Rebecca Leveille’s (who is also known for her illustration work under the name Rebecca Guay) new body of work entitled “Crush” deals with an artist’s emotional relationship with their subject. Two meanings of the word “crush” come into play. Leveille examines the way the act of painting can lead to the artist having a crush on the subject of their work. She also explores the way the subject of an artist’s work is often something that needs to be reckoned with because the thing in question may otherwise have a crushing effect upon the artist. In her style she is influenced by the work of Jim Shaw, Alice Neel, Walter Robinson, and Gerda Wegener.
In the process of discovering the new body work Leveille found a sensation almost like falling in love occurs while creating an image. This was true whether the painting was of a friend, total stranger, pop culture figure, symbol from childhood, or contemporary pattern.
For Leveille the elements of toile wallpaper, blue willow china patterns, and candy colored dots carry with them an amalgam of associations, including love, pain, trauma and conflict. The Toile wallpaper and the china patterns also bring complex cultural associations of domesticity and colonial exoticism. Leveille combines these elements with images of people both friends and strangers, icons from pop culture, and text, in a quest to convey the turmoil of imagery and feelings that move her and the work. Thus the exhibition is an exploration of the way personal symbols combine with mass produced patterns and pop culture imagery to create consciousness.
The work also examines the destructive definition of the word “crush”, how the weight of certain memories and events, people, symbols, can be crushing. In most cases a duality occurs and we both love and hate/conflict aspects within the same memory or relationship.
In the case of “Tea and Approval”, Leveille employs a china pattern from a tea cup that used as a reward for a job well done when she was a child. Her reward would be that she would be allowed to use this particular tea cup for tea with her Memere. To the artist the fat baroque roses and the crisp white porcelain embodied both approval and the complex feeling surrounded by the need for approval. Included in this painting is a quote of praise for her work by artist/art critic Walter Robinson: “Somebody’s Got Skills”. The painting shows both the china pattern and showy, sexy, objectified beauties. The figures represent the artists complex feelings about this type of representation of female form. They extend the question of what it means to desire approval yet disdain the need for approval. The praise of skill is also something that Leveille recognizes as both positive yet very complex. Relying on the power of conventional ideas of skill can kill the soul of a work. Yet the child in the artist still craves to hear that she has “skill”.
Poets and Artists Magazine – Leveille’s Visual Slant towards Heightened Awareness