Studio Project # 2

 12′ by 12′

Title: An Infant bound by Its Surroundings


This drawing was made using black ink and oil pastels. It explores the mirror stage, where young children become aware of their own physical presence. But more specifically it explores Lacan’s ideas about recognizing the self, as well as the differentiation between recognizing one’s image in the mirror, and understanding that what they see is merely a reflection of themselves, not something that is real. As this key understanding occurs within the child, they also become increasingly aware of their surroundings, which is where their sense of self is often obscured or altered to fit the norms already set by society. Lacan claims that parents impose onto the child what is bad or shameful, so the child suppresses these feelings, and thus the unconscious is formed. In my piece the child is bound to the environment it was born into, with the actual pattern that surrounds the infants head creating a grotesque mouth. One that is foreign and does not belong to the child. Ultimately I aim to make people question what comes out of their mouth, where it came from and how their subconscious biases might be affecting what they say.

Bridge 2: Political Spaces Sketchbook + Final Drawing – Nathaniel



For this project, I wanted to portray the ominous feeling that I got when being in the stairwell that connects the first and second floor of the University Center. I felt that the monotone palette of the painting that hangs opposite the stairs, paired with the massive skull that occupies at least one third of the painting, creates a dark atmosphere within the stairwell. My response to this space features a grotesque, human like head, wrapped in the tangles of a geometric abstraction. The head was inspired by the skull within the painting, while the line work serves as my reaction to the sharp geometric architecture that makes up the stairwell.

6 Days of Writing – Seminar 2018 – Nathaniel Leshem


  1. My art usually takes the form of drawings, paintings and video. In these works, I often look inwards for inspiration, my memories, thoughts and feelings all dictate what comes onto the page. I draw what I have no words for, I try to explore the darkest and most beautiful parts of life as well as the good and the bad that exists within everyone. My process if extremely simple, I let me hand flow without much preparation, this has been the case with all of my work from very small drawings to extremely large works. From this comes a semi abstract, chaotic and slightly off putting product. Grotesque, human like figures appear in my work, but I really dislike when people call them characters. I don’t intend for my work to be like a cartoon, but rather a response to my environment and a portrayal of what’s going on deep inside my mind. I also love making videos, I have shot and edited music videos and short films. Similarly to my drawings, I want to give the viewer a unique, almost otherworldly snapshot.

Mark Bradford is my favorite artist. Working in painting and collage mostly, Bradford’s work greatly revolves around his hometown of Los Angeles. He has portrayed this city many times throughout his career with intense gridlike abstractions. I would describe his work as a scavenged collection from his environment, which he then distorts and manipulates through abstraction and collage. Mark Bradford is also deeply invested in speaking for those who are oppressed in today’s world. He is known for making political abstractions to convey a political message, or make a statement about the human condition. In these political works he does an amazing job highlighting important issues that society faces as well as creating stunning, often very large collages and abstractions.


  1. If I owned a gallery, I would choose to make it installation based. I would want it to be somewhat small, but incredibly immersive. I would show one artist at a time in order to keep a consistent experience. However in all honesty, if I owned a gallery I would not be able to help but create my own installations. Constructing an alternate world or environment for people to experience is something that greatly interests me and from personal experience, it is what makes me feel most fulfilled. In highschool, I convinced my mom to cover the two 12’ by  8’ walls of my garage. I spent a lot of time in there so I wanted to make an interesting and creatively stimulating environment. I ended up covering the garage walls using paint markers.  However, I was still unsatisfied and wanted the work to interact with the environment more, so behind the work that was already there I painted another mural using glow in the dark paint. So when the lights are on the viewer sees one thing, but when they come off, a whole new side of the work that was otherwise invisible comes to life. I set up black lights that illuminated the glow in the dark work even more, when the lights were off.  So if I had a gallery, I would want to take this experimentation to the next level by stimulating all of the viewers senses, not just their sight. I would also want to experiment with the use digital art, as well as three dimensional work. I wouldn’t end up displaying my work exclusively, but it would definitely be a big part of the gallery. I would want to give young up and coming  artists the opportunity to showcase their work, because I identify with the struggle and anxiety that comes with trying to get my own work seen.
  2. If I could live and work anywhere, it would be in the hills of Los Angeles where I grew up. I would want it to be deep in the hills, secluded, and quiet. I would want the whole studio to be white with gray concrete floors. The ceilings would be high and the building would have sharp angular corners. A long hallway would lead from the workspace into a small living quarter with a kitchen, bed, and wooden dining table. Ideally I like to keep my bedroom and workspace separated because I want to keep the place I sleep stress free and I feel it helps my productivity if I have a designated place to work and a designated place to sleep. I would want the interior of the studio to be very simple with nothing but my work materials and everyday necessities. I wouldn’t have a tv or any technology unrelated to my work.  I would want my backyard to be a massive hill covered in greenery almost like a jungle. I would want the trees and plants to grow into a thick canopy that creates shade and provides shelter for animals and a place for me to decompress. A small stream would run down the hill leading to a pond at the bottom. I think the sound of running water really relaxes me and it would create an even more serene environment. I would put up massive wooden blocks (varying sizes but probably around 15’ by 8’ or so) throughout the backyard that I could paint on, cover up when I’m done, and repaint. At the very bottom of the backyard I would want a small wooden shack with a single bed. I would want it to be hidden by trees and plants.


  1. I believe that you can teach a motivated individual how to become a technically skilled artist, if they are willing to put in the many hours it takes to do so. You can certainly give someone the skills to do things like draw from observation, and create perspective. But I do not think you can teach students how to create meaningful work, because that must come from within.  As a teacher you can ask questions that stimulate creativity and depth of thought. You can show your students examples of art and culture that may inspire them to strive for a deeply creative and original mindset. However, I think it would be really difficult for a teacher to take someone who is by nature not artistic or creative and transform them into someone who is both conceptually driven and technically skilled. And if that did happen, I would argue that those traits already existed somewhere deep inside them. I believe that the job of an art teacher is to challenge their students to think as deeply as possible, and to foster an exciting learning environment. Beyond that it falls upon the student to actually spend time crafting what they want to convey. However, if you grow up in an extremely creative and  thought provoking environment from a young age, I think the product will be an adult who has a less conventional way of thinking. Beyond that I think that certain people are super creative by nature, and making art comes naturally to them. So ultimately someone’s creativity and ability to make art has a lot do to with their surroundings and upbringing but I do not believe that you can teach someone who is not a creative person how to be creative.
  2. In 2015 Budweiser released one of their signature Clydesdale ads for the Super Bowl. This ad campaign stuck in my mind more than any other I’ve seen before. The ad begins at the ranch where the Budweiser Clydesdales are raised and trained.  The ad follows the harrowing story of a shockingly cute golden retriever puppy who lives side by side with the clydesdales. After getting lost while on a ride with the rancher, the puppy courageously travels far and wide trying to find his way home. Meanwhile his owner soberly puts up flyers and drives around the rural town where the ad takes place, asking the locals for help. The day goes by and the sun sets as it begins to rain, the puppy takes refuge in a box on the side of the road for a moment before journeying on. Finally, he makes it back to the familiar hillside that borders the ranch and lets out a piercing howl of joy. The clydesdale horses far off in the barn hear their long lost friend and begin to stir. Suddenly a low growl comes from behind the puppy and he turns around to a wolf ready to attack. The puppy, now covered in dirt shuffles backwards down the hillside slowly whimpering. Back at the barn the horses sense the danger and kick the door down. They gallop up the hill as an emotional cover of I’m gonna be (500 miles) swells. The wolf approaches the puppy, and in his last efforts to save his life the puppy lets out a few angry but feeble yips. To his surprise, the wolf runs the other way. The puppy spins around to four clydesdales ready at his side. The sun rises as the farmer stares out his window to discover the group sprinting back to him. Even though I found this ad very emotionally manipulative, it still left me with intense goosebumps during the sad parts and a big smile at the end. I remember watching it with my sister who broke down crying at the end. Unlike most ads, it was a story,  and it was very easy to follow. Budweiser’s use of the Clydesdales was very smart, the proud, strong horses came to save the helpless puppy, which is what they ultimately want consumers to think about their product.


  1. If I was the subject of a painting, I would want the artist to create a full body portrait, specifically focusing on distorting the scale to make me seem tiny. Being extremely tall has always been a major part of my identity, so it would be interesting to see what I would look like in a sea of giant people, for once unable to see over their heads. It would also be interesting to see my portrait with with my height majorly exaggerated, or from three point perspective. It would be fascinating to see how I look from the point of view of a child or a very short person. Other than my height, I wouldn’t  want the painter to focus on any other specific physical traits, but rather a look into what goes on inside my head. If someone painted a simple portrait of my face, I would want to give them inspiration with my own abstract art and have merge my physical and artistic traits. I would want the abstraction and the portrait to be in transparent layers so it would be hard to tell which was painted first or which one is dominant.  Since portraits often revolve around beauty, or our perception of beauty within human traits, I feel this would give a more accurate portrait of me.

Wooden Body Sculpture Project – Nathaniel Leshem – Space and Materiality




When I set out to create a body interactive sculpture from wood, I aimed to build a mask like three dimensional sculpture that could be placed on the hand and interact with the arm. I wanted to use the expressiveness of a mask but make it handheld.  After sketching the face and building a prototype out of cardboard, I cut the outline of the mask out of wood. Then I divided it into sixths so I could make hinges within the facial features to create depth. After doing the two dimensional drawing work, I stapled wire mesh to the back of it, so that it runs up the users arm when they hold it. I also attached a hand strap made from fabric. I spray painted the wire mesh to create a greater sense of contrast between the front mask part and the mesh attachment.  In this project, I felt that I was able to build upon my two dimensional work by incorporating it within a body interactive sculpture. I struggled during this project at certain points, like when we had to create the paper folds in cardboard. However I think that I ended up gaining a lot from this challenge as I now have a better grasp on how to merge my drawings with work that is more three dimensional. I also feel I have a better grasp on how to use mechanical joints rather than adhesives. Overall, I feel that this project as well as this class in general have improved my sense for how artwork creates spatial awareness as well as how our haptic senses affect our impression of a piece.