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Alumni in the News: Leslie Nolan, artist powerhouse interprets life as being fragile
Author: James George, Arlington Art Examiner
Posted: July 8, 2014

Read the original article in the Arlington Examiner here.

If there is one word that can be used to describe Leslie Nolan’s paintings it might be “energy”. You can see it in her brushstrokes and powerful command of paint and color. It is abstract impressionism that is employed to portray people. People are often not in paintings, and I suspect for different reasons. First, people may not want to be in them and artists honor their privacy. Second, artists find painting people too great a challenge. Subjects don’t rest easy very often unless they are asleep. People are on the move, and so is Leslie. She has the energy to keep up with them.

Seeing her work before, it is now time to share it with as many people as is possible because she is an extraordinary painter. Let’s explore who she is by addressing her bio and artist statement. Then, we’ll go to the slideshow gallery to see a sampling of her work.

Like many artists from the DC Metro, Leslie had another career having worked for the State Department. Leslie was raised in Oregon. She studied at the University of Madrid in Spain and holds degrees from Portland State University, George Washington University, and National Defense University. She is widely traveled and those experiences often manifest in depth of appreciation for culture, and resulting from seeing art and architecture from other places firsthand.

Touchstone Gallery represents this award-winning artist in the local region:

Words used to describe her work include “gestural, lively brushwork, vivid colors, and propensity for injecting ambiguity into her paintings”. The notion of intentional ambiguity as an artistic element is an interesting idea.

From her artist statement

Regarding her approach, her main theme is to depict “what is felt rather than what is seen”. She says that she is “fascinated by the complexities of ordinary people, their faults, fears, resilience, and courage, I respond to the emotion behind the facade. I try to reveal their vulnerability by focusing on moods as interpreted by faces and body language.”

What you may interpret from this is that she is actively engaged in her subject’s behavior.

She says, “Because I spent another career keeping secrets in my work abroad, my current interest is to express in painting universal feelings, which remain largely hidden in real life. We all cloak ourselves behind a veneer of success and confidence, yet situations in our lives wreak havoc with our emotions and motives, which lie just under the surface.”

That is succinctly insightful, and one can let the art now speak for itself.

She continues, “Relying heavily on color, my images describe a full spectrum of emotion, at the same time conveying the frenetic pace of modern living. Color jars the viewer into a closer look into every-day anxieties and confusions. Scale, too, plays an important role in my compositions. Close-ups of heads and faces go off the canvas, drawing the viewer uncomfortably into a life portrait.'

'This work is all hand done. The fluidity and thickness of the paint lend a personal quality to the brushwork – it's neither machine-made, nor detached. Drips, re-stated lines, and gestural brushwork contribute to an extemporaneous quality to the work which I hope makes each artwork honest, unpretentious, and approachable.”

She describes her process whereby she uses a combination of models and photos from which she lets her technique and emotional style distort and exaggerate.

“I like the work to suggest controlled chaos, as if something important has happened to each subject. In these images of the human figure, I imagine the individual as reacting to money or job-related issues, loneliness, semi-stable environments, or familial concerns. Whatever the cause or situation, each artwork depicts the fragility of life. Filled with questions, the paintings invite the viewer to connect the dots and develop his or her own interpretation.”

Leslie Nolan

For 2014-2015 she has solo or featured exhibits at Touchstone Gallery, BlackRock Center for the Arts, at (e)merge Art Fair with Touchstone Gallery, The Art League Gallery, Arts Club of Washington, and Delaplaine Arts Center. For more information: and Leslie Nolan Art on Facebook.