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    Leslie Peterson Sapp                       Resume

    Leslie Peterson Sapp was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She was brought up experiencing history in creative and practical ways. The house she lived in was built in 1870, and her father, Gary was the leader of a Dixieland Jazz band. She first became intrigued by vintage photographs when she was 20 years old and saw her stepfather’s childhood snapshots for the first time.

    She went to New York City for college, where she attended Parsons School of Design, City University of New York, and The Art Students League. She graduated with honors with a BFA in 1991. She returned to Portland, and has been in the area ever since, devoting her time to painting, volunteerism, travel, love and adventure.

    Her style is rooted in the American Regionalism, American Realism, and Modernist movements. The paintings are unquestionably contemporary, yet classic and accessible; “art that draws you in immediately...”


    Artist's Statement for "Shades of Noir," 2016

    My pictures tell a story. Not in the traditional narrative style, where a complete concept or linear plot is described. Rather, the way I arrange figures and compose the image creates a scene that evokes a response in the viewer, drawing them in and encouraging them to become engaged by inducing them to fill in the back story themselves.  For this exhibit I have created a body of work based on images from classic film noir. Each piece is created using a multi-step process. First I procure the source image from a film. Sometimes I find images from the internet, but more often I capture a screen shot with my camera directly from my TV screen as I play the movie. From this image I create a detailed charcoal drawing. Then I make a small collage based on the drawing. The collage’s tiny size makes it necessary for me to simplify and abstract the shapes in the image. I pay careful attention to simplifying shapes, color relationships, and the interaction of darks and lights. I sometimes start on a dark brown ground, which further helps me to edit out unnecessary details and distil the image to its essential parts. I then create a large piece based on the small collage.

    Film noir are modern day myths. In spite of the decades that have passed, the intrigues and sexual tensions of the relationships on screen feel like a relevant reflection of my own life. I experience it as a cathartic, allegoric investigation into the inner workings of my relationships and my position in society. The characters are a part of a web of intrigue and moral ambiguity where everyone is susceptible to the workings of society’s shady underside. Their exploits involve daring and danger, complicated plot twists and mysteries to be solved. The sense of adventure reflects my delight in experiencing and pondering the mysteries around me. The classic noir style characterizes the sensual, aesthetic aspects that compel me in this work. In each picture I create, I have carefully crafted an image that is visually arresting and implies a relationship narrative that compels the viewer to wonder, and reflects the enigmatic complexities of my own life.


    Artist's Statement (Earlier work, pre-2016)

    My paintings strike a balance between telling a narrative and creating an intriguing composition. By achieving this balance I hope to share my vision of ourselves as people, our environment, a way of life that is past, and how that past reflects on our present.

    I work from vintage photographs. My challenge is to recognize the great painting inside an innocuous snapshot, to draw out the singularities I see, and express them through the artistic process. Rather than manipulating and rearranging elements in a photograph to fit an artistic aim, my aim is to use the photograph as found. Contemporary art based on vintage images often refer to the photograph as an artifact and highlight the time separation, establishing a distance between the viewer and the subject. I present my subject matter without irony, without self-referential elements. I present the image with immediacy and invite the viewer to step into the scene as a contemporary moment.

    The subject in the snapshots I choose invites us to explore our concept of relationships, gender roles, the lives of children and how we work and play. Some of the figures are posing, engaging at the viewer directly. Some are caught unaware in a candid, fleeting moment in time. This makes the viewer part of the scene as an unseen observer.

    The foundation of my art is drawing. The images are simply and boldly drawn. I paint thinly, and I try to keep the drawing visible if possible. I work directly on wood panel, sometimes integrating collage. The colors are rich and yet subtle, based on a limited palette, working off of the color of the surface. My style is rooted in the American Regionalism, American Realism, and Modernist movements. The paintings I create are unquestionably contemporary, yet classic and accessible.

    In choosing snapshots and photographs that involve happenchance and unpretentious expression, I show how the mundane moments of life are rich with meaning. My style is transcendent of time or fashion, and evokes the essence of life and our ageless human existence.