Artwork / Empathetic Magic / Leah Fitting In and Standing Out

Leah Nanako Winkler
Gwenn Seemel
Sailor Cheerleader (Leah Fitting In) and Double, Not Half (Leah Standing Out)
acrylic on bird’s eye piqué
each painting 18 inches in diameter

$1800  |  $1800

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.

You can watch the making of Sailor Cheerleader.

painterly portrait
detail image
painterly portrait
detail image