Berlin, Vt – Ken Leslie has devoted much of his efforts over the past twenty-five years capturing, with paint, the changing winter and summer of the Artic. The work featured at the Gallery at University of Vermont Health Network-Central Vermont Medical Center is from more than a dozen residencies at and far above the Arctic Circle: Kotzebue, Alaska; Iqaluit (Baffin Island), Canada; Akureyri, Iceland; Inari, Finland; Kjøllefjord, Norway; Longyearbyen, Svalbard and just last summer, Upernavik, Greenland.
Arctic summers feature 24-hour sunlight; but Ken Leslie prefers the 24-hour darkness of Arctic winters. He explains: “When you hear of round-the-clock darkness, you can easily get the wrong notion that it means total pitch-black darkness. But there are many kinds of darkness. What the Winter Arctic loses in direct sunlight, it gains in twilights—the most amazing range of rich indigos and French ultramarines and cobalts. The intensity of this blue seems greatest when there’s a cloud cover, and what little light there is reverberates back and forth between the sky above and the snowbed below. The filtered light seems to multiply in saturation, and you feel as if you’re walking through blue—not merely below it or in front of it. You breathe it in, bathe in it—become part of it.”
The Arctic Cycle artist’s books have all been painted in pairs—summer and winter. He selects a site, does preparatory drawings and the paints a page an hour, completing the full 360° while moving through 24 hours. All paintings are on a single piece of carefully measured and folded paper. He explains he is “stuck” with whatever happens on each page—retakes are not possible. In such a way he literally connects Space and Time—and Himself, in that space, at that time.
The work folds up neatly into a book form to be “read” two pages at a time. The Home Cycle was painted at my home in Hardwick, Vermont—moving through a year instead of a day. He also painted a Vermont year’s cycle from the top of the State House Gold Dome (google State House Gold Dome to see more about that project!).
The exhibit also includes more traditional canvases where Leslie captures the darks and lights, winters and summers of various places at the top of the world – of polar midnights and night moons, starlight and streetlights, of July mornings and winter trees.
Ken Leslie is a Professor of Fine Arts at the Visual Arts Center at Johnson State College, where he has taught since 1984. He and his wife Ruby live in Hardwick. He has been awarded visual artist fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Community Foundation. More information about him can be found on his website at www.kenleslie.net.
This “Top of the World” project has been made possible through generous grants and support from Johnson State College, the Vermont State Colleges, the Vermont Community Foundation, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Gilfelagið Foundation of Akureyri, Iceland and the Upernavik Museum, Greenland. Next on my dance card is a project with the Ilulissat Museum in Greenland--site of the Ilulissat Icefjord—a UNESCO World Heritage Site which calves more icebergs than any glacier in the world outside of Antarctica. Ken can be contacted at 802.635.1315 or Ken.Leslie@jsc.edu. His website is www.KenLeslie.net.
TOP OF THE WORLD runs through February 13, 2015.