering urge-this painting and making marks.

I remember an artist here in our town, Bernarda Bryson, who in her last days when she was in failing health would slowly walk around town with her assistant carrying a long pointer. Every so often she would stop and start drawing in the dirt next to the road. Bernarda never went out for a walk without that pointer.

 

Prints

Several years ago I became interested in Photoshop. I found that many of the pictures, (photos from newspapers, magazines, books, etc.,) I had been saving over the years could be easily scanned into Photoshop where I could then play around with them in new ways. It was a bit like making the traditional collages I had made years ago. Eventually they began to take the form of landscapes with various images functioning like actors on a stage. Later I started working with a large format printer using transparent papers like Mylar, rice paper and tracing paper. I was attracted to the luminosity and transparency of these papers and they opened new doors for me. Soon I began to paint thin washes of ink or acrylic on the surfaces, which I then printed over and got exciting and unexpected results.

Painting

Over the past few years I have started using stencils in my paintings. I like the immediacy of working in this manner because of the way the paint feels pushing through the stencil. It is always a surprise when I peel the stencil away. Stencils lend the emblematic or symbolic style to the imagery I am looking for. They are also good for creating patterns as in its earlier use for printing textiles. Many times my paintings get sanded down or peeled through many layers to get to what I want. Sometimes this brings new life to it and other times just ends up a mess. I am in summing up a "labor-intensive", process-oriented kind of painter who likes to work with a measure of the unexpected.

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