Studio Visit: Drew Leshko Discusses His Miniatures of ‘Disappearing Americana’

by Nathan SpoorPosted on

Philadelphia based artist Drew Leshko (featured here on our blog) creates multi-layered paper and wood sculptures that beckon viewers to connect with a bit of nostalgia, while keeping one foot planted in the now. Leshko got his start as a studio assistant and fabricator for another sculptor just after finishing his schooling at West Chester University in his native Pennsylvania. Being strongly influenced by documentary photographers such as Walker Evans and Hilla Becher, Leshko creates sculptural commentaries that echo those filmmakers’ abilities to capture moments in time.

For his most recent body of work, “Home Is Where You Park It”, Leshko found himself drawn to memories of his childhood surroundings; mostly to the fishing and camping trips he’s taken with his grandparents. He spent a week on a camping trip with his grandparents in their 1970s RV, walking through campgrounds and photographing older RV’s. Drawing from an ethos of working hard and building a strong body of work, Leshko’s new work shines a light on the forgotten or overlooked and positions it in a unique 1:12 scale perspective. In this way, viewers can enjoy the painstaking craftsmanship of his art while also relishing in a preserved slice of disappearing Americana.

HF: So tell us about your studio life in Philadelphia, what all goes into producing a new body of work like this?

DL: Commitment to the artworks, putting in the studio hours, and making the most of those hours is paramount. My studio life is split between two spaces, conveniently across the street from one another. Being able to break up the day with a change of environment really helps with my productivity. It’s amazing how refreshing the change can be. The one studio is more of a wood shop and the other is the first floor of my home, a clean space where I make most of the work.

HF: Tell us a little about your artistic background- what were your first influences to be creative and put so much energy into your work and concentrate on 3D work?

DL: After finishing school at West Chester University, I worked as a studio assistant/fabricator for a sculptor and I guess that experience encouraged me to pursue art as a career.

I am and was really influenced by documentary photographers like Walker Evans, Gordon Parks, Berndt and Hilla Becher, and William Christenberry. I try to approach my sculptures with a similar idea of capturing a moment in time, only in a three dimensional way.

HF: This new body of work “Home Is Where You Park It” for Paradigm Gallery concentrates on RVs and mobile spaces- where did these ideas begin?

DL: It’s a combination of things I guess. I really like working with paper, so I was thinking about what I could make successfully and I was also thinking about my childhood spent camping in these types of vehicles with both my parents and grandparents. So a bit of my past experiences paired with a bit of wanderlust.

Similar to my sculptures of buildings, these speak to the past while hinting to the future possibilities.

HF: Did you live in or around mobile homes or trailers to really absorb your subjects?

DL: I sure did! I spent a week trout fishing and staying with my grandparents in their 1970’s camper in western Maryland over the summer. It was one of campgrounds I’ve been going to my entire life. This particular trip, I spent a lot of time walking around and photographing some of the older RV’s.

HF: What is life like in your studio? Do you have set hours or dig on any specific music, podcasts or run movies on the background, or even perhaps silence while you create?

DL: I work all the time. I guess I don’t hold specific hours, but easily work 50-60 hours a week. I’m committed to it.

I listen to a lot of music in the studio. Many different types from punk to hip hop to folk.

HF: What’s life like for you when you’re not creating? Do you seek out any new inspiration or are the ideas just pounding down your door to be produced?

DL: The ideas are just pounding down my door, haha. I have a pretty crazy mental list of different sculptures that I’m going to explore. One of my favorite spots in Philadelphia is this abandoned pier on the Delaware River. I like to go fishing here. It was used for loading coal cars. I’m going to make some coal cars and boxcars sometime soon. I think all artists are greatly influenced by their environment.

HF: Your work pulls in something substantially larger into a truly intimate space or scale. What are your thoughts about how the dimensions of a finished work affect the idea itself?

DL: Something happens when the object is miniaturized. All of the sudden, this dirty and rusty eyesore is perceived in a different way, more delicate and precious.

I hope that my work shines a light on the forgotten and overlooked. Somehow by making these objects in miniature, it highlights the typically overlooked and neglected.

HF: Do you have any advice for young artists on how to approach a solo exhibit and producing a full body of work to show?

DL: You should focus on building a strong body of work with a solid theme. Then you should work towards building another strong series. Work as hard as possible, but realize that when the opportunities do start to come, that’s when you’ll need to work even harder Don’t focus on getting a show. Focus on making good work and the shows will come.

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