2020 BFA THESIS SHOW
BOSTON UNIVERSITY
COLLEGE OF FINE ARTS


























 


LEO
FEININGER


@atws_leo


As a rather meticulous, orderly person, I have always been drawn to printmaking. I value the craft that goes into printing nearly as much as the imagery I create. I enjoy the long, often messy process that goes into printing an edition. There’s something special about the fact that the actual print doesn’t really exist at all until the very end of the process. Through making multiples, my work can reach a wider audience, and have a greater impact. To me, the distribution of a print is like the dissemination of an idea.

Everything in the world is relatively fleeting. Even interpersonal relationships are defined by many small moments distributed across a span of time. The world and the way we move around it is fluid, with an infinite quantity of stories ever interweaving, separating, and sometimes coming back together. Therein lies the beauty of change and transience. Change is disguised as it occurs by the many variables that come into and out of play in one’s life. While one tends to the distractions and responsibilities of life, seemingly invisible changes take place. One does not sit and watch a tree grow day after day. A year later, one returns to the tree and marvels at how much it has grown.

Change and transience are not negative things. There is a subtle beauty in the way in which things or people can leave traces of themselves in different manners, and in many different kinds of spaces. Media, such as music, books, and visual stimuli, leave impressions that are often felt years, even decades, later, in a way that cannot be explained in words. The way in which one particular song can conjure up, time after time, a particular image of a thing or place, familiar or not, is fascinating.

This phenomenon is closely linked to memory of lived experience, the key difference being that media as a trigger for memory can portray a false version of the past. The combination of actual memory and fragments of media that have lingered in one’s mind can lead to the creation of a distorted or unreal version of the past. But it is not only external media that exerts influence here. The internal process of recording and keeping memory is also at work. One does not remember every last lived experience, and sometimes insignificant moments are even favored, and overshadow what are objectively more monumental moments in one’s life. Why have I been unable to forget the momentary exchange of a smile with a random stranger on a quiet backstreet in San Francisco, or a particular encounter with an Io moth in my backyard? Or even the fact that for my entire living memory I’ve been inexplicably drawn to the image of pine trees against a deep blue sky on a landscape of rolling hills, not unlike a golf course?

As I’ve mentioned, these associations often work closely with media, particularly music. Countless songs bring to mind images of particular, often insignificant locations. Some of these associations arise simply because I once heard a given song in a given place, but there are many instances that lack easy explanations. This becomes more complicated when other media, primarily books and video games in my case, are accounted for. Oftentimes a particular song is linked to a game, book, and place, all at once.

Perhaps all this is obvious, and simply nothing more than the way memory works. But even then, as memory becomes distorted and exaggerated, it becomes more than just a record in one’s mind and can start to inform the way in which one conceptualizes or even interacts with a given space.

As one of two primary goals in my artistic practice, I aim to make sense of this intuitive interconnectedness of things. Many of my completed works draw inspiration directly from a particular song and the associations I may have with that song. In particular, the electronic duo Boards of Canada has had a strong influence on me creatively. The duo’s music is often disorienting and sinister, but it also has moments of serenity and beauty.

I strive for a feeling of timelessness with my own work. Generally, I believe that there is no truly “original” imagery, rather that all images are the result of complex interactions between innumerable visual influences. However, in the same way that intangible things come together in memory, these visual influences come together to create something that is ostensibly a new, distorted image of history. To the best of my ability, I want to create an original visual language with which I can depict my ideas.

One of the first artists to really captivate me was MC Escher. I have long been fascinated by his impossible spaces and use of illusion. Animals often appear in his work, and the places he creates are almost otherworldly, all the while with frequent nods to romanticism. More recently, I’ve been drawn to the work of Kyoko Imazu, who works primarily in etching and whose subject matter deals largely with real and imagined creatures. The work of Escher and Imazu has a whimsical, mysterious feeling that intrigues me. This leads me to the second facet of my practice.

I was fortunate to grow up in relatively close proximity to nature. I have long had a strong interest in plant life, animals, and the patterns and geometry which can be found throughout the natural world. Early on, I developed a reverence for small creatures, particularly reptiles and certain varieties of spiders. I was also fascinated by monkeys and other animals that came from seemingly distant lands. Recently I have become interested in referring back to the drawings I made as a young child by working deliberately in a somewhat childish, whimsical style, while maintaining a high level of attention to detail and composition. Representations of animals and landscapes in art can be found throughout the world, and are things that anyone can see and understand at least to some extent. The imagery is a nod to the past while the whimsical, almost cartoonesque style is something new. I hope to create work that almost anyone can see and with which they might feel a certain amount of familiarity.

I have become interested in imbuing my own work with a certain sense of mystery. By mystery, I mean the sense that there is a greater, unknown world that exists beyond what is depicted in my prints. To children, the world we inhabit feels so huge and full of mystery and wonder. Certainly to this day, but particularly in my childhood I was always excited to learn about the many different cultures and places around the world. Certain fantasy novels, particularly the Lord of the Rings trilogy, as well as games like the Donkey Kong Country series had a powerful effect on me and only further augmented this sense of vastness. The vivid world I’ve imagined while reading the Lord of the Rings, as well as the often surreal, exaggerated landscapes and imagery in certain video games have stayed with me and informed the way in which I construct my own compositions. The title “dreamland” which I have assigned to numerous prints is a reference to stereotypical video game nomenclature.

The more I am able to travel around the world, the more this sense of mystery gradually diminishes. This is one reason I like to depict mountains and mountain ranges. Mountains function as massive figures, creating the illusion of a vast, deep space, and generally dwarf other compositional elements. Mountains often divide one place from another. I like the idea that what lies on the other side of the mountains is unknown to what is visible on the side I have depicted, or vice versa. Mountains are also sacred spaces, far-removed from the land below. In their isolation, mountains offer a serene environment for meditation and esoteric thought, where one can reconnect with the spirituality of nature.

My world is ever-expanding. The cast of characters I have created in my work continues to grow as new members are added and narratives deepen, combining elements of fantasy with records of real world experiences and even subtle commentary on current events. The world depicted in my artwork exists in a liminal space between reality, real world media, and images born from my imagination. It is the simple product of interactions between innumerable influences, auditory, visual, and otherwise.

Young Skunk Cabbage in Early Spring, reductive woodcut, 13 x 16"

New Snow on a Mountainside, reductive woodcut, 13 x 16"

The Depths, aquatint and line etching, 15¾ x 5½“  

Spirit Race, aquatint and line etching, 10 x 18½“ 

Blustering Wind and the Sound of Chimes, lithograph, 15 x 11“