Erin Leland

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Artist Statement

These mute surfaces, including product photography of fashion accessories and stage prosceniums or theatrical walls, divulge nothing. It is we who must read everything into them until the script is provided. I am interested in setting the stage in anticipation of action, rather than in performing action. As a reticent performer, I prefer to observe from the background of a scene. The set exists irregardless of a performance, or as an invocation of a performance said to have happened in the past.

The surface of a fabricated rock wall, as well as the fluttering of a fabric backdrop, are scripted facades. My 2015 construction called Traces to Form Concrete Thoughts takes as its starting point the rumored discovery of King Ludwig II afloat in Lake Starnberg in 1886, his stomach protruding above the shallow water as an adrift body. Carved from styrofoam, a rock wall and raised platform lead to a window open onto a photograph: the image of a pair of legs in water. Staged indoors, the rock wall is suggestive neither of being inside nor outside, so much as of being elsewhere.

My interest in presenting prosceniums comes from my desire to speak concretely, as if from a script. In my 2010 performance at the Watermill Center, I read an autobiographical narrative to accompany photographs and artworks displayed within Robert Wilson’s personal art collection, as well as works housed within his storage facility and re-introduced into public hanging as visual cues in my narrative. My anonymous biography scripted the reentrance of famed, though unlabeled, artworks into the Watermill rooms. I recast iconoclastic images as inadvertent players within a delivered monologue. An object in performance to a script unknown is a theme found in my earliest influence: the runway model.

Attachments to favorite fashion models have formed since my childhood, and have since informed my construction of images synonymous with the backstage. These women appear to me as a varied group of facades. The facades do not change. One woman offers even features, another an imperfect symmetry. But all offer a concrete blankness. Able to be counted upon as the consistent characters in the glossed page, to what script the women perform is not known. Only indications appear through scenes depicted: faraway travel aboard a sailboat or the cold white backdrop of a studio. Corporeal facades are both manipulated and withholding; the silent withholding of a facade largely informs my sketches for a 2016 commissioned public work at Providence College within my application, detailing the construction of a catwalk to be installed in the Neo-Gothic revivalist lobby outside of the college theater. Inside the theater, productions of classic plays occur. Meanwhile, the catwalk outside proposes both the backstage of the theatrical set and the offstage moments of a given script, spaces in which actors are half-formed in an indecisive state of becoming for the precedent scene.




Fall 2008- Spring 2010
University of Illinois at Chicago
Degree: Master of Fine Arts
Concentration: Photography

Fall 2006 Hunter College
National Student Exchange Program

Summer 2006 Shanghai University
International Exchange Program entailing video art collaboration

Fall 2003 – Fall 2007
University of Tennessee
Degree: Bachelor of Arts, College Scholars Program
Concentration: Photography and Writing

Solo Exhibitions

Fall 2016 – Fall 2017- Centennial Commissioned Public Work. PC Galleries, Providence College. Providence, Rhode Island.

September 27 – October 4, 2013 Traces To Form Concrete Thoughts. Weltraum 26. Munich, Germany.

April 5 – April 26, 2013 Everything Is Everything. Michael Strogoff Gallery. Marfa, Texas.

January 30, 2011 Critical of Tan. ACRE Projects. Chicago, Illinois.

November 6, 2010 Untitled (Artist Talk). The Watermill Center. Long Island, New York.

October 26 – 30, 2007 – Self-portraits. Fluorescent Gallery. Knoxville, Tennessee

Group Exhibitions

January 11 – February 6, 2015 Compound Lens. Ewing Gallery. University of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tennessee.

May 16 – June 29, 2014 Psychic Panic. SPACE Gallery. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

February 14 – March 13, 2014 Conversation Hearts: You Slayer Me. Rainbo Club. Chicago, Illinois.

February 6 – July 28, 2013 White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart. Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

February 22 – March 23, 2013 How Do I Look? Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center. Chicago, Illinois.

July 1, 2012 We Started with the Eyes, publication release with Marja-Leena Sillanpää. Golden Gallery. New York, New York.

July 17 – August 15, 2010 – Stay in Your Lane. Swimming Pool Project Space. Chicago, Illinois.

June 26 – July 31, 2010 – Engender Trouble. Iceberg Gallery. Chicago, Illinois.

April 30 – May 3, 2010 – New Insight Exhibition at Art Chicago. Merchandise Mart. Chicago, Illinois. Curator: Susanne Ghez.

April 30 – May 3, 2010 – NEXT: The Invitational Exhibition of Emerging Art. Merchandise Mart. Chicago, Illinois.

March 16 – 20, 2010 – MFA Thesis Exhibition. Gallery 400. Chicago, Illinois.

March 9 – March 22, 2007- 60th Annual Student Art Competition. Ewing Gallery. University of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tennessee. Juror: Josh Smith

April 22, 2006 Flesh It Out. Erin Leland and Michael Giles. Fluorescent Gallery. Knoxville, Tennessee.

April 2006 59th Annual Student Art Competition. Ewing Gallery. University of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tennessee. Juror: Joe Fyfe.

April 1, 2005 Candied Camera. Erin Leland and Damien Crisp. Woodruff Building. Knoxville, Tennessee.

April 2005 58th Annual Student Art Competition. Ewing Gallery. University of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tennessee. Juror: Robert Stackhouse.

Spring 2005 Painting, Drawing and Photography Show, Graduating Class of 2005. Knoxville, Tennessee.

February 26 – March 16, 2006 – 59th Annual Student Art Competition. Ewing Gallery. University of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tennessee. Juror: Joe Fyfe.

April 10 – April 20, 2005 – BAM! 58th Annual Student Art Competition. Ewing Gallery. University of Tennessee. Knoxville, Tennessee. Juror: Robert Stackhouse.

Honors and Awards

April 2011 Nominee for Printed Matter’s Awards for Artists.

Fall 2008 – Spring 2009 Board of Trustees Tuition Waiver. University of Illinois at Chicago. Chicago, Illinois.

Fall 2008 – Spring 2009 School of Art and Design Parada/Larsen Award. University of Illinois at Chicago. Chicago, Illinois


Fall 2013 Villa Waldberta. Munich, Germany.

Spring 2011 The Banff Centre. Alberta, Canada.

Fall 2010 Watermill Center Residency. Long Island, New York.

Summer 2010 ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions). Steuben, Wisconsin/ Chicago, Illinois.

Selected Publications

“Notes On Blue: Interview with Moyra Davey,” interview with artist Moyra Davey, Bad at Sports: Contemporary Art Talk,, June 12, 2015.

“Robert Ashley at the Whitney Biennial,” interviews with performers in Crash, The Trial of Anne Opie Wehrer, and Vidas Perfectas by Robert Ashley and directed by Alex Waterman, The Whitney Biennial at The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Bad at Sports: Contemporary Art Talk,, May 23, 2014.

“Untitled (Six Digital Collages),” Monsters & Dust, 4 (Winter 2014):108 – 114.

Sillanpää, Marja-Leena and Erin Leland, “We Started With the Eyes,” satumaa*kustantamo, loose-leaf booklet and sound recording, July 1, 2012.

“Story of the Eye” and “Self-portrait,” Musée Magazine, images featured in online monthly publication, March 16, 2012, 130-131.

“Employing My Double” and “Accidental Sightings,” Blast Counterblast, eds. Anthony Elms and Steve Reinke (Toronto: Mercer Union, 2011), 161-165.

Selected Bibliography

Interview with Todd Steed, Changing Course, Knoxville Public Radio, WUOT-2, Knoxville, Tennessee, January 31, 2015.

Les Femmes Folles: The Women 2014, ed. Sally Deskins, image and statement printed in anthology, Blurb: Deskins, 2015.

“Sally Deskins Interviews Olivia Ciummo and Erin Leland of ‘Psychic Panic’ at SPACE Gallery,” Pittsburgh Articulate,, July 14, 2014.

Elms, Anthony, “Advertorial,” Bulletins of the Serving Library #6 (2014), essay as a loose-leaf insert, released at MoMA PS1, New York, March 2, 2014.

Schwartz, Chip. “ICA Gets Fashionable with White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart,” Theartblog,, March 11, 2013.

“White Petals Surround Your Yellow Heart at Institute of Contemporary Art,” Contemporary Art Daily,, May 12, 2013.

Macian, Jose, Sue Jane Stoker, and Jorn Weisbrodt, eds. The Watermill Center – A Laboratory of Performance: Robert Wilson’s Legacy, image and citation printed, Stuttgart: DACO, January 31, 2012.

Art Chicago/ Next: On-Site Exhibitions & Public Programming, image printed in exhibition catalogue, May 3, 2010.

collaborative video with Michael Sirianni