Leslie Shellow was born in Washington DC and currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland. Her work consists of ink drawing on cut paper and panel, oil painting on panel, bookmaking, printmaking and cut paper installation. In her youth, Leslie had the opportunity to spend many weekends on and around the waters of the Chesapeake Bay. This early exploration in nature provided the foundation for her long-standing affinity for the outdoors.
Pulling her imagery from observations of nature, both in the visible world and through microscopes, Leslie addresses biological processes such as growth, decay and regeneration. Mold, lichen, corral, cells, viruses and bacteria are among the many natural elements that influence her work.
In 2019 Leslie was awarded the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award for Works on Paper, as well as, in 2010, 2013, and 2016. In 2017, she was selected as a Baker Artist Award Finalist and in 2015, a Sondheim Prize Semi-finalist.
In February 2018, Leslie spent 4 weeks at the Jentel Artist Residency in Sheridan, Wyoming, which led to her most recent solo exhibitions at the Gibbs Street Gallery at Vis Arts in Rockville, MD and the Greenbelt Community Center. Other notable contemporary art spaces in which Leslie’s work has been shown are The Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, Loyola University of Maryland, Goucher College, the National Institute of Health, Carroll Square Gallery in Washington DC, Arlington Arts Center and Greater Reston Art Center in Virginia.
She holds an MFA in Painting from Towson University, a BFA from The Maryland Institute College of Art and a BA in Education from the Evergreen State College. She currently teaches Drawing at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Being in tune with my surroundings can be both a blessing and a curse. Sometimes it provides unending visual information to use in my work and sometimes it’s simply overwhelming and paralyzing. Observing nature has a calming effect on my mind and so that is where I choose to spend most of my free time. The infinite colors of lichen on rocks, the back and forth flow of sea grass underwater, the reflective, metallic surface of mineral pools at Yellowstone all play an important role in feeding my artistic sensibility.
Careful observation is at the core of my practice. An appreciation for the complexities of the natural world drives my desire to work slowly, meditatively building one small element on top of another. The deliberate process of meticulously drawing and cutting everything by hand allows for a more intimate examination of the materials, which in turn draws me closer to the subject. Methodically pouring thin layers of paint and waiting for them to dry requires patience and provides the opportunity for reflection.
My practice starts with observational drawing. Like a human camera, the drawing process records images in my brain. Once the drawings are complete, I stop looking and respond to the essence of my experience. How did it feel to be in the presence of the hot springs at Yellowstone? Not just how did it look, but how did it feel? This is where the more imaginative elements of the drawings come into play.
For me, Nature is a friendly presence, but I am also wary of its ability to surprise us with unpredictable behaviors such as natural disasters and disease. The reason I am drawn to nature is because of its beauty, but I also fear its power. I respect its strength by never assuming that I know too much and by keeping my sense of individual power in check. The one thing that is predictable about Nature is that where there is an effect there is always a cause. All elements in nature are inextricably bound to one another.