Artist Leon Loucheur has been a muse of Helikon’s since the gallery’s very beginning. We’re thrilled to welcome him back for this year’s “Muses of Mount Helikon V,” the gallery’s year-end show of inspiring and influential contemporary artists from across the United States. Leon, who specializes in murals as well as fine art painting, draws from elements of humans and nature, cityscapes and spirituality, to create his layered compositions. His website states that his works “are visual allegories, populated by creatures of the wild in various phases of deconstruction and remix.” Here, Leon has answered several questions that give insight into his deep and diverse creative influences, his studio and life practices, and the beliefs that shape these practices.
Helikon Gallery: Did you aspire to be an artist, or did you fall in love with making art?
Leon Loucheur: I deeply wanted to be a poet and novelist until I was in my early 20s. I published a couple unsuccessful books in the early 2000s and then decided to transition into something a little more tangible. Mostly I just found painting to be a more enjoyable activity that I could dedicate myself to on a daily basis, whereas writing required more of an “inspiration” and tended to come in large, erratic spurts. Really, I still consider myself a poet, I just employ the prose of imagery through painting, but in a fairly letf-brain, language oriented way. My work is a hybrid.
HG: Do you have a “day job” outside of your art?
LL: My job outside of art is to care for my family. I make breakfasts, pack lunches, take the kids to practices, help them with their homework, keep the house clean, dinner, dishes, etc. I’m a soccer mom. I’m pretty lucky.
HG: What does your perfect day look like?
LL: My perfect day would entail components of nature, family, sunshine, water, and tacos.
HG: What would you tell your younger self when you were first embarking on your artistic career?
LL: Would I have listened? Probably not. I’d just let that young idealist push forward with all his mistakes. Good luck kid.
HG: Who are some of your current influences or inspirations? Have they changed over time?
LL: Current influences are hard to point to. There’s a little pinch of a bunch of different ingredients that I learned from other artists’ recipe books. I was very influenced by my friend Norm Maxwell who passed away last year. I would sincerely recommend anyone who is not familiar with his work to check it out. He was the real deal. Also, I would have to put Monty Guy and Mike Gallegos at the top of the list, both of whom are close friends. You learn a lot more from interacting with artists that you do looking at their work. In addition, my experiences coming up as a graffiti writer play heavily into my approach, and the amount of inspirational people I met through that culture continues to fuel my fire. Otherwise, I draw a lot of inspiration through literary works, the beatniks, Kerouac, the 8th century Chinese poet Tu Fu, Stoic philosophy, particularly the writings of Seneca, the poems of Diane diPrima, Dylan, Steinbeck, Hesse, and the list goes on. I also have to give a big plug to the rap album All Balls Don’t Bounce (1995) by Aceyalone. That particular work has always represented the combination of creativity and display of skills that form the core of what I’m trying to do as a painter.
HG: What do you look for in the art of others? What would you hope people look for in your work?
LL: There is no absolute standard of excellence in art, only opinion. That said, in my opinion, the thing I strive for continually is to take chances. I find art that does not risk making a fool of itself to be dreadfully boring. Playing it safe will never score points in my book.
HG: How long do you usually take to complete a piece? Do you work on multiple pieces simultaneously?
LL: I do work on multiple pieces at once, and the typical piece will range between 20 and 40 hours, but of course there are outliers.
HG: Do you use any unusual or “non-traditional” media in your work?
LL: I like gluing things to my paintings, usually paper or stickers. It break the redundancy of just painting all the time, and it engages some other region of the brain. It’s nice to mix it up a bit.
HG: What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
HG: Do you listen to music/audio while you work or do you prefer to work in silence? Any bands or albums you’ve been enthralled by lately?
LL: I’m a podcast fiend. Sometimes it feels like every other sentence I speak begins with the phrase, “I was listening to this podcast and…” Honestly, it’s a touch out of control, and I’m trying to cut back on my intake of spoken media. There’s a burnout factor there that I can’t deny. As far as music, I listen to tons of funk, hip-hop, disco, electronic, chill, reggae. I like music that keeps me relaxed and moving. Alan Watts Chillstep is a recent obsession. The Colbert monologue is a daily duty. I also like listening to Zen and Stoic lectures.
HG: Where do you currently live and how did you come to reside there?
LL: I moved to San Francisco in ’98, but left for about six years to live in Boulder, Colorado. I’m currently back in SF. I initially came here just to check it out, with no specific plan, while I was trying to figure out what to do with my life. I had just graduated college with an academic degree, but was still holding on to the idea of being a writer. I guess I came here to find myself. I’m still looking…
HG: Outside of the craft you are known for, do you pursue any other artistic endeavors?
LL: I have become a fairly avid meditator. I try and do an hour each day. I’m not sure if that qualifies as an artistic endeavor, but it’s what I want to invest my time in outside of painting and the family.
HG: If you could travel to any place on earth tomorrow, where would you go?
LL: I want to swim with humpback whales in Tonga.
HG: What are you currently working on and what projects do you have coming up?
LL: I’m working on a few group shows and that’s about it. I’m okay with that actually, as I have been on the hamster wheel for some time, and so I am carving out some space to make the work first and then find a venue for it. I want to incubate some new ideas, and I find that deadlines can sometimes dissuade me from taking big risks.
HG: What is something most people don’t know about you?
LL: I detest ghost stories. Unless being used to entertain children around a campfire, all accounts of paranormal activity make me feel as uncomfortable as listening to an evangelist preaching the myth of deity. The thing we call “self” or “soul” is the manifestation of a biological entity, the brain. When the brain extinguishes, so too does the “soul.” There is no afterlife, heaven, hell, or anywhere in between. And yet, seemingly intelligent people want to tell me about that time they saw a ghost. It makes me squirm.
Thank you to Leon for thoughtfully participating in our interview! You can see two of his works in ‘Muses of Mount Helikon V,’ on view now through December 16. To see more of his work, visit www.loucheur.com.