Mary Ann LeffBerkeley, CA
I am an abstract painter who has felt compelled to make marks for over forty years. My primary love affair has been with color--being able to surround myself with it, to explore and indulge in it, gives me an almost visceral sense of pleasure. I work spontaneously and intuitively, and love creating rich, evocative surfaces. I see the surface, like a horizon, as a place of meeting--where the painter and the viewer meet, where what is below can only be felt and hinted at, and where the conscious and the unconscious meet.
In the late 1980's, in response to the loss of a child very close to me, my work changed. I began to paint a different kind of surface--a surface under which a child could drown, and grief felt endless. The paintings were about my grief, about emptiness and loss, about drowning and going under and being swallowed up and disappearing and re-emerging.
For a decade or so after that, I saw my work become symbolically about relationships and connections codified by the representation of pears/pairs and containers (particularly domestic ones) as female metaphors of having and losing, holding and containing, about fullness and emptiness. I feel most joy when I paint or create purely abstract works, and imagine that will always be true. Two years ago, however, I found myself beginning to paint oceans and skies, aware, I think of aging, limits, and limitlessness.
So as I paint, draw, collage and make prints--some of my work is figurative, most is not, all is an abstraction. Color has remained what I most love.
Studying and making art since childhood, I majored in painting and sculpture at Carnegie-Mellon University and received a BFA in 1971. After graduation, I moved to California and now have lived in the Bay Area for 35 years. I have been a working artist all this time. For many years, while raising a family, I worked in isolation and only showed sporadically. (When I entered the Berkeley Art Center Juried Annual in 1994, I won the Juror’s Prize). I began to study monoprint in the late 1990’s at Kala Institute in Berkeley and in classes with Livia Stein and Janet Lipkin. I felt both the thrill of pulling prints as well as the camaraderie and support of fellow artists again. In the last decade I have been exhibiting my paintings, monoprints, and collages in galleries, group and juried shows and annual Pro Arts Open Studios. My work has been published for the last two years in AMERICAN ART COLLECTOR, is on the cover of the Japanese edition of MULTICULTURAL ENCOUNTERS, and I was awarded a prize in the 2010 Sebastopol Center of the Arts Juried Annual.