Interview with Leslie Daly

Brazee Gallery is thrilled to exhibit new work by sculptor Leslie Daly. This body of work titled In The Shallows: Nature Abstracted, opening August 9th, aims to draw attention to biological and ecological motifs and formations often found in the sea with particular attention to examining their existence and duality of permanence vs. impermanence. Daly’s work conceptualizes materials including steel, glass, and 1,000 plastic bottles and incorporates patters and structures in a range of scale and scope to provoke consideration and curiosity of the natural world and the impact humans have on the environment.

Last week Brazee's newest team member and gallery director, Kendra Douglas, caught up with Daly for an interview. Continue reading to discover more about the life and work of the hooded artist behind the flaming torch! 
Where are you from? What is your background?
Daly: I was born in New Jersey, moved to Atlanta, Georgia where I attended the University of Georgia and majored in Design and Fine Arts. I moved to South Carolina where I worked for various architectural and design firms for several years-- designing everything from schools to private homes to Army Reserve Barracks up and down the eastern seaboard. It is amazing how many color variations of Khaki exist!! From South Carolina to South Africa for 2 years with my husbands job (engineer) and two year old twins. That was an experience of a lifetime as we lived in Johannesburg before, during and after the Mandela election. WOW, do I have stories!!  From South Africa back to South Carolina and eventually to Cincinnati for the last 18 years.  

What is your earliest art memory?  
Daly: My earliest art related memory is sitting on the floor of my uncles studio (Paul Lehr - Sci Fi Illustrator) on the family farm in Pennsylvania smelling the oils from the paintings he was working on and later, the fresh wood shavings from sculptural pieces in process. Even though he has long passed, to this day when I visit the farm, I make a beeline for the studio in hopes of capturing the long ago scents of my childhood.
What accomplishments would you like to shout from the rooftops!? 
Daly: First and foremost, motherhood.  Secondly, the process of creating.  The need to create sculpture is like breathing-- it’s necessary for me to sustain life. From an accomplishment point of view, every time some one chooses to purchase one of my works, that is a substantial accomplishment. It means someone ‘gets me’ and appreciates my artistic language enough to plunk down the dollars and incorporate a piece of me into their life...that’s pretty heady! Art is very personal and when someone says ‘Don’t take it personally’ , I disagree...I put myself out there with each piece. I know my work is not for everyone and that’s okay. Buy what you love, not what you think has future monetary value in the art world.  

         Leslie Daly's Spiny Sea Urchins, Fabricated Steel 

Describe your creative process and influences.
Daly: Many ideas come to me while I walk...it could begin with something as simple as a leaf, an acorn, a seed pod or something more esoteric. Art exhibitions also fuel ideas. It has been said that there is no such thing as original art since we are all influenced by someone or something. I have always loved the process...that is what excites me most and energizes my spirit.

What is your favorite medium to work in?
Daly: I started working with cast stone and moved to steel. Currently working with steel, recycled glass and clay.  

What materials do you/have you use(d)? 
Daly: I primarily work with steel, glass and clay elements but my approach to materials is conceptually driven and a combination of formal and experimental so I am always testing a variety of materials. 

Brazee: What does your work aim to say?
Daly: It’s not so much what I want my work to say but rather what I want it to accomplish which is to pull people in, provoke conversation and curiosity and more than anything, touch it.  

How does your work comment on current social or political issues? 
Daly: With this body of work and in particular, The Wave,  is to get people to see beyond the recycle bin and think more globally.  What happens to the things we throw away?  Do they have a life beyond the dump and/or recycling center?  What is our responsibility in assuring our children/grandchildren that the future environment they have is better because of the choices we make now? Of course this dialogue twists and turns  in a rather unpleasant way today due in large part to our current politics and the lack of vision/resources needed to procure a safe and clean future.  

       Two detail images of Leslie's Limpet Study Series, sculpting compound and pulled glass 

Who have been your greatest mentors, supporters and champions throughout your artistic career? 
Daly: Chris Daniels of Blue Hell Studio taught me to weld-- poor guy! Chris was very skilled at not only teaching the basics but also at getting you to look at something in a new and different way. My design professor at the University of Georgia, John Huff, once told me that if something is not working and you can't see your way forward, step back and punt. Good advice in life as well!  Also, the head of the Sculpture Department at the University of Little Rock in Arkansas, Michael Warrick. Michael is the epitome of a teacher/mentor with an eagerness to provide opportunities for students to learn numerous processes and is extremely supportive in enabling them to do so. Lastly, my family and friends. It ain't easy being married to an artist, particularly when your husband is an engineer and thinks in a very black and white way and I am everything in between! Friends and family have been my cheerleaders and critics (when asked for unbridled honesty). They keep me going!

Do you believe in ghosts?
Daly: I do and I think the older we are, the more jaded we become. One of my favorite memories is of my son when he was 4 years old...he was outside, on the porch chatting away while I was inside making dinner. I assumed he was talking to a neighbor until I went out and looked around, not seeing anyone. I asked him, “Who were you talking to?” He replied, “My Guardian Angel”. To which I replied in a rather characteristically sarcastic reply, “Can you ask him to take out the trash?”  I do believe we have guides and I would like to think that the people we love who have passed have their ways of letting us know they are still with us.  

How do you spend your days? 
Daly: Daydreaming, thinking, trying to come up with my next idea, working part time, anything not related to housecleaning, walking when time permits and doing family oriented things. Somehow my days are always full.  

Do you have a favorite daydream, mantra, or saying that’s important to you?  
Daly: ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’.  Mahatma Gandhi

The textures, intricacies, and materiality of Leslie's work must be experienced in person to appreciate fully. To gain a deeper understanding and feed your curiosity please joins us at Brazee Gallery on August 9th from 6pm-8pm for the opening reception of Leslie Daly's In the Shallows: Nature Abstracted.