Monday, August 3, 2009

Allen Leepa Retrospective at Leepa-Rattner

I first met Allen Leepa in the late 1990s when he and his wife Isabelle dropped by my Dunedin art studio. Dressed casually and wearing his trademark suspenders, Mr. Leepa gave the appearance of a rumpled academician. I was not surprised to learn he had retired as art professor from Michigan State University.

For almost an hour, we talked about art, the life of an artist and my paintings. Many people who look at art speak in glowing terms about pieces they like and remain silent about the rest. Mr. Leepa studied each piece hanging in the room and even looked at works stacked in the back. All the while, he gave a running commentary of pieces he liked and why he liked them.

But more than that, he proceeded to talk about painting that, in his mind, were less successful and why they seemed unresolved. All throughout our discussion, Mr. Leepa asked questions that made me rethink why I painted a certain way.

Artists often paint themselves into corners, redoing the same tired images until they become stuck to the studio floor. We need to ask ourselves the questions Mr. Leepa asked – “Why did you put that blue color on the left?” “Why is that head floating in space?"

I knew when Allen Leepa left my studio that I had just met an extraordinary teacher.

ALLEN LEEPA (1919-2009) A Life In Paint at Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

Confession of a Clown
, (picured above) 1950, pastel and oil on canvas, courtesy Leepa-Rattner Museum of Art

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