My studio is a 900 sq. ft space on the fifth floor of Buffalo’s TriMain Center. Built in 1917 as a Ford Model-T factory, the TriMain, like the city itself, has gone through economic upheavals. Now considered a ‘mixed-use business center,’ this huge hulk of a building rises at 2495 Main Street and dominates the landscape around it. Main Street has historically been the dividing line between the decaying Eastside and the redeveloped Westside neighborhoods of Buffalo. The TriMain attracts a diverse population from both sides of the city and gives me the opportunity to meet and work with them. At the same time, I can close my doors and retreat into my own quiet, creative space.
The surrounding neighborhoods are an extension of my studio. As I walk out of the building, I find treasure close by. Abandoned toys, old photographs, hunks of rusty metal thrown out to the curb, pieces of wood encrusted with layer upon layer of paint – a riot of intense textures. It’s startling and intriguing to see what others have left behind. The leftovers from this post-industrial city have become my raw material. Exploring and photographing abandoned houses and factories, collecting and combining pieces into assemblage have become steps in my process. Sanding surfaces lets me reveal layers of time. Painting portraits and framing them with old wood is another part of my method. I don’t think I would have found such meaning and direction for my work if not for my TriMain studio.
- From the new book “Creative Spaces, The Western New York Artist Studio Project”
by Richard W. Christian and Steve H. Siegel
SIGNING SEASONPosted on January 6, 2018
The two months leading up to the holidays are prime time for book fairs and book signings. This year I was honored to be included in many events. From the KIDS EXPO at the Buffalo Convention Center, to INDIE AUTHOR DAY at the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library to the first LE3 EVENT at Barnes & Noble and several more. Each one is an opportunity to meet other authors, talk shop and make new friends. Each event is totally unique with different levels of event planning. Best of all, I got to meet people who actually buy my books and kids who read them. Thank you to everyone who stopped to say hi and a special thanks to the people who bought Buffalo Snow as a present to send out to children who don’t get to see snow. Some destinations fans told me about this year were Australia, Florida, Scotland, and California.
KEEPING SECRETSPosted on December 7, 2017
Yesterday Time magazine announced it's "Person of the Year 2017 - The Silence Breakers." For me, the recognition of women who refused to be shamed and silenced is a liberating and encouraging moment. I truly believe that the world cannot be saved without women rising up and speaking truth to power.
In 2007, I completed this 'domestic' self-portrait in pastel. It is actually based on a dream of my mother who suffered much abuse in her life and kept her silence. Her greatest secret was that her own mother, suffering from post-partum depression, had been committed to an asylum. That was back in the day when a husband could get rid of a difficult wife and never have her set free.
The painting became part of the Ovenden Contemporary 'SELF' exhibition in Cambridgeshire, England.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING IN THE TIME OF TRUMPPosted on December 1, 2017
"INCIVILITY: A VISUAL RESPONSE"
Opening December 1st at El Museo Gallery is a group show of challenging art in support of the International Institute of Buffalo for their efforts to aid Buffalo Refugees. The show is up until December 9th with a closing reception and call for winter clothing donations. El Museo is at 91 Allen Street, Buffalo.
My entry is a large mixed media drawing of figures in a borderland setting. The composition grew out of my feelings on the plight of women and girls around the world.
The president’s negative stance on immigrants has caused distress for many. One vulnerable group affected by the ban that hasn’t gotten as much attention as others is the victims of human trafficking. Human trafficking is essentially a form of modern slavery, in which people are coerced, lured or kidnapped into unpaid or underpaid labor (including, but not limited to, sex work). It is estimated that some 50,000 women and girls are brought into the U.S. each year.
In 2000, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act was designed to combat human trafficking, as well as to extend a helping hand to victims in the U.S. Under these laws, if you can prove that you’re a victim of human trafficking, you can be entitled to a number of benefits, including a visa to stay in the U.S., not only for yourself, but also potentially for your spouse and children. So if you’re a foreign-born trafficking victim who has escaped your situation, you can work to prosecute your traffickers in U.S. courts, thereby preventing them from victimizing other people.
Now under Trump’s executive order, trafficking victims are fearful of being considered criminals rather than victims when they reach out for help. One of the most effective tools that traffickers use to maintain control over someone and make them fearful of seeking help–besides violence–is the threat of the legal system, of law enforcement, or the threat of deportation back to the country they fear. Trump has created a climate where people in trafficking situations are even more powerless.
All are welcome to tonight's opening reception from 7 - 9 pm. All feedback is welcome!
NO BIGGER THAN A PIE BOXPosted on July 9, 2017
On Wednesday July 13, ArtReach will host their fundraiser “no bigger than a pie box” – small works (less than 9” square) small enough to fit into a pie box. ArtReach is a group of Buffalo ‘like-minded’ women, Karen Eckert, Maria Pabico LaRotonda, Beth Smith and Emily Tucker, who have banded together in support of our common humanity and our democracy. This silent auction will benefit Pride Center of WNY, Planned Parenthood and the YWCA, groups at risk of losing funding in this political climate.
I have submitted 3 pieces to the event – all from my “endangered creatures” series. Each is a 6”x 6” portrait in spray paint and acrylic on canvas. On the side panel is a different butterfly at risk of extinction. I wonder how many species these children will see go extinct as the EPA is destroyed.
From left to right are:
Karner Blue (Plebejus melissa samuelis)
Frosted Elfin (Callophrys irus)
Dotted Skipper (Hesperia attalus)
The silent auction runs from 5:30 – 7:30 at 500 Seneca Street in Buffalo, NY. Pre-sale tickets to the event are $20 for individual tickets and $30 per pair through July 10. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20 a piece or online. On behalf of ArtReach, thank you for your support!
FATHER’S DAYPosted on June 17, 2017
Today I am remembering my father, Richard MacLean. Born of an immigrant mother, he was a child of the depression. He grew up strong in the CC Camps and fought in the Pacific in World War II. After the war he returned to Boston, married Marjory Foss and had two kids. He worked installing burglar alarms all around Boston until retirement. Richard kept the same job and same wife and retired a happy and loyal man. In his retirement years, he enjoyed recycling old tools. We would go to garage sales with him, looking for junk that he could turn into treasure. He taught me to respect what’s been left behind or thrown away and his values have certainly influenced my artwork.
Here is Dad in the cellar looking over his “collection”.
A few years back I did a portrait of him, entitled “Who Will Build the City Up Each Time?” I used spray paint and acrylic on canvas and then framed it in recycled wood. The letters and numbers reference his initials and social security number. As a soldier and a worker, Richard was often seen as just a 'number.' The piece was in the “The Artists Among Us” exhibit at the Burchfield Penney in 2012. Dad got to see himself in a museum – a highlight for both of us! Dad passed away in January 2015. I miss and honor him today.
CELEBRATING THE 200TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE ERIE CANALPosted on June 5, 2017
One of the events in celebration of this milestone is a special art exhibit – LIFE ON THE CANAL THEN BY ARTISTS NOW, opening at the Erie Canal Museum. Curator Virginia Creighton has organized artwork by 17 contemporary artists and I am honored to be included. The opening will be on Wednesday, June 7 from 5pm to 7pm. The Erie Canal Museum is located at 318 Erie Boulevard East in Syracuse and is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm and 10am to 3pm on Sundays. The show will run through July 31 and then moves to the Schenectady Historical Society from Fall 2017 through Spring 2018.
My piece, Madonna of the Canal, is an oil painting on canvas, 60” x 40”. I based it on the tragic true story of the Harris Family. The cruel tale was first reported in the New York Tribune of 1850.
In October 1850, William, Caroline, and their toddler daughter struggled to escape from slavery by traveling on the Erie Canal. Born in slavery in South Carolina, William Harris moved to Philadelphia and married Caroline about 1843. The Fugitive Slave Act threatened their lives as free people, so they left Philadelphia for New York City. There they purchased tickets for Rochester, where they intended to take a lake ship to Canada. In Albany, their tickets were stolen and destroyed by people who forced them to purchase tickets again. Once they were on the canal boat, the crew (including Captain Harwell Webster and crew members Silas H. Cowell and Jeremiah Cluney) cruelly tormented the Harris family. They awakened William that night and told him that his master was aboard and that he would be returned to slavery. After three days of “threats and brutal conduct,” Caroline jumped overboard, taking their daughter with her. Passengers rescued Caroline, but their daughter drowned, and the boat did not stop to save her. Threatened with death, William cut his own throat and lay for hours while the crew played cards nearby. Finally allowed to leave the boat, William Harris walked along the canal, following his wife who was still on board, for twenty miles until he fainted. Rescued by Captain Ogden, another canal boat captain, William was taken to abolitionist Dr. Hiram Hoyt in Syracuse, who treated his wounds. Rev. Lisle, African American minister from Syracuse, found Caroline Harris west of Syracuse, still on board the canal boat. The crew were arrested in Rochester and returned to Syracuse, where they were jailed and then fined. William and Caroline Harris eventually found their way to Canada.
The Harris family received national attention. On October 26, 1850, the New York Tribune called this “one of the grossest and most inhuman outrages that has ever come to our notice.” The crew was “human fiends,” and this “outrageous affair” illustrated the worst effects of the “bill of abominations.”
MOTHERS' DAYPosted on May 14, 2017
Three years ago I found an entire album of old family photographs thrown out with the trash near Fillmore Avenue. Another lucky discovery was a stack of old door panels at Buffalo ReUse. These materials pushed me into an entire series of collages – discarded ancestors combined with recent photos of buildings around the east side of Buffalo. The wood from the door panels had its own story to tell through layers of paint down to the original surface. Putting all the elements together expressed the long passage of time.
Here’s one of my favorite mother/daughter photos from the series. I enjoy reading into it through my own history. The little girl is distracted and not quite cooperating but Mom will make sure she stands still!
Our memories of our mothers can combine such a huge range of emotions and experiences. Thank you to all past, present and future mothers!
THE SECRET LIFE OF CITY CROWS at (716)GAL-LERYPosted on May 10, 2017
Down in the Larkinville neighborhood of Buffalo, NY, is the very popular Hydraulic Hearth Restaurant & Brewery. And inside the Hydraulic is Buffalo’s smallest art space, (716)GAL-LERY.
The (716)GAL-LERY is actually a 1950’s wooden phone booth re-purposed into a contemporary art gallery. Exhibitions include the use of a vintage pay phone, which adds an audio component to the show. Old meets new technology as the payphone is equipped with an usb port so Gallery visitors may charge their cell phones. Right beside the phone booth is The Gallery “Gift Shop,” a sticker machine filled with artist-designed stickers and tattoos. 50 cents buys a portfolio of small art. The Gallery “Education Department” houses artist-designed coloring and activity pages for young and young-at-heart patrons.
For my turn in this unique space, I am filling the walls with 9’’x12’’ oil paintings of city crows. Each bird has his own personality and preferred place to hang out. When you enter the booth and pick up the phone receiver, you can join the crow conversation! (The crow sound track was created by my son-in-law, Ala’ Diab, who is a game designer in Chicago.)
The show will be on view from May 10th through September 4th, 2017. Hydraulic Hearth Restaurant & Brewery is at 716 Swan Street, Buffalo NY. Kitchen Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 4:00 pm to 10 pm and the bar is open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays.
OPENING OF CODAPosted on April 13, 2017
At the opening of CODA, Studio Hart on Friday, April 7th.
It was billed as a "finale among friends" since gallery owner, Barbara Hart, plans to end her 10-year run at Studio Hart and move on to new creative projects. Such a treat to work with Barbara, David Buck, Bob Collignon and Carol Case Siracuse. My contribution to the show was a series of nine spray paint and acrylic portraits framed with recycled wood. Opening night was very successful with a great crowd and great conversation. Artist, Julian Montague, captured me in front of my work. Feels strange to be on the other side of the camera. Thank you Julian, and thanks to all the people who came out to share CODA.
Visit my Facebook page (Elizabeth Leader) for lots more pictures of gallery visitors.