A Joule Exclusive by Angela McAdrian
Weirdness prevails, and this month we bring you an exclusive interview with San Francisco Bay born artist Chris Leib. Chris’s work conjures up the feeling of being in a dream. We are sure you will appreciate his surreal work aesthetic. Chris Leib’s paintings are interesting and teleport you to a faraway, strange, whimsical land of oddities that will make you chuckle.
We are a big fan of your work! Can you tell our readers what first inspired you to become an artist?
Leib: Thank you. Likewise! My earliest inspiration was my father. He was a incredible artist, especially with pen and ink, which ranged from highly rendered realism to cartooning. His drawings were masterfully done, and still inspire me. As a child I would draw in his studio and he would show me books on mythology, antiquity and old master paintings. I enjoyed the worlds these artist’s created. I wanted to do that.
What has changed in the last few years since we featured you in Seek.me magazine?
Leib: Quite a bit has changed since we last spoke. My work has been in a lot more shows the last few years… around 20 last year I think! In the midst of that, a couple years ago, my wife and I packed our studios into a van and headed out of Brooklyn to California. Initial we thought to move to Los Angeles but ended up in San Francisco, where we used to live. A couple months later, the studio we rented was converted to tech space so we were pushed out. Eventually we landed on the Monterey Peninsula where we have a space to live and work.
What are some upcoming things for you?
Leib: Upcoming, I will have my work featured in HEY! Magazine, Paris. Currently I’m working on a portrait of Matt Gonzalez, the 2008 Vice Presidential running mate of Ralph Nader, for a show at Modern Eden Gallery in San Francisco. And I’m painting some new bonobos and astronauts for a show at the new beinArt Gallery in Melbourne, Australia.
- OCT 15 – NOV: Chris Leib, Rachael Bess & Stuart Amos Exhibition at http://beinart.org/exhibitions/
If you could travel back in time to any time period for one week, which would it be?
Leib: I’d be curious to see everyday life during antiquity, specifically ancient Rome. I’d like to observe the similarities. See first hand the art, technology, and fashion, hear people’s views on the world, it’s future, and listen to Tacitus and Cicero.
What are some of the barriers you have faced in your career and how did you handle them?
Leib: This would take a novel. The initial challenge I faced, common to many artists, was how to balance my time earning enough money to live, take art classes, and afford studio space, with having time to create work. Early on I felt it was important to work on my art as much as possible. I kept my expenses low and avoided debt in order to afford a studio and have time to paint. I took art classes selectively to build a portfolio instead of getting an art degree. Because I spent most waking hours at my studio, my living situation was a secondary consideration. During the dot-com boom in San Francisco, a neighbor, who was apparently making fireworks in his garage, blew up his house, and burned down several others including the flat I lived in. Rents had risen, so I ended up sleeping in a friend’s hall closet for almost a year. It was great incentive to put in the hours at the studio. I had several other unusual living situations after that in order to afford the time and space to work on my art. Looking back, I don’t know if it was the best approach, but it’s what I chose.
What inspires you?
Leib: I grew up on sci-fi and the space race of the Cold War. Astronauts/cosmonauts were the dominant heroic images then and sci-fi often reflects the political climate of its time: Zombies as consumers, Godzilla and atomic power, the Cold War in Star Trek, and so on. Every system has cracks, but sells itself as flawless. It’s that dichotomy that inspires me.
Do you have an intention or impact you are considering when you create your works?
Leib: I would like the work to be both a bit unsettling and a little humorous, in the hope that a viewer might take an extra moment to consider the painting, examine details and ponder the narrative. I try to set up unusual relationships, small details and symbols, that point to plots and subplots, to a mystery to be solved. Rather than create a dogmatic work that preaches a position, I would prefer the viewer take a minute to connect the dots.
Bonobo Astronomica, 2016, 12 x 16 inches, oil on panel
Trinity, 2016, 16 x 20 inches, oil on panel.
Jack, 2015, 12 x 12 inches, oil on panel.
Astrovilla, 6 x 14 inches.
Feature image painting: Queen of Gold.
All photos courtesy of Chris Leib.