OUT ON A LIMB: Gaining insight into the mind of an artist

I attended the Community Centre’s 10th anniversary celebration last Friday and was treated to one of the most fascinating artist’s talks I’ve ever taken in

I attended the Community Centre’s 10th anniversary celebration last Friday and was treated to one of the most fascinating artist’s talks I’ve ever taken in.

I was also treated to a surprisingly tasty horseradish cheese that went stunningly well with jalapeno jelly and a cracker. And I’m not a fan of horseradish. In fact, I think I hate it but the cheese worked for me – with the jalapeno jelly, crucially. It was offered as part of the wine and cheese reception put on to mark the 10th anniversary of the Community Centre.

Forgive me for sounding like an oldtimer but I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since the centre replaced the old Community Hall, parts of which were recycled and used around town in other projects – like the Maritime Heritage Centre.

Not that that had anything to do with the artist talk but it may have contributed to my openness to the deep topic Jim Leishman presented as part of the celebration. He was also part of the Rain and Fire Festival held the next day but, as he confessed, he couldn’t promise that the story he would tell on Saturday would be the same as the one I heard Friday.

Which is too bad if it wasn’t because Leishman was fascinating to listen to. He was there to tell the story of some huge sculptures he had created and the story was captivating. Not normally a sculptor, Leishman had embarked on a sculpting project to explore the essence of intuition. He deliberately set out to not intellectualize or plan the project or be deliberately clever in his creativity. It had to be totally intuitive.

At one time in the project he tackled a huge driftwood log with a chainsaw because he wanted to hollow it out. After sawing at it for a while, he stopped, shocked by what he had just done to his piece.

“What was I thinking,” Leishman said.

Then he realized he wasn’t thinking and given his intent to be completely intuitive, “not thinking” was completely compatible with his approach. And so thoughtlessly gutting the piece with a chainsaw was okay, leaving him feeling better about it. It was a delightful moment in the story in which Leishman had taken us along on his creative journey.

His pieces were set up in the darkened Community Centre gym, lit by some strategically-placed spotlights. My favourite piece was a chunk of driftwood out of which Leishman had coaxed a whale, an otter, a dogfish and the front half of a northwest coast canoe. None of it planned, it all came out of the wood as Leishman allowed his intuition to guide his artistic hand. It was very appealing.

The large piece, a picture of which I’ve included on page A11, was the one Leishman attacked with a chainsaw. He wanted to be able to get into it, literally, hence the hollowing out. It would take too long to reproduce Leishman’s story here. Hopefully, he’ll be able to tell it again sometime.

Alistair Taylor is editor of the Campbell River Mirror.