Artist Heidi Leitzke’s Latest Exhibition Shows Familiar Scenes in Lancaster County, Mount Gretna | Entertainment
In the rough spring of 2020, as the COVID-19 closures began, Heidi Leitzke and her 11-year-old son Henry were at the Mount Pisgah Overlook at Samuel Lewis State Park in York making landscape drawings of bridges spanning the Susquehanna River.
The symbolic power of the stage, which Leitzke had studied and incorporated into his work for about 10 years, suddenly struck it with new meaning.
âThe job of a bridge is literally to take you from one side to the other,â says Leitzke, assistant professor of art and director of the Eckert Gallery at Millersville University. âI felt like we were going to get by. There are bridges. There is a way forward. Just having this symbol right at the start of the pandemic to think about and work on in the months to come has become very meaningful to me – as a physical thing to be made, but also metaphorically. “
Taking the familiar and giving it a new and original meaning is the challenge of any artist, especially landscapers. Leitzke achieves this successfully with his series of 25 familiar scenes from Lancaster County – and elsewhere – in his latest exhibition “A Bridge Across, A Path Through” on display now at the Hess Gallery at Elizabethtown College until December 10.
âIt’s really beautiful work and I think what’s intriguing and really interesting about the work is how Heidi takes us on her journey to Lancaster County,â says Milt Friedly, art teacher. and director of art galleries at Elizabethtown College. “I think what I see in Heidi’s work is this combination of reality, observation, fantasy and imagination.”
A bridge across
Location is extremely important for working in âa bridge across, a path throughâ. Some of the locations featured in the exhibit include the Susquehanna River, Mount Gretna, Lancaster County’s idyllic winding country roads, windy Delaware beach scenes, and memories of Leitzke’s life growing up in the Midwest. His atmospheric scenes of the Susquehanna River are instantly recognizable, yet imbued with a sense of hopeful wonder. They seem to breathe with a life of their own.
âIt’s almost like amplifying or intensifying what I see and that’s kind of where the sense of wonder or imaginative qualities come in,â says Leitzke, 42, of Lancaster. “I’m trying to do something that’s like how I feel about this place.”
His approach – and the use of various surfaces and mediums including gouache, oil and acrylic paint, ink and thread – add new dimensions of sentiment to these familiar scenes in a way that, say , a photorealistic landscape painting, might not be able to accomplish. There is an ethereal sense of magic swirling around Leitzke’s work. The images of Leitzke’s recent works act as a bridge between reality and the fantastic realm of the artist’s imagination.
A way through
The scenes of âone bridge across, one way acrossâ are particularly poignant now as the world tries to see a path to a future beyond the pandemic and grapple with the dangers of climate change. The feeling that we live in two worlds simultaneously – one familiar and one that has been drastically changed – is evident in Leitzke’s work.
The tranquility of the natural world was on Leitzke’s mind during the pandemic.
âDuring the pandemic our family really enjoyed the hiking trails maintained by the Lancaster Conservancy and we went through the list of all reserves and explored new hikes,â says Leitzke. “It’s something we were doing while I was doing this corpus, and the kind of comfort and renewal that I personally feel when I’m outside is definitely there.”
Mount Gretna has become an important place featured in âa bridge across, a path throughâ. Leitzke and her husband Jay Noble – the principal of the Mount Gretna School of Art – and their son Henry, have spent a significant portion of each summer since 2013 living in the wooded market town steeped in a rich artistic tradition.
âIt’s like a very magical place,â says Leitzke. âIt’s like you are walking around this wooded wonderland and the more time we spent there the more I started to feel that it was a really special place in general, but also for us as a family.â
Leitzke says the play of speckled light passing through the trees, the shadows of the ferns on the winding paths and other unique shapes of the dense landscape of Mount Gretna inspired her to make a series of ink drawings in black and white. White. The drawings have helped her chart a new course in her work.
âBy nature, I am drawn to a lot of colors,â explains Leitzke. âColor is generally one of the main visual strengths in my works. So by removing the color, I was able to focus more on the formal qualities and try to really force myself to build a structure based on value rather than, say, a warm-cold color relationship. So it was kind of an exercise to get out of my comfort zone. “
Leitzke says looking at the isometric perspective and calligraphic brushstrokes of traditional Chinese landscape paintings has helped her find a new path forward with her own work.
âI call it a stacked space. You get the impression that everything is sitting on top of each other as it moves in the plane of the image, âexplains Leitzke. “A lot of artists will look at the work of other artists to build their visual vocabulary, so I was thinking of these Chinese landscape paintings.”
Son of the past
Another paradox in Leitzke’s work is that the landscape is both universal and extremely personal. Some works refer to Leitzke’s childhood in the Midwest in terms of landscape and medium, particularly his use of yarn on linen.
âI grew up in the Midwest in a family of makers,â explains Leitzke. âMy mom did a lot of sewing and we learned crafts and my dad worked with wood. If you couldn’t afford to buy the right thing, you’ve just figured out how to do it yourself. It is therefore still a practical manufacture.
Leitzke’s use of wire to create landscapes came about through experimentation and convenience. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. In Leitzke’s case, the idiom is more literal. When Leitzke became a mother 11 years ago, it led to much needed innovations in her work.
âI did oil paintings and works on paper until my son was born, but it is difficult to care for a baby who has just woken up from a nap when you are covered. of oil painting, âexplains Leitzke. âReturning to that cherished format of hand embroidery, which I had learned the basics of as a child, I found this way of creating a painterly image that was clean and wearable. It was really perfect for that moment in my life and it became something that felt my own voice even more than the paintings I had done before.
Some recognition for some early wire work in the form of an honorable mention from art critic Jerry Saltz let her know she was on the right track.
âYou can bundle the thread together and make it very messy or sew with just one or two delicate threads, so I like this range as well,â says Leitzke. I found a brand vocabulary that is really pictorial and exciting.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO:
What: the exhibition âA bridge across, a path throughâ by Heidi Leitzke
Where: Hess Gallery in the Zug Memorial Hall at Elizabethtown College, 1 Alpha Drive Elizabethtown, 17022
When: The exhibition now runs through December 10. The opening hours of the gallery are Monday to Friday. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sat and Sun. 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
More Information: Visit heidileitzke.com for more information.