In the catalog to my exhibit RED at the St. Francis Xavier University Art Gallery, Sean Kennedy wrote an essay around his feelings about my paintings. When one of my students read it aloud (I couldn’t) in our last workshop class of the season, she was very emotionally moved by his words. I am as well.
Sean’s essay reads:
Every Leya Evelyn painting carries a wound. A wound that, in turn, carries the painting. Often they are vaginal. Sartre, giving full rein to his misogyny and resentment of the female form, described the vagina as obscene, a gaping hole, “an appeal to being”. His sense was that the vagina, like any gaping space–an open mouth at Burger King–demanded to be filled, satiated, and, by the same token, contained. If he was, perhaps, wrong in most of what he said in this, one thing rings true in the current instance. The idea of the wound as an appeal.
In the case of Leya Evelyn’s canvasses, there is no shouting, no hysteria, and certainly nothing of Sartre’s all-too-easy misogynistic philosophy. But each painting carries a wound. And the wound is an appeal to being. A muted scream. when you first see one, all you can see is the scream–the difficult corner that will not go away. After a while, when the painting has agreed to be around you, the scream is the lac e you return to again and again. Like a tongue to a jagged tooth. To try and explain how and why Leya Evelyn’s art articulates any or all of this is simply to intrude verbally upon a process that is written in, or on, or by and through the body. Samuel Beckett never got over the fact that he had to work with words, and all of their sullied etymological history, when his friends, Jack Yeats or John Beckett, could draw on the purer medium of the music al note, or the brushstroke. These seemed cleaner to him, whereas words carried everything with them. Hoarders of hurt and history both. Leya’s paintings do this too, but they hoard history in order to restore its dignity. They channel suffering in search of reparation. If these are wounded canvasses, they are also canvasses in search of a second hearing. Of course, wounds are everywhere. But nowhere more beautifully transposed than in Leya’s canvasses. they don’t just scream, they also sing. Sometimes they sigh. Often, they say nothing at all. They are, in fact, nothing more or less than ourselves. Hurt, hopeful, beautiful, and in search of redemption. Or, to use Leya’s own word, resolution. Not resolution in the sense of a neat and fitting end. Not solution. More like resolution as in the strength to go on, the resolve to continue. Courage. The courage, perhaps, not to lick our wounds so much as hear them out. In the end, it is this courage, this resolution, that allows Leya to transmute her wounds into occasions of beauty. Odes to joy. As you stand before a Leya Evelyn, you stand before yourself. All that is left is to listen. For listening has always been a way of seeing, and it is the bounty of these great paintings that they help us to see ourselves again.