Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum
San Antonio, TX
Blue Star Contemporary Berlin Residency Alum and veteran San Antonio artist Leigh Anne Lester exhibits work inspired by her time abroad in her installation Flexible Foundation. Lester focuses a microscopic lens on the genetic modification of plants. Using historical botanical illustrations as a starting point, Lester blends the look of observational lab drawings with the decorative and rigorous aesthetic of 18th and 19th-century botanical illustrations. Lester uses hand-cut drafting film, colored pencils, and acrylic paint to create layered works that closely resemble plant cells compressed onto a glass slide. The movement and depth of the work make the viewer feel as though they are watching a scientific mutation in process. Drawn elements become cellular detritus suspended in viscous matter through the layering of semi-transparent Mylar. Her more sculptural artworks, draped cut-outs of plant silhouettes, resemble zealous overgrowth born from a Petri dish. These plant sculptures contain small mapping flags. Perhaps this is a visual pun by the artist: a literal “genetic mapping” of her creations.
Her work is neither condemnation nor celebration of the pervasive genetic tinkering of our time. Rather, Lester approaches the subject of genetic modification from a stance of scientific neutrality. She views the “deleting and adding of attributes” as both “exciting and frightening.” Her entry into talking about these heavy topics is the visual appeal: “Beauty is an important tool in my work to lure and entice the viewer.” Like her imagined plant genes, her work has evolved and changed form over the years. Her process is a now a kind of science experiment. She sources her own “parent drawings” and genetically alters them for her “future generations” of artwork. This language is lifted straight from Mendel’s genetics. Lester's new installation is undoubtedly influenced by her visits to the Berlin Botanical Garden and Botanical Museum during her residency, a major reason for her application to the BSC program. By treating her artistic practice like a science experiment, and using self-imposed parameters to structure her process, Lester manages to create a unique aesthetic that is all her own.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website