Three years ago Leonard began the natural progression from her twenty-year practice as a landscape painter into the realm of florals. While this shift drastically changed the direction of her work, the mindset of creating a window into an all-encompassing natural world never left. She states, “I want to get at the experience of being in your body in a place. Rather than painting the tree in the yard, I want to paint what it feels like to stand in the yard and look at the tree.”
The works in “Unfold” develop through an intuitive process of layering transparent glazes, gestural lines, and emotive brushwork. Each layer plays a role in Leonard’s refined ritual of slowly breaking down the literal representation of her subject. As Claude Monet said, “In order to see, we must forget the name of the thing we’re looking at.” Dense moments of movement and lavish intricacies walk in fine line between abstraction and representation in works like “Cleome” and “Hydrangea.” Signature pastel hues generate a delicate balance of light and dark, transparent and opaque – unraveling endless rhythm and discovery. Leonard is fascinated with a flower’s ability to survive in the dark earth for much of the year, living out their short lives full of vibrancy and vulnerability. She says, “I’ve become intoxicated by the unapologetic beauty, blind resolve, and harrowing tenderness of flowers. This will to unfold towards the sun despite probable frost and harsh conditions is one of the many reasons I keep coming back to this subject. This is a practice I want to learn for myelf.”
Emily Leonard is a Nashville native. Her paintings are included in numerous private and public collections around the world, including those of the Tennessee State Museum, Swedish Hospital in Seattle, and UBS. Leonard has been published in dozens of magazines and catalogues including Garden and Gun, Southern Living and Studio Visit by Open Studios Press. The painting “I woke up and loved you” is featured in the art book “Speak for the Trees,” alongside such artists as David Hockney, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, and the Starn Brothers. In 2012, she was invited to participate in residency programs by the Alfred and Tratford Klots foundation in Brittany, France and the Jentel Foundation in Banner, WY.