The Orange County Arts Council’s Arts Outreach Committee along with members of the public visited the studio of artist Leslie Fandrich in Pine Island, NY on December 5, 2019. The Arts Outreach Committee studio visits allow the public a behind-the-scenes look into the process, inspiration and concepts of artists living and working in Orange County. Fandrich’s studio, located in the old Pine Island Elementary School, is a former classroom now lined with large fabric sculptures and paintings, collages and articles and essays. As an interdisciplinary artist, Fandrich’s process includes aspects of painting, sculpture, drawing, textiles and collage. Her interests lie with feminist issues, family relationships and embodied experiences.
Leslie Fandrich has always been creative, but she didn’t identify herself primarily as an artist until about five years ago. With a background in graphic design, photography and writing, she made her living first as a website designer in New York and then, after she and her husband started their family, as a freelancerworking for magazines, parenting websites and other artists. In 2014 she took a collage workshop that introduced her to a technique and process that gave her the ability to pull from all her creative interests. In 2015 she had a solo show at Gallery 66NY in Cold Spring, NY entitled “Finding Power: Women of Courage, Passion and Character” that included large format collages on wood panels. That year she also co-hosted a retreat at the Wiawaka Center for Women in Lake George, NY called “Creative Courage.”
Feeling like she had more to learn, Fandrich returned to school in 2016, attending the low-residency graduate program at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA. She graduated in 2018 with a Master of Fine Arts degree. While at school, she was challenged in a number of important ways and began experimenting with sewing and fabric. Sewing was a way to connect elements without using glue and fabric as a medium seemed familiar and natural. “My mother taught me how to sew,” says Leslie. “Using fabric just felt right in multiple ways.” The switch from flat, borrowed imagery from books about fashion to making abstract paintings with fabric and then eventually creating soft sculptures that evoked body parts and comfort objects, was an important step for the artist in her ability to articulate her experience of living in a female body, particularly a mothering body.
She points to a piece that begins on the wall and extends to the floor with a long pink arm coiled up in a pile. “This piece is a portrait of my mother. It’s called, ‘Good Enough Mother.’ I made it after I began considering the feelings I had about losing my mother a few years ago and thinking about how my children will one day lose me. But also how, as mothers and parents, there is a grief associated with our children growing up. We need long arms to bridge the gap. These long arms are comforting but also can be strangling. Motherhood is defined by complexity and loss.” Her thesis work, “Part Bodies: Soft and Stuffed” addresses how mothering bodies are objectified. You may look at a piece like “Pillow Body” and see that it reminds you of your grandmother, but upon closer inspection, you see the visceral aspects of our bodies, like hair, pimples and scars, and those real human parts might make the viewer feel uncomfortable. That push and pull of being drawn in and repelled helps the viewer question what they see in the work.
Her statement says, “Deploying materials and processes like clothing, blankets, fabric, stitching and sewing, Fandrich directly connects to the notion of a craft object as a signifier for deep psychological memories of mothers and mothering. At the heart of her practice are the boundaries of the female body and how it is in relationship to others and to our domestic spaces. Her objects rest within the surreal and the uncanny. This position complicates the reading and allows room for questions such as how the human form is both dynamic and evolving and the liminal nature of a body. The material choices for her objects stand in opposition to a patriarchal tradition in art and make more space for a feminist voice.”
In addition to her studio, her works have been exhibited throughout the Hudson Valley and in such places as Boston University Art Galleries in Boston, MA; Plug Projects in Kansas City, MO; and Braithwaite Fine Art Gallery at the Southern Utah Museum of Art in Cedar City, UT.
Beginning in January, she will be offering groups and workshops for artists out of her Pine Island studio. There will be a Saturday afternoon visual art group for kids and teens, a once a month critique group and reading/discussion group for adults, a collage workshop, a textile workshop, and individual mentoring.
For more information about this artist visit her website at www.lesliefandrich.com.
For more information on Orange County Arts Council, Open Studio Visits, workshops, opportunities for artists, memberships and more, please visit https://ocartscouncil.orgor call (845) 202-0140.