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Leah Nanako Winkler

Gwenn Seemel
Sailor cheerleader (Leah fitting in) and Double, not half (Leah standing out)
2017
acrylic on bird’s eye piqué
each painting 18 inches in diameter

Fitting in $1800 | Standing out $1800
(Email me for details.)

Leah Nanako Winkler made a face at my brother. He was directing a reading of one of her plays, and he’d said something she didn’t agree with. The subtle exchange held magical implications for me, a lonely painter who didn’t understand how special the artistic camaraderie of theater could be. I pledged to be better at making my art a collaboration, starting with Leah and her portrait for Empathetic Magic.

Over the next few months, I immersed myself in Leah’s plays as well as in her articles for a website dedicated to helping Japanese-Americans navigate the culture of the United States. When we met again in New York, we’d already discussed what the paintings of her might look like, and I even had potential titles gleaned from her writing.

To create portraits, I generally work from photos I take during the course of a single interview, but, for this series, I preferred multiple meetings. There was a lot of visual and vital information to collect if I was going to paint how people hide and reveal themselves. With Leah, though, that gathering process happened through her art. I knew basically what I needed to get out of the photo-session as soon as I walked through her door.

For more about the making of Sailor cheerleader, check out this video.