Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Interview: Leo Hayden Takes Us Inside the Warehouse Arts District in East LFK

Readers, if you spend much time on the Final Fridays art scene in LFK, you've certainly seen the work of Leo Hayden.  Chances are, you also know the man himself: one of the friendliest dudes in town and also one of our best artists.  Leo was kind enough to invite us out last week for a Free State beer and a tour through the Seed Company building in East Lawrence's new "Warehouse Arts District."   We're pleased to report that it's an impressive space (all 10,000 square feet of it!). 

At this Friday's debut, Seedco Studios (826 Pennsylvania) presents F-BOMB, "a stunning array of mixed media art," says the press release, from the Fresh Produce Art Collective. The opening, scheduled from 6:00 to 11:00, will also feature music from Olassa, Cloud Dog, and others.  The vision for the future of the building is that the upper level will eventually contain a major stage and bar.  Our friend King Tosser, well-reviewed rock scholar, was along for the tour and immediately exclaimed that the massive two-level space was destined to become the LFK equivalent of Warhol's Factory.  So there you have it, folks:  East LFK will soon be both "the future Santa Fe of the Midwest" (LJ-World) and the next Factory (King T).

The Warehouse Arts District will be in full swing this Friday, with numerous new galleries opening their doors to LFK's arts-lovers.   Make sure to "like" the District here on FB to keep tabs on what's happening and visit the official FB event page for Friday's activities here.

In the meantime, enjoy this interview with Leo for an insider's scoop on what's new in the LFK art world.

Chip:  If I’m to believe the recent piece in the LJ-World (which I don’t), East Lawrence is poised to become “the future Santa Fe of the Midwest.”  What’s your take on the burgeoning arts scene in East LFK and why should lazy Final Friday scenesters leave Mass. Street to check it out?

Leo:  At this point I think it is very much a diamond in the rough. This month is all about seeing the potential of the Warehouse Arts District ( or W.A.D. if you will ). The next few months will be seeing if we can get a flawless diamond cut from this sizable rock, and polish it to make it shine. I think it can thrive as long as the artists keep banging out quality work. That's really where it starts and ends. 

The population of Sante Fe is only 70,000 people, so it's actually smaller than Lawrence, but to be a Sante Fe type of art market the city and private developers would need a planned out, funded, and sustained marketing plan. We have to bring in art lovers from all over the Midwest, not just Lawrence. We need K.C, St. Louis, Omaha, Lincoln, Denver, Chicago, Wichita, Topeka, Tulsa, Austin, Oklahoma City, Seattle, San Francisco, too. (OK, I threw in the last 2 in order to make it sound like "Heart of Rock and Roll" by Huey Lewis, which is INCREDIBLY unhip.)

The other thing Sante Fe has is a style. You see certain things and they just remind you of Sante Fe influence. I am not really sure Lawrence has that. Except sunflowers, wheat and grain silos . And I have sworn myself to never painting any of those. Maybe I could paint a grain silo with sunflowers and wheat stalks on the side of it and kill them all with one stone. 

As for the second part of your question, the area is optimized for lazy scenesters. The "truly lazy" scenester will show up late for the Poehler Building ribbon cutting, mill around and find some type of obligational free snacks and appetizers at various locations, pay a couple bucks donation for some tap PBR, visit all 4 venues showing art without moving a single block, then check out the live music at The Seed Company Studios which goes on all night. They don't even have to go to Mass. Street.  I call it the Mass Exodus strategy.

Richard:   When you walked us through the new Lost Art Space you mentioned that you’d recently developed a newfound confidence in your own work.  Tell us what makes Leo Hayden stand out among Larryville artists and tell us what we’ll be seeing from you this week at Final Fridays.

Leo:  I would like to clear up a misconception about Lost Art Space. Yes, all the artists from Lost Art Space are working out of the building, but Lost Art Space still has a store front on Mass St. It is located on the lower level below Phoenix gallery and is actually open all week, not just for art shows.

I think the confidence comes through validation by fellow artists. That and a backlogged list of patrons wanting commissions.

The Seed CO. Studios are great to work in because you get constant feedback from everyone filtering in and out all day, (and night). It gives you a sense that you belong. Not only belong, but are thriving as an artist as well.

What sets me apart? Patience, people, and quality.

I think on average I spend more time on each individual work. I am very plodding and methodical in how I go about them. My last two paintings took 150 and 120 hours to complete. And the majority of the time I spent on them was the under-sketches, not the actual painting of them.

The people part is in the subjects. I find people much more interesting to paint and draw. But I don't like traditionally posed portraits. I like to try and capture people just being 100% themselves. I think that's why kids make great subjects, because they don't even know how to be anything other than just themselves.

Quality is in the products. I try to build my own panels when possible. I use tempered hard board over other softer woods. I use 4 layers of gesso and sand between each layer. I use the best quality oils I can find. Artists seem to be shying away from the traditional oils. The majority I know use acrylics or, if they use oils, they are water based. The main reason seems to be they prefer the quicker drying times, (which comes back to patience). I use the traditional oils because I think they get the most vibrant color. And the combination of all these things results in a painting that will look as good 200 years from now as it does the day you painted it.

This Final Friday I am showing:

Fally :  local I Heart Local Music blogger Fally Afani showing off her mad skills.

E @ the Star Bar :  The lighting reminded me of Edward Hopper's New York Movie so I took a shot of Elizabeth on my phone and did the painting based on that.

The Ball Pit This piece was all about playing with color. Lots of color.

Cotton Candy is from a photo taken of a girl at the St Patrick's Day Parade in Lawrence. Our dog Niki had just unsuccessfully tried to eat large chunks out of her Cotton Candy as she kept walking back and forth.

Sophie 2012 : a recently commissioned piece
Here's Sophie:

"I've Got Game, and I'm Bringin It"  is my most recent work featuring my great niece being... well my great niece.

All are oils with the exception of Fally. I don't have any pre-conceived elements I am looking for in a subject. I am usually just out somewhere and a situation will catch my eye. It might be the particular lighting, or the colors, or just interesting folks being interesting.

Chip:  My favorite Leo piece has got to be “Brownback Sucks,” in which little baby Brownback suckles at the teat of Sarah Palin.  I’m giggling just thinking about it.  What’s your own all-time personal favorite piece?

Leo:  Well Chip, if you like Brownback Sucks then you would love the little side project called Studio Burlesque that I have been doing. Foxy by Proxy, the local burlesque troupe has been putting on some live art sessions at the Lawrence Arts Center and Atomic Photography. So you get some great images of women posing in interesting costumery ( is that a word? ). They also serve cheap PBR and its sort a fun little DJ'ed  Drink N' Draw hang out session.

I'll have my sketchbook out for Final Friday for perusing.

My favorite piece? Some wise woman (Elizabeth) told me that your favorite piece has to be your most current work of your most current (and last) girl. So E @ the Star Bar is my favorite piece.

And as an artist I feel that the best piece is always the one you are currently working on. This is especially true for me because there is some element that I wonder if I can actually pull it off.

Richard:   What do you see as the greatest strength of the Lawrence arts scene and what do you see as the major weakness?

Leo:  I think the greatest strength has to be the pure number of people that actively create art in Lawrence.

The weaknesses are the same as would be in any art scene. None that would be specific to Lawrence.

The economics of Final Friday are a weakness,  I think. The people that are benefiting most are the businesses. People should make it a goal to spend at least as much on art as they do on $3 margaritas, tacos and frozen yogurt. Without the artists, there is no Final Friday.

At the very least, buy your favorite artist a drink. But trust me, they have been drinking since noon when they started hanging the show.

Chip:  I can only look at art for about a half hour before I get bored and/or confused.  Tell me a few of the can’t miss artists or pieces that I should seek out on the Eastside during Final Friday this week.

Leo:  Like I said before, use the Mass. Exodus Strategy, go to the W.A.D. and check out all 4 venues.

If you don't want to fry your brain figuring out visual metaphors and symbolism, check out my pieces. I like to call my works W.Y.S.I.W.Y.G.'s. What You See Is What You Get. Nothing more, nothing less.

Clare Doveton and Molly Murphy at the new Invisible Hand location will be a can't miss.

I am really enjoying Erok's Crossing Lights series.

Substantial work has been done on Jesse Gray's Bear Fighter piece since you last saw it.
[Here's a pic we snapped during the tour]:


And see if you spot all the PBRs in the last Supper collaborative piece. As well as Lost Art Space guys Paul Flinders, Jeremy Rockwell, and Jeromy Morris apostle-ized. Oh, and an angry possum.

Richard:  I understand that the vision for the Seed Company building involves an upstairs bar and stage for bands as well as the downstairs galleries.  Is this truly going to become like Andy Warhol’s Factory over there?  And who’s the LFK equivalent of Warhol? 

Leo:  That's all purely speculative at this point. But it would be nice if that vision came to fruition. It's still a bit early to see how it will all shake out.

When you talk Warhol, I would say Wayne Propst comes to mind. Erok or Jeromy Morris with the interesting re-hashing of imagery. But the Warhol of Lawrence will always be William S. Burroughs, hands down, dead or alive. Bill Self a distant second.
Hell, Burroughs was Andy Warhol before Andy Warhol was Andy Warhol.

Chip:  I hear Cloud Dog’s playing in the building this Friday?  Are you going to get shirtless and painted up and jam with them?  And are there other acts this week that might lure our music-loving readers over to the Eastside this Friday even if they don’t care about art?

Leo:  A good rule of thumb for me is that it is OK to paint nudes, but it is NOT OK for me to paint IN the nude. I really want this night to be a success, and keeping my clothes on is conducive to that goal.

Music in some form will begin at The Seed Co. at 6 PM. There are four acts:  Olassa, Owl People, a third which was added yesterday, with Cloud Dog finishing the night off. 

I would guess on the start times, but we all know that would just make me a liar.
Peruse the useful map below to insure that you don't accidentally wander into an "abandoned" warehouse being used as a massive marijuana storehouse or a "bath salts" manufacturing facility.

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