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Tree Oh majestic tree how safe I feel hugging your stable trunk. Although you tower over me, you protect my soul from unbelieving. —mpl


A Multimedia Exhibition By Marietta Patricia Leis

Marietta Patricia Leis Engrained: Ode to Trees

In the course of a long career that has taken her from New York to Los Angeles and finally to Albuquerque, NM, Marietta Patricia Leis has mastered just about any medium at her disposal—printmaking, sculpture, painting, video, and photography. Her subjects have often been inspired by her travels worldwide: to Antarctica, Southeast Asia, Greece, Iceland, and other farflung spots. The experiences she gathers from place, whether it’s the humid green of the tropical jungle or the billowing clouds and black-velvet nights of the Scottish Highlands, become distilled into the different series she’s pursued over the years. The common thread is that Leis brings to all her work qualities of elegant understatement, a thorough knowledge of craft, and an approach that marries thoughtful restraint with a sensuous feel for her materials. For her latest project, Engrained: Ode to Trees, Leis found inspiration quite literally in her own backyard, when a 30-foot-high spruce tree on her property in Albuquerque, NM, died shortly after she moved in. Parts of that tree have made their way into the Engrained series: slices from the trunk, lovingly varnished and stained, stand like proud sentinels on Lucite shelves in Gentrification I and Gentrification II. Fissures I and Fissures II, a pair of ink-relief prints, and the sculptures Splintered I and Splintered II similarly find their origins in that same fallen tree, as does Keepsake #2, an image burned into linen from a section of the trunk. When a mimosa tree, also on her property, lost a big branch during a windstorm, Leis used it as the source material for the series of sculptures called Traces, which stand in front of two large oil paintings, Symbiosis I and Symbiosis II, densely saturated with the bright fresh green color we associate with trees just coming back to life in early spring. The installation seems to juxtapose the living against the dead, and speaks to the possibilities for renewal and rebirth.

Specific trees may have provided the inspiration for many works in the show, but Leis’ travels—and her self-description as an “outed tree hugger”—have made her sensitive to the plight of trees in general. She’s flown over the Amazon and witnessed the burning of rain forests; she’s seen firsthand Iceland’s barren landscape, the result of devastation by early settlers; and, like the rest of us, she’s concerned about the clear cutting, wild fires, and deforestation that are quickly eroding our landscape. The videos in the Engrained were all made in Finland, where she had an artist’s residency above Arctic Circle, and show how forest after forest has succumbed to destruction. But the message in Leis’ methods—if indeed we need a message—is far from hopeless. There is ghostly beauty in the 82-inch-tall photos of the Evanescents series, joy in the sprightly arrangements of paintings that make up Tree, and throughout the series reminders of how much pleasure we get from the colors, textures, and presence of those mute and stalwart citizens who share our planet. In examining all the qualities of “treeness”—from seeds and leaves to the battered husk that remains after a tree dies—Leis gives us tangible proof of the loveliness of these silent gifts of nature along with intimations of how barren our world would be without them.

Ann Landi Ann Landi is the founder and editor of Vasari21.com and a contributing editor of ARTnews

Splintered I & II, spruce wood/oil/wax

Symbiosis I & II, oil/linen, Traces I-III, mimosa wood/oil

Traces I, mimosa wood/oil

Traces II, mimosa wood/oil

Traces III, mimosa wood/oil

Fissures I & II, ink relief print on paper

Gentrification I & II, spruce wood/stain

Solo, spruce wood/gold leaf

Tree, mixed media installation

Seed 31 (from Tree), oil/panel

Seed 37 & 38 (from Tree), oil/panel

upper: Seed 36, 30, Lower: Seed 33, 40 (from Tree), oil/panel

Seed 34 & 35 (from Tree), oil/panel

Seed 27 oil/panel Traces IV, spruce wood/oil

Traces IV left side & right side, spruce wood/oil

Keepsakes I & II charcoal ash relief print on linen

Evanescents I archival inkjet print on Habotai silk

Evanescents II archival inkjet print on Habotai silk

Evanescents III archival inkjet print on Habotai silk

Evanescents IV archival inkjet print on Habotai silk

Evanescents V archival inkjet print on Habotai silk

Evanescents I-V installation

Arboreal digital video

Extraction digital video

Truncated digital video projection

Remembrances I & II burnt spruce wood/lacquer/steel

Remembrances In process Burning “Shou Sugi Ban� method

ENGRAINED : Ode to Trees We’ve always known trees—they grow along with us marking our lives. Perhaps there has been a favorite tree in your life, one that you climbed, picked fruit from or one that defined your property from another or you contemplated outside your classroom window. Trees are special friends because they provide us with so much; shelter, shade, nourishment, beauty, protection, refuge, regeneration and a purifier of our air. The Japanese have an activity they call “bathing in the woods ” walking among trees to dispel the stress of life and maintain mental health. It is no wonder then that we grieve when a tree(s) goes missing. I am a tree-hugger. I have said hello and good-bye and goodnight to trees. I have thanked them and loved them and I have mourned their loss. In fact it was the loss of my 30-foot high spruce tree, the one that lured me to the property where I now live and work and then died shortly after I moved in, that provided the first physical materials and impetus for this exhibit. Maybe its job was over when it found me but my job had just begun. My hope is that my art will attract the viewer with beauty and invigorate our love and need for trees and propel us to save them for our planet’s health, grace and survival for future generations! -Marietta Patricia Leis

Marietta Patricia Leis is an Albuquerque based multimedia artist. Her work exhibits nationally and internationally. Travel is an important part of her art as it gives Leis the opportunity to study the social and environmental concerns she expresses in her reductive art. To see more visit www.mariettaleis.com