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Jennifer Leatherby

Image shows a white room with paintings on the wall and white sculptures in the corners of the room.
From Bruised Birds, Empty Nests
Photo by Jen Leatherby

Describe your passion and work!

I want to tell my story. It’s the only story I know well enough to tell and I have a lot to say. With each series/show I like to create new work and tell a new story about my experience and perspective on a certain issue. My most recent works have focused on societal expectations of girls and women, along with gender equality, women’s health, and reproductive justice. I do this through the use of many medias. I like to create “immersive” work. Meaning that I want the viewer to feel like they are inside of the work rather than just looking at it. I use sound, video, performance, and installations to achieve this goal. I also create affordable fine art portraits, through Portrait Studio, for people who have largely never had access to that kind of luxury.

What pushed you to do what you are doing today?

Art makes life worth living. I can’t imagine my life without it. Creating things to share fills my soul in a way that nothing else ever has or will. I want to affect positive change through my work and that is my main motivation.

How can our community lift you up/support you?

Buy my work and support the cause. Not to sell out to capitalism but everyone has bills to pay. Some people assume that art should be free because we “would have made it anyway” as Gillian Welch says in her song “Everything Is Free” but as an artist, that is so incredibly insulting. Art is essential for our culture. If it comes down to working to pay bills or making paintings, I’ll have to stop making paintings. If you can’t afford a painting, buy an artist a coffee. Every little bit helps. 

What do you think our community can work on/focus on/do better to support artists and create a safe space for artists? 

Affordable studios (the word affordable seems to be pretty subjective), open/shared making spaces, more promotion by local news agencies and organizations of art events around town. Pay artists!

Why do you think the artistic community in Iowa is so important?

I think the artistic community in every place is incredibly important. Art reflects life. That’s may be a cliche quote but it’s true. We represent the culture, the people, and the planet. We show others perspectives that they may have never seen before.

What makes you magical and fabulous?

I won’t give up and I won’t shut up. There’s too much injustice in the world for me to ever stop fighting it. I make beautiful and/or thought-provoking work to inspire others to fight along with me.

Image shows a woman with a long blonde hair and a tiara on. Another individual is wearing headphones and putting makeup on the woman.
From installation Fort
Photo by Nicole Lorenson

Where can we access your work right now?

I don’t have any shows up at the moment so you’d have to visit my website which is due for an update (www.jenleatherby.com) or my Instagram (@jenleatherbyart) which is updated much more regularly.

Do you have any events coming up?

Yes! I’m opening a show of completely new work at the Viaduct Gallery in Des Moines in April 2019.

Who else should be highlighted? Give someone or a specific organization a shoutout!

There are so many incredible artists who I know. Just to name a few: Cat Rocketship, Rachel Buse, Tiffany Sinnott, Meanz Chan, Ramona Muse Lambert, I could go on and on. 

Image shows a painting with various colors on a white wall.
From Bruised Birds, Empty Nests
Photo by Alan Jacobs

To view a more in-depth look at the installation Fort:

Video by Bruce James Bailes
Audio by
Ryan Stier

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