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Feb 11, 201311:07 AMCulture

Fun and Culture in the Mid-State

Five Questions for Leah Yancoskie

Feb 11, 2013 - 11:07 AM
Five Questions for Leah Yancoskie

Photography by Danielle Lucas

Leah Yancoskie is an artist, photographer and ceramist. She is currently enrolled in the Art program at Millersville University.

She is experienced in custom picture framing and restoration. She uses a wide variety of materials and often finds innovative ways to create her pieces with non-traditional materials. Her primary subject matter is the human form, in particular the female figure.

Through this exploration, she strives to capture the complexity of emotional landscapes of her subjects. She does this by communicating ambiguous human emotions through subtle shifts in expression and gesture.

She has won Best in Show and placed in her respective categories in several member shows at the Art Association of Harrisburg. Yancoskie hopes to use her time at MakeSpace to further investigate the borders of human emotion in her work.

What new mediums and materials are you looking to use in your work at the MakeSpace? What would be some ideal ones?

I am really hoping to get a small photo lab up and running in the cellar of the MakeSpace. I would love to start developing my own photographs again. As far as idealistic materials go, I love anything that involves melting metal, heat, and fire. I think it would be pretty awesome to use explosions somehow to create art. That would probably require a much more expansive space than the MakeSpace could offer, and I don’t think the city of Harrisburg would approve.

I really like that emotion is integral to your work. What do you think about the fetishization of objectivity? If you don't, what do you think about emotional complexity as a subject and its relationship to depictions of women?

Lately, I have been exploring my motivations as an artist and why I feel so compelled to create.

I think it is because I am a very sensitive - and perhaps overly emotional - person by nature. My feelings cannot help but spill out into everything that I do. It’s the reason I would make an awful waitress. If I’m having a bad day, everyone in the room will know because it will be all over my face.

After getting clean nearly seven years ago, I felt an incredible need to let go of those spiritually crippling emotions. Creating art is one of the only things that feels right.

I also experienced a fair amount of trauma growing up. Consequently, I harbored a lot of poisonous emotions, which later manifested into drug abuse. After getting clean nearly seven years ago, I felt an incredible need to let go of those spiritually crippling emotions. Creating art is one of the only things that feels right. I have come to accept it as part of my healing process. 

What's your favorite thing you've done, and what is something you'd love to do?

I skate for the Dutchland Rollers, a nationally ranked women’s flat roller derby team in Lancaster. It is one of the most awesome things in the world someone could do. There are a handful of skaters across the country that I dream about sharing the track with. This past summer I had a chance to skate against Bonnie Thunders from Gotham (NY, NY) in a scrimmage. She is one of the greatest skaters of all time. I’m sure she barely noticed me on the track but every time I think about that moment I get sick with happiness.

You're going to Millersville right now - what is it like creating art in an institution as opposed to outside of it? Were you making art before going to school? How has school informed your process?

My father was in the art program art Millersville in the Sixties and my mother is also a very imaginative person, so I grew up in an environment that fostered my creativity.

For me, there are definite pros and cons to creating in an institution. I love being around other creatively-minded people, but I feel with group cliques there is a slight competitiveness that I find unsettling. I’m sure others thrive in that sort of environment, but I fold inward on myself, which is something that I am trying to overcome.

One thing that I am grateful for is assignments that get me out of my comfort zone and get me using new materials in different ways. 

What piece of art of any medium made by another person do you most wish you were responsible for? Or is there none, and would that cancel out the desire to make art?

Oh gosh, there are so many pieces that I adore. I am in love with this one statue in the Philadelphia Museum of Art called "the Fall of Icarus" by Hippoylyte Ferrat. It is small bronze statue of Icarus with his wings spread and his feet in the air. Every time I see the figure, it captivates and overwhelms me with its grace and beauty.

I also absolutely must mention the street artist Swoon because her life and work has inspired me so much. She is not only an amazing creator but also an unbelievable person. She involves herself in humanitarian projects and holds community in a very high regard. I tracked down some of her work on the streets of Braddock, a small town outside of Pittsburgh, and I was incredibly excited to have that opportunity.

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