Born in New York City in 1953, Leslie Lew grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and Chicago. Her father was a well-known advertising executive and her subject matter was influenced by the commercial ads and products that surrounded her. Her underlying theme deals with childhood memories, growing up in America. She examines American culture and how it reflects on our tastes historically – good and bad.
Lew received her B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. This is where her idea of “sculpted oils” first developed, manifested through her supermarket paintings. Inspired by her father’s work in advertising, the product labels and aisles in the supermarkets were a wealth of inspiration for the artist. Pop-culture items like food packaging and comic books became the foundation of Lew’s subject matter. Using icons like Wonder Woman or Dick and Jane, Lew reaches back through the pendulum of American culture, wringing out childlike moments that many have too-soon forgotten.
While Lew became famous for her work in the East Village, being in Chicago prepared her for her future transplant to New York. While at the SAIC under the advisement of Ray Yoshida, Lew worked amidst the Hairy Who, a pop art styled collection of artists under the umbrella of the Chicago Imagists.
During her graduate work, she was invited to participate in the SUNY/ Semester in New York City, a program much like the Whitney Museum’s, where she was given a studio with weekly critiques by respected artists of the time. She ended up staying in NYC and had her first solo show at Sensory Evolution Gallery as one of the artists from the East Village Art Movement. Lew’s idols for artistic inspiration are Andy Warhol, Norman Rockwell, Peter Max, and Fra Filippo Lippi. She’s inspired by the unique attributes of each artist, pulling from pulp fiction and pop culture, her liberal use of color, and warm, nostalgic values.
Lew lives and works near Peekskill, N.Y. Her works have toured in museum exhibitions sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon Museum and the Guggenheim (upon whose walls her paintings have hung) and she’s shown in the best “high end” New York galleries next to works by Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Man Ray. She has been a professor at the College of New Rochelle, and was selected for the Westchester Bienniel 2006, and 2008. She received a grant for a children’s book she wrote and illustrated called, “Buki’s Garden,” which inspired free workshops held at children’s hospitals and learning centers in 2013. Her work has been included in art book publications, “Encyclopedia of Living Artists in America,” “East Village: A Guide, A Documentary,” “East Village 86,” and The Guggenheim’s “Comic Release – Negotiating Identity for a New Generation.” She was named “Artist of the Year” in 2009 by Liquitex Paint.
Her work has been exhibited in galleries and museums in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, and Sofia, Bulgaria. She recently has been included in the book “The Martin Z. Margulies Collection,” published by DAP, outlining Marty Margulies’ extensive 20th and 21st century art collection.
1985 Sensory Evolution Gallery, NYC
1986 Sensory Evolution Gallery, NYC
1987 Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, NYC
1990 Margulies/Taplin Gallery, Bal Harbor, FL
“You are Here,” College Center Gallery, College of New Rochelle, NY
1992 Vered Gallery, East Hampton, NY
OK Harris Gallery, NYC
1993 Vered Gallery
1995 Margulies/Taplin Gallery, Miami, FL
1996 Light Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1997 Kravets Wehby Gallery, NYC
Vered Gallery, East Hampton, NY
2001 “American Icons,” Chappaqua Library Gallery, Chappaqua, NY
2002 “The Way We Were”, Sarah Lawrence College Gallery, Bronxville, NY
2003 Hamilton Halleries, Santa Monica, CA
Celia Hirsch Gallery, Chappaqua, NY
2007 The Lab Gallery/Westchester Biennial Exhibition Award, NYC
Katonah Museum of Art/”Buki’s Garden Workshop”, Katonah, NY
Limon Gallery, Palm Beach, FL
“Snap, Crackle, and POP,” Hendrick Hudson Free Library Exhibition Space, Montrose, NY
2008 “Objects – In and Out!” Flat Iron Gallery, Peekskill, NY
2008 “Love and War in Western Art – Changes in Style,” Marcy B. Freedman/Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY
2000 “Déjà vu: Reworking the Past,” Barbara Bloemink/Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY
1981 “Multiples – the Vicinity Artist Show.” The Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
1983 “The School Show,” The Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
“Seven Days of Creation.” ABC No Rio Gallery, NYC.
1984 Jack Tilton Gallery, “A-Moore Store,” NYC
“Women on Art,” Quando Gallery, NYC
1985 SOHO Center for the Visual Arts, NYC
“57th Street between A and D,” Holly Solomon Gallery, NYC
“Second Annual Contemporary Exhibition,” London, UK
“Starved for Art,” Lowery Sims/Visual Arts Museum, NYC
“New Art in New York,” Parsons School of Design Gallery, NYC
1986 “The East Village,” Fashion Institute of Technology Gallery, NYC
“Small Work by Major Thinkers,” Bess Cutler Gallery, NYC
“Pop Now,” Sensory Evolution Gallery, NYC
“Artists Unite Against Nicaragua,” El Bohio Gallery, NYC
1987 “A Sigh of Relief,” Wilson Art Center, Rochester, NY
1989 “Alice (and Look Who Else) through the Looking Glass,” Bernice Steinbaum Gallery/Traveling Museum
1991 “Subterranean Paintings,” Henry Street Settlement Art Museum, NYC
1992 Alexandria Museum of Art, Alexandria, LA
Peconic Museum of Art, Peconic, NY
1995 Holtzer Museum of Art Invitational, Helena, MT
1996 The Alternative Museum National Showcase Exhibition, NYC
2001 “Locations Real and Imagined,” Westchester Arts Council, White Plains, NY
2002 Westchester Arts Council Open Studios, White Plains, NY
2003 “Comic Release Negotiating Identity for a New Generation,” Carnegie-Mellon/Guggenheim Museum
2004 “Lessedra Third World Print Annual,” Lessedra Gallery and Contemporary Art Projects, Sofia, Bulgaria.
2005 “Artistic Fragments,” Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY
Hamilton Galleries, Santa Monica, NY
“The Parrish Art Museum 39th Juried Exhibition,” South Hampton, NY
2006 Westchester Biennial 2006, Castle Gallery, College of New Rochelle, NY
“Portrait Invitational,” Blue Door Art Center, Yonkers, NY
“Unexpected Visitors,” Maxwell Fine Arts, Peekskill, NY
2007 “Interiors,” Limon Gallery, Palm Beach, FL
EYE/Visual Art Performance, Guest Artist, White Plains, NY
“Peekskill Open Studios,” Peekskill Arts Council, Peekskill, NY
2008 Westchester Biennial 2008, Castle Gallery, College of New Rochelle, NY