This pencil-on-paper self portrait is among the “new and unknown” works by lifelong Red Banker Evelyn Leavens on display in a solo show that opens Friday evening at McKay Imaging Gallery. (Click to enlarge)
During a 2010 visit to the Red Bank house that she’s lived in since before the Great Depression, Evelyn Leavens told redbankgreen: Im still painting; Im always working… I wouldnt give it up any more than I would move out of my home.
That particular article (which can be read here in its entirety) advanced a solo show drawn from the remarkable artist’s 60-year career, a display that we viewed as not so much a retrospective, but “a chance for Leavens to pause for one moment a moment in which the rest of us can struggle to catch up before sprinting ahead to the next challenge.”
Sure enough, here in 2012 there’s still much that is new, even much that’s yet to be discovered, in the world of Evelyn Leavens. On Friday evening, April 27, McKay Imaging Gallery brings us up to speed on her recent endeavors, with the opening reception of an exhibit that the octogenarian artist has described as being her “last show” (although, as she told the Two River Times, she’s “never convinced about that”).
Entitled Linear Configurations: New and Unknown Works by Evelyn Leavens, the gallery installation assembles a collection of small watercolors that the painter, photographer and instructor created just within the past year having put aside the larger oil paintings that she had done for decades in favor of a medium that “enabled me to strive for an ever-increasing looseness, fluidity and spontaneity, completely free of any preconceptions.”
“My first pencil marks, made when I was around two or three years old, were followed by pencil marks on absolutely everything, indiscriminately, from then on,” the artist states in her bio. “I still make these marks, still indiscriminately, on everything from canvas to paper.”
While Leavens has lived in the same Red Bank home since the age of five on a street where, as she puts it, “fine memories remain” the words “New and Unknown” make it clear that the artist resides very much in the present and future tenses, letting her passionately produced art take her where it will.
This Friday, her work will take her up the stairs at 12 Monmouth Street, to the second-story space maintained by photographers and curators Robert and Elisabeth McKay. Since presenting the first of their public installations in 2005, the McKays have spotlighted just as many painters and sculptors as they have shutterbugs, with talked-about shows centered around the works of multimedia maestro John Kochansky, Brookdale College professor Dan Schroll, spraypaint master Doug Z and many others.
“As some of you may have noticed, our last photography show was… well, a couple of years ago!” say the McKays in their gallery statement for the new show. “Frankly, we’ve been a bit distracted by the vast pool of local talent in other mediums, particularly painters.”
Bob and Liz also don’t mind sharing the fact that they were “floored” by the opportunity to host the first appearance of this new body of work by Leavens. Visiting the artist’s home studio frequently and watching the exhibit take shape over a few short months was “a lovely experience [with] an intense result,” they write.
Leavens, a self-taught artist who’s tutored generations of young creatives in Monmouth County (and who pooh-poohs the notion that she’s a “living legend”), simply states that “I go on producing work that pleases and inspires me and will continue to do so, here in my studio, for as long as time permits.”
The free opening reception at McKay Imagings walk-up gallery space always an amazing place for a little wine, conversation and great views indoors and out runs from 7 to 10 pm on April 27, with the exhibit continuing through May 17, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 7 pm or by appointment.