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  • “Cultural Properties”Cultural Properties

    Cultural Properties 67-918 2013 sumi ink, dust and pigment on calligraphy paper, collaged onto Arches 22in x 28in

Leah Schreiber Johnson

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artist bio

Leah Schreiber Johnson is an interdisciplinary artist, a college instructor and an arts administrator. She has presented at the Foundations Art Theory and Education conference on teaching the digital native. She was also invited to co-develop and lead a pilot studio course for a new partnership between Peck School of the Arts and Hubei University of Technology in Central China. She leads First Year Student Art and Design Living Learning Community programming and the Professional Practice class at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, preparing graduating seniors for the business side of being an artist.

Schreiber has received multiple awards and honors including a Marshall Frankel Foundation Fellowship and a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Commerce. She participated as Artist-in-Residence at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, The Contemporary Artist Center in North Adams, Massachusetts, the American Geographical Society Library in Milwaukee. She has exhibited her work nationally and internationally including Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Alaska, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Vermont, Maine and Budapest, Hungary. She has taught at Lillstreet Art Center and the Marwen Foundation in Chicago and at Carroll University in Waukesha, WI. She received her Bachelor of Fine Art from Illinois State University, and her Master of Fine Art from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she currently teaches full-time as Associate Lecturer in the Department of Art and Design at the Peck School of the Arts.

artist statement

My artwork is varied in its media and approach, and I use this diverse practice to investigate how day-to-day physical experiences are altered by science and the cultural landscape. My curiosity often starts with found sources such as medical manuals, maps, and historical records as points of reference to create works that explore the less absolute experiences of observation, sensation, and fantasy.

My recent work is inspired by my visit this summer (2013) to Wuhan, China, where I spent 6 weeks teaching and traveling. Looking at art around the city, I was struck by the pervasive Chinese history of ink and water, and found the meditative but public Chinese practice of painting calligraphy in water on the warm ground poetic in its expression of both the ancient and the temporary. Rich with texture, pattern, and ornament, the busy city sidewalks became an important physical and visual experience- heightening my awareness of both my need to avert the attentive gaze of those around me, and the varied and cobbled terrain of the growing urban landscape. These works on paper are monotypes- made with pigment, ink, and water, responding to the historical significance of these local materials and traditions, while taking record of a physical moment in time.

The process for making these works became public performance- carrying my materials with me as I walked, I brushed the sidewalk with water and ink often gaining attention and the assistance of curious passers-by. Sometimes alone surrounded by a skeptical crowd, but more often working together, we pressed the paper onto the wet surface, absorbing the water, ink, and dust left by the Wuhan air. The resulting prints become like archeological records, reflecting the contradictions embedded between China’s esteemed ancient customs and the fleeting nature of its quickly shifting populations and places.