Associate Professor of Visual Art
Much of Leigh Tarentino’s art pays homage to the landscape of her childhood. “I grew up in an industrial area of upstate New York, which was gritty, fairly mundane and a little disappointing visually.” But in her large canvases, she’s been able to change those utilitarian elements of a peculiarly American landscape into an otherworldly place. In her hands, power lines, fuel stations and nondescript buildings and cars are transformed into unexpected beauty.
She hopes to bring some of the experience of transformation to Brown students as assistant professor of visual arts. “Teaching and my creative work go hand in hand,” she says. Tarentino finds that discussions in the classroom inspire her work, and her solitary work can often inspire her teaching. She is looking forward to teaching not only the students who are artists, but also budding biochemists and computer scientists, among others, in her foundation art courses. “These students are open-minded. They provide a new and different perspective on art, and we will all learn together,” she says.
Tarentino received her B.F.A. in painting from the Kansas City Art Institute. She followed up with an M.F.A. in painting and printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design. While at RISD, she was a teaching assistant at Brown. “Graduate school was really a turning point for me,” she says. “It was where I learned to express visually the way I see the world.”
Using photographs as raw materials, Tarentino modifies them with digital media and printmaking techniques. The result is a synthesis of mediums in which the ordinary is altered into fantasy. She has presented solo exhibitions of her work at the Black and White Gallery in New York in 2004 and 2006, and another is planned for 2009. Her work has been included in group shows at the Stas Namin Centre in Moscow, the Bank Gallery in Los Angeles, the University Art Museum of SUNY–Albany, and the Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn, N.Y.
For local inspiration, Tarentino will have plenty of sources. She’s already photographed the industrial landscape of Allens Avenue. “I am able to work wherever I am,” she says. “Things I see every day find their way into my work.”