We had the good fortune of connecting with Rhea Leonard and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Rhea, the decisions we make often shape our story in profound ways. What was one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make?
It seems simpler now thinking back on it, but the most difficult decision I’ve probably made so far is betting on myself. I struggle with having confidence in my own skills and efforts at times, which makes making decisions solely for my art practice a bit more difficult. But after graduating with my Masters degree in Fine Art I had a choice: I could have went to teach, or I give myself a year to pursue my art career seriously outside of an academic institution and see how well I do. I wasn’t confident much would happen for me, the odds didn’t feel like there were in my favor. However, I applied myself and invested in my practice, to make the artworks I truly wanted to make and I put them out there. Before I knew it the year I agreed to was up and I was already on the path to a budding career as an emerging artist. It didn’t feel sustainable at first but I gave another year, and I’m pleased to say I’m going into year three of my wager and it looks very promising now.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Getting to where I am today was a decision I made back in 7th grade and it took sacrifices and forethought to stand where I stand today as the artist that I am. It was nowhere near easy, not only honing my skills, but also coming to terms with parts of myself that needed training and re-education in order to stand tall in the art world. Often being the only Black woman, let alone Black person, in some of my art classes, that shaped me as an artist and how I approach my work and how I discuss it as well. My artwork focusing on the Black body and Black life was born out of my own experiences, not just in the art world but also throughout my life. Giving myself and my community space to be represented and seen in contemporary art through my drawings, sculptures and prints is integral to what I do. As I believe the art world can only benefit having more Black voices and Black stories told from our perspective through the visual arts. Artwork that focuses on Black life and issues without the concern for the feelings of others is imperative and that is the work I aim to create within my practice.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I honestly work too much to get out and have a decent opinion in this category. Lol. But 1-800-Lucky in Wynwood was a very interesting place I went a while back and would love to take a friend to show them around.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are numerous people that deserve a shout out from me for what they’ve done in supporting me and building me up as an artist and supporting my art practice. My parents most of all for not only their unconditional love and support, but for their understanding and help in allowing me to dedicate my time and talent early on while I was in grade school to becoming the type of artist I wanted to be. To their encouragement to go for my Masters degree as the the first capstone on a journey I started so long ago. My ever heartfelt thank you to my Mom and Dad.
Courtesy of the Artist