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Courtney M. Leonard
ASU Art Museum Brickyard, Tempe, Arizona
Recommendation by Deborah Ross

Courtney M. Leonard, "Artifice," 2015, ceramic

Continuing through August 6, 2016

Themes such as the degradation of coral reefs, the ethics of whaling and threats to Native American culture seem like a tangled combination of issues to cover in a relatively small exhibition. But in “Breach: Log 16” Courtney M. Leonard makes salient connections among these topics through a ceramics practice that includes audio/visual installations. A Santa Fe-based artist, Leonard grew up in the small Shinnecock Nation of Long Island, New York, where fishing and sailing have strong cultural and historical significance. To Leonard, the word “breach” comprises multiple connotations, including the breaking of contracts, weakened barriers and the surfacing of whales.  

“Breach #2” presents hollowed-out ceramic forms evoking whale teeth, heaped onto a wooden pallet. “Carrier” and “Memory,” a two-channel video installation, contrasts the hands of sailors working the rigging of a restored whaling vessel with the artist’s hands working clay into ropes and coils. On view nearby is an unfired clay dome resembling a Shinnecock dwelling that’s protecting ceramic open-weave “baskets” representing coral reef. The installation then segues to a wall where more than 20 such baskets hang on a surface that’s painted to suggest underwater topography. The wall text for each work is simply its one-word title, its part of speech and the multiple definitions of the word. If this seems clinical, it is also Leonard’s way of asking viewers to give the works multiple interpretations.

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