Drew Leshko is a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-based artist. By carving, cutting, and layering varieties of paper and wood, Leshko creates documentary studies of architecture from his neighborhood in an attempt to create a three-dimensional archive of buildings that are in transitional periods. The work examines gentrification and history, how historical relevance is determined, and most importantly, what is worth preserving. Working from observation and photographs, the artist painstakingly recreates building facades from his neighborhood at a 1:12 scale. The scale is familiar for some viewers as standard dollhouse spec; the treatment to the buildings is widely different. The minute detail of his work includes city detritus such as dumpsters and pallets, which are commentary of the same ideas of what is worth preserving. Highlighting quick fixes and simple solutions, Leshko’s work begs the viewer to build their own ideas of why and when these changes had been made. Accumulations of typically overlooked details and minutiae like acid rain deposits and rust become beautiful adornments.
When did you first start making paper sculptures?
I’ve been making small sculptures since 2005 when I finished school at West Chester University. I like to tell people that they’re typical 90-95% paper, but in the end they are mixed media sculptures.
Without giving away your secrets, tell us a little bit about your creative process.
I work from photographs and scale my sculpture with simple math equations. I typically only use the reference image for roughly the first half of the process. After that point, I discard the image and work from memory. It’s a strategic move I like to equate seeing something in person. You only remember so many details and your memory makes mistakes, so in some ways you are mentally rebuilding an experience in the same way I'm constructing my sculptures. This also allows me to be less strict and more creative.
Technically, I use a lot of rulers and razorblades. I don’t purchase any pre-made supplies. Sometimes I repurpose things like nails, wires, and brads. People often seem to think I purchase dollhouse windows, doors, or whatever, but no, I make everything.
How do you get inspired? What kind of imagery do you look for when you create new work?
I’m inspired by my environment. I’m really drawn to unused and underused objects. Things that are in a second life and that are searching for meaning and purpose.
Over the past few years, we have seen you gain international recognition. How, if in any way, did the attention impact your art? What did you learn from your success?
I’m not sure that it has. I’m pretty disciplined and have just been continuing down my same path. I’m just trying to be consistent and persistent with expanding the bodies of work that I’ve been creating. I’ve gained a larger audience, but I just stay focused on my studio practice. Reaching goals and achieving accomplishments is great, but I just need to keep moving forward. I’ve learned to focus on the next thing rather than the last thing.
What is your best advice for artists trying to find their niche in today's art market?
Stay in the studio and work! Make those works in series. A gallery won’t give you a solo show or the time of day if you’re making works that aren't consistent with one another. Also it shows commitment and follow through to an idea.
Do you carve out time for experimenting or do you mainly focus on your current body of work?
I’m always experimenting and trying new techniques, but I don’t set aside time to do so. Everything is a learning experience and sometimes pieces just don’t work out successfully.
What's next for you? What should we expect to see in 2017?
I have a solo show in Los Angeles with Thinkspace Gallery this summer, which is pretty cool. I’ve shown there before, but this will be my first time visiting L.A. I’m also having a big show in Detroit. It will be a two person exhibition, but it’s a big space, so it will take a lot of works. It's at Inner State Gallery, and I’ll also be doing a my first release of an editioned sculpture, like maybe 25 identical pieces that will be more attainable to collectors on a budget. That will be a project with 1xRUN.