Fayetteville supporters of the arts were introduced to a large body of work by mixed-media artist Leslie Pearson last year when Fayetteville Technical Community College invited Pearson for a one-person show, Works of Spirit. I was immediately enthralled while walking among sepia-stained representational images on yards of see-through fabric suspended from the ceiling. Also included was a separate work of suspended orb-like forms. It was apparent Pearson has a gift for combining tangible physicality with the intangibility of something remembered.
If you missed her exhibit last year, on July 14, visitors to Gallery 208, at the corporate offices of Up and Coming Weekly, can view a new body of work by Pearson titled Remember When and also meet Pearson. For this exhibit Pearson has selected mixed-media encaustic paintings and small sculptural book forms. Never descriptive or decorative, Pearson has an exceptional talent for conjuring remembrances by layering meaning through medium and image, medium and object.
Pearson is interested in stories, memories and the communicative power of material. Her statement clarifies meaning and process for visitors to the exhibit: “For the showing at Gallery 208, I’ve gone back to what I’m interested in — the history of things and stories. I treasure all the family photos and ephemera that have been passed down to me. I’ve gone back to these items as a starting point for many of the pieces that I am exhibiting. Conceptually, my work revolves around themes of memory and identity formation but visually I’m inspired by the natural world, particularly the effects of time on the environment. For example, I’m always drawn to aged and eroded objects, old buildings, and walls with peeling paint. I often go for walks and take pictures of things other people might not notice; I use these as references for some of the colors and textures that come out in my paintings.”
Two encaustic paintings in the exhibit, “Siblings” and “A Story Unfolds,” exemplify ways in which Pearson intentionally obscures her narratives. In “Siblings,’ Pearson breaks the pictorial space into units; two portraits are presented in dissimilar ranges of closeness, vertical bands are filled with text, the layers of encaustic medium blurring the surface. Viewers are left to look closely to decipher ethereal meaning through the layers of beeswax on the surface.
In comparison, a solitary woman is present in the work titled “A Story Unfolds.” The woman is balanced in the picture plane by large negative shapes and limited amount of blurred text — she is located in an abstracted environment. Pearson obscures the woman in a manner which results in the figure becoming more abstracted than in other images in the exhibit; the figure becomes part of the abstracted space around her.
Visitors to the Gallery 208 opening will get to meet Pearson and hear her briefly talk about her work. A well-traveled individual, she recently moved to the Fayetteville area, is a prolific artist who exhibits nationally and internationally, is an arts educator and an arts advocate. Her achievements are lengthy, highlights of which signify the magnitude of her art experiences and give insight to the talent of an artist who lives in the area.
Some of Pearson’s educational and professional experiences include earning a bachelor’s in fine art from Southeast Missouri State University in 1998. There, she was heavily involved in community-arts programming as the Assistant Director of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri and co-curator of Gallery 100 and the Lorimier Gallery in Cape Girardeau. She earned a master’s in museum studies at Newcastle University in England in 2000 and completed an internship at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland, United Kingdom. In 2011, she earned an MFA in textile design at East Carolina University’s School of Art and Design in Greenville, North Carolina, where she taught textile classes and worked as a studio assistant in the textile department.
Her teaching experience is too long to list, yet her most recent experiences include workshop instructor/lecturer for Integumentary Experiments in Fiber in Australia and the guest artist to create wire sculpture in Wilmington, North Carolina. Two residencies include No Boundaries International Art Colony on Bald Head Island, North Carolina, in 2014, and Arrowmont Pentaculum: Five Medias, One Forum at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, in 2015.
From an extensive list, Pearson’s most recent solo exhibitions in North Carolina include Works of Spirit at Fayetteville Technical Community College Art Gallery in 2014; The Visual Word at Waterworks Visual Arts Center in Salisbury; Continuum at the Page Walker Arts Center in Cary; and Speak, Memory, a mixed-media installation at the Hanover Gallery in Wilmington.
Gallery 208 is committed to hosting exhibitions by inventive and professional artists who enrich the visual art landscape locally and regionally. The exhibit, Remember When, introduces a “multimedia artist who utilizes many fiber based materials, processes and techniques to create sculptures, installations, encaustic paintings and handmade books in which she explores themes of memory and identity.” The public is invited to attend the opening reception and meet the artist on July 14 at Gallery 208 between 5:30–7 p.m. For those who cannot attend the opening, the exhibit will remain up through early September 2015. Before or after attending the opening or exhibit, Pearson’s work can be viewed on her website: www.lesliekpearson.com/
Gallery 208 is located at 208 Rowan Street. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday –Friday. For information on this exhibit, call 910-484-6200 or visit the website to read the digital version of the magazine at www.upandcomingweekly.com.