I first encountered Drew Leshko’s work at SCOPE Art Fair in Miami…two maybe three winters ago. Steadily and without fail, I’ve become a bigger and bigger fan of his 1:12 classic dollhouse scale models of gritty urban landscapes and worn travel vehicles.
On Friday October 28th, Andenken and Makerversity Amsterdam are hosting Drew’s first solo exhibition in Europe ‘Heaven is Whenever’ . I caught up with Drew in advance of the show.
Hyland Mather: When I was a kid I never had the patience for those model aircraft carries and F-14s that other kids were always making with their dads. Did you grow up a model maker?
Drew Leshko: No. I was more of an outdoors kid, spending my time playing sports and digging in creeks. When i was in the 10th grade, I had a complicated chest surgery to correct Pectus Excavatum (dent in the center of my chest) which included a lot of bed rest. My father purchased a model kit for me to fiddle with. It was a half-pipe model for miniature skateboards. It was the first experience with a model, aside from a diorama associated with a book report in English class.
HM: Also, when I was a little kid my folks took me to a place in Redmond, Oregon called Peterson’s Rock Garden. Now I don’t remember exactly if a tour guide had said this, or if I just imagined it, but as the story plays in my head, Peterson was a Danish immigrant and he built the little rock castles and houses for the gnomes of his homeland. It’s a beautiful and enchanted place…you should visit if you ever have the chance. But anyway, tell me this…When you are making your 1:12 scale models, do you envision mini little characters in them? Neighbors, and children and dogs and the like? Or maybe even gnomes?
DL: Hahah. Oddly enough, I haven’t. I guess my mind isn’t that type of creative. I just find myself focusing so much on the isolated objects. I do consider the buildings pasts, and how people had influenced them — but never really think about them populated.
HM: Why standard dollhouse scale? Do you belong to any meetup groups or anything that talk the trade of dollhouse scale? It must lead to some interesting and unexpected conversations sometimes.
DL: In 2005, when I started to make these sculptures, i was making them much smaller. I was figuring the work out. I started to grow the pieces and experiment, eventually settling down on 1 foot = 1 inch. It’s just, for me, a very comfortable size to work. The pieces are small enough to abbreviate certain aspects, but large enough to include necessary details without them becoming too sloppy. I NEVER purchase dollhouse supplies. Everything is handmade, manipulated, or re-appropriated by me. I think that’s what differentiate a sculpture from a model.
I’m friendly with Kate Unver of “Daily Mini” and she promotes my work with some frequency, but beyond that i don’t really have a community of makers. I just find myself talking shop with other artists.
HM: Let’s talk time tables…From start to finish, how long does it take you to make a piece? Feel free to talk different types of pieces. Do you work on more than one piece at a time… you must right?
DL: Yes, i always work on multiple pieces at once. These sculptures include a lot of drying time, both with the paint and the adhesives, so multitasking is necessary. The framed camper trailers are about 40 hours on average. The dumpsters are quicker — about a day to construct and about a day to paint and finish. I spent the most time on the Building.
HM: Talk to me about degradation and the effects of time and nature as these forces influence the state of your subject matter.
DL: I find myself considering American consumerism and our disposable culture — always discarding of things, rather than repairing them. Upgrading to the newer, shinier version. So this mentality doesn’t mesh with the embrace of weather and rust typically associated with neglect. It’s funny how viewers can find beauty in the rust and decay on my sculptures, but don’t necessarily see that beauty in a real, rusted out camper.
HM: Craftsmanship is impeccable in your work. You must have had a teacher or several. Talk a bit about your skills and where they came from.
DL: I worked as a studio assistant for artist Lee Stoetzel who, at the time, was creating amazingly complex wood sculptures. The woodworking techniques and necessary precision taught me so much. But i think the main component is my persistence and dedication to the work — constantly working leads to improvements in the craft. Practice, practice, practice….
HM: Your current focus is predominantly urban, in particular ‘transition neighborhoods’ and buildings in disrepair. I’m thinking there might be a few motivations at work there: Archiving spaces before gentrification and then maybe also secondly you just find dilapidation an inspiring aesthetic. Am I on the head there? Why focus on these things?
DL: Yea absolutely. I think all artists are affected by their environment, and my work is directly informed by my environment, particularly the buildings. My neighborhood is changing tremendously, so this archiving project of creating sculptures of the buildings before they’re knocked down or converted into something different seemed like an important project. I wanted to make a sculptural body of work that resonated with documentary photography projects like Walker Evans or William Christenberry had explored — only in a new, contemporary medium.
HM: Let’s pretend you had a super rich eccentric bazillionaire patron who said ‘Ok Drew, I want you to make anything you want and I want you to go big’ . What would you make?
DL: I’d love to make an entire block from a city. A mix of all of the elements that i’ve explored through sculpture. The buildings would be a mix of old construction and new contemporary. It would be wild — like a crazy panorama. Complex buildings take me about 120 hours, so this wouldn’t happen overnight.
HM: Hey Drew, thanks so much for taking the time to talk about your work with me. See you soon.
DL: Thanks Hyland
You can follow Drew on Instagram at : https://www.instagram.com/drewleshko/