June Leaf's mixed-media paintings, drawings, and sculptures defy conventional description. Moving beyond both realism and surrealism, she resides in her own special spiritual zone of creativity aspiring to ecstasy.
During April — July, 2016, nearly 100 of her drawings, paintings, and sculptures were on display in the ground-floor gallery of the Whitney Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Now 87, she demonstrates the extraordinary creative juices of elders who keep their souls and senses alive. What does she have to say about her art?
"You see something, and you really see it, and then you must spend your life to get other people to see it. And that's been the story of my life."
Coney Island (1968) is a drawing in pen, ink, and colored pencil on paper. Here is a straight-forward portrait of what looks like a middle-aged couple focusing their attention on a carousel. Both the man and the women seem to be wrapped up in their own reveries — perhaps they are each harvesting memories about this popular ride that is part of the childhood of so many adults.
Are they wondering whether or not to hop aboard the carousel to relive this playful experiencel? Or are they stuck in the middle — unwilling to step into the past or live in the mystery of tomorrow? While the man seems immersed in his gaze at the horse, the woman's head is momentarily turned to catch the look and the smile on a man nearby.
It doesn't matter whether or not our readings are on target. June Leaf has vividly captured a moment of playfulness in this couple. The drawing reminds us that catalysts to reverie and memory recall are all around us. We just need to notice them.