Leeza Negelev

Leeza Negelev

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Night
Oil on canvas
36 x 36 inches

Mapping her experience of living between cultures and languages, Leeza Negelev’s work leans into the metaphors available within the natural world. She conveys her experience with a variety of styles, marks, and textures, moving between thick Fauvist colors and delicate brushwork, figuration and abstraction. Negelev’s paintings present the world she feels it: wild, sensate, and changeable.

Nineteenth century Russian literary critic, Viktor Shklovsky, coined the term ostranenija, or making strange, a way for art to remove the veil of familiarity in order to see the world clearly. The effect of ostranenija on the viewer is not unlike being an outsider or immigrant. Without the usual reference points new possibilities for meaning emerge. In her recent work, Negelev turned to Hyman Bloom, an Eastern European Jewish émigré, to understand how to paint the pulsating light within solid matter and Sanya Kantarovsky for the otherworldly pathos of the Soviet storybooks she was raised with.  

The figuration in her recent work mirrors nature but defies its logic. The mind in diaspora is in a state of agitated misunderstanding and revelation, always attempting to know its surroundings in a jumble of references. Negelev’s paintings offer a moment of encounter but require translation.