New York based artist Sofia Leiby's paintings are a conversation between layers, collecting personal momentos, old texts and found elements, then scanning, silkscreening and painting over them to create works you have to look through to get the whole picture. Leiby's most recent show is on view at Michael Jon Gallery in Miami's flourishing hip art neighborhood of Little Haiti, which will be on view until January. We caught up with the artist at the end of art week in Miami to talk process, product and how she uses writings as a layer in the formulation of her works.
Usually my process involves collecting source material related to gesture as a starting point and then integrating in paintings using silkscreen. Recent bodies of work integrated my grandfather's doodles he left me on Christmas cards and cheques and my brother's middle-school graffiti tags. This show at Michael Jon uses gestures isolated from scratch pads I collect from Blick (people testing out their markers) near my studio, samples from a performance I did over the summer where I analyzed handwriting, and mid-1990s educational didactics for teaching reading and writing. I use these as a starting point, usually tracing the gestures on small 8.5"x11" sheets, scanning them, and preparing the files for silkscreen. Then I print the screens and either add layers of color and paint or leave the painting as a single-layer print.
How did you begin combining printmaking with paintings?
I studied printmaking in school, and in my final year started bringing the silkscreens in to paintings in painting classes.
You are a writer as well as an artist and words can be spotted in many of your works. Do you feel that the two are connected either in your process or the product?
The text in the newest pieces is sampled from a book called 'Letters Alive', an educational guidebook from 1994 composed of computer graphics meant to assist in the teaching of reading and writing to children. Most of my paintings either sample past work or use different source material as a starting point. This particular series for the show at Michael Jon focuses on the moment when type began to supplement handwriting in childhood education. The writing I do is usually about art or larger cultural issues, and I don't know if it comes literally into play in the paintings.
What's next beyond the Miami madness, what are you working on?