By: Andrea Stolzer, contributing writer
Last Saturday, Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts held an opening for Andy Leicht, a longtime local artist who paints primarily with oil on canvas. In the show, simply called Recent Paintings, Leicht’s work includes both figurative and abstract pieces, and many that fall somewhere in between. Stepping in from a wintry Cherokee St, the petite paintings popped with lively shapes and colors more reminiscent of late spring than a gray winter day.
Leicht is most well known for producing dramatically colored portraits inspired from black-and-white obituaries. Many of the subjects were St. Louis natives whose original photos can be found in past issues of the St. Louis Post Dispatch. One of these subjects, Myra Jean Kittrell, was pictured in the Dispatch in September of 2010. In the original newspaper obituary photo, a forty-something Myra Jean gives the camera a small smile, head tilted to the left and dark hair topped with an old fashioned nurse’s cap. Contrastingly, in Leicht’s Myra Jean, the woman’s eyes are closed, giving her smile a some what dream like quality, corresponding to the naiviete of never knowing it would be the image used to memorialize her entire life. As in the other portraits, Leicht uses unexpected swipes of striking green, orange and yellow to emphasize highlights and shadows in the faces, creating an eerie effect. The paint strokes are thick and lack the smoothness of the photos, especially around the jaw line. The results are memorial paintings that are refreshingly playful, and even sassy, better at representing a life than the obituary photos, while simultaneously toeing the line toward being garish.
There is also Catalpa, a series of five paintings. Most of these pieces resemble elements of their namesake, a flowering vine, with some interesting twists. This series continues Leicht’s propensity for vivid colors and bold shapes, as well as minimal shading or blending from one element to the next. These paintings embody the word bright. Leicht strays from the plant’s usual greens and white, instead playing with periwinkle, maroon, teal and gold. The focus is more on the general shapes and outlines—circles, crescents, triangles—than more minute details. With their larger size and less morbid subject matter, the Catalpa paintings presented a nice contrast to the obituary portraits.
Leicht has a propensity toward depicting the natural in Recent Paintings, choosing to paint humans and plants in a way that confirms that growth and change and life and death are sure things. But, it is how he memorializes the temporary as dignified, uniquely existing, and worthy of individual consideration that really strengthen his work.
Andy Leicht: Recent Paintings continues at Fort Gondo, located at 3151 Cherokee St, St. Louis, MO through 7 Januray, 2012. Fort Gondo viewing hours are by appointment, and can be arranged by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrea Stolzer is a freelance writer based in St. Louis, MO. Email email@example.com to contact her.