I am an artist and I’ve been thinking…
Maybe once or twice in a lifetime does one get the chance to meet an original, inspiring artist whose work has a fresh voice. It makes me wonder how they dreamed up their idea and what motivated them to create. Inevitably it’s a unique story. This month, I would like to introduce you to one such artist whose sculptural work transcends the mundane. Wood and steel undulate with waves of meaning, inexplicably shaped with tenderness and strength.
The artist is Evan Leutzinger, a recent transplant to Atlanta from New York City who arrived with wide eyes and a skill set rarely seen. His work is on display at the Decatur Gallery now. Here’s my interview with Evan.
Evan, I’ve been lucky enough to meet several artists in my lifetime whose work stopped me in my tracks and made me want to know more about them. Meeting you was really serendipitous at the Druid Hills show this spring, where you told me to had just arrived and wanted to show your work in public. Tell me where you are from and a little about your personal life.
I was born and raised in New York City, son of a schoolteacher. I considered Baltimore the south, so Atlanta has been a real learning experience. People are so nice here! Plus it’s the first time I’ve ever lived in a real house, had a garage and a yard. My wife Kandis and I moved to Atlanta so that she could attend Morehouse School of Medicine.
When I saw your art on display, I was amazed that you were so low-key because your work is so powerful while being subtle. Can you describe it for us?
I work in steel and wood. I start with small sketches but I move away from those drawings as the work becomes what it wants to be. Often I leave a piece unfinished and come back to it later and start negotiating between myself, the materials, time and the piece as an entity of its own. It’s a little like a drawn out break up.
Music. I try to capture and interpret the textures and rhythms that I hear in jazz, hip-hop, even classical music. I’m a terrible dancer and worse singer but I like to think that sculpture is my way of exploring these art forms that I can’t do in real life.
That explains why your sculptures in metal and wood are full of movement, like waves of a song. They really don’t even look like you used your hands or tools, more like you used your mind to bend and shape the materials. Do you have a favorite piece that you feel represents what you’re trying to convey?
In 2005 I was in a very difficult place of transition. It was exciting but painful. A friend of mine invited me to come to his barn and hammer on steel, which I hadn’t done for several years and really missed. I started working on a 14-gauge sheet, spending 6 hours each day battling and bonding with it in a big grassy field listening to “A Love Supreme,” Pete Rock and the wind. The finished piece is “Struggle,” and I think it’s the most-raw and honest work I’ve ever done.
Clearly you benefited from the challenges in your life and had an amazing opportunity to express it. Did anyone ever give you a direction, advice or encouragement specifically for your artwork or did you just invent your style on your own?
I took a few sculpture classes during my junior year of college from a professor Allyn Massey who opened doors for me. She pushed me out of my comfort zone of drawing into three- dimensional work. Our conversations continue to this day.
Well, everyone will want to know if you’re truly the humble, talented isolated artist you appear to be or if you’re destined for fame and fortune. Do you ever think about what the future of your art holds for you?
I really don’t have grand ambitions other than to make a good honest living, have a few strong pieces in public and be included in a prestigious collection or two (laughing). I really want to form a community arts center one day to inspire and impact teens and young adults as a teacher. It would be The Beautiful Struggle Art Studio.
The Beautiful Struggle. Now that is what I call a well thought out description of what breathes life into an artist. I appreciate your words and explanation and most importantly appreciate that your art and approach speak brilliantly on their own. Thank you and welcome to Atlanta! I know you’ll like it here.
Patrick Dennis is an artist, gallery owner and president of the Atlanta Foundation for Public Spaces. Email him at Patrick@affps.com.