The artist finds the process of creating her complex layers of pattern or collage simultaneously constraining and freeing. “The work is controlled and concentrated,” she says. “But my mind is free. I look through the work and there is a world inside that opens up.” This desire to open or engage with one’s inner world is in keeping with Leibowitz’s interest in Victorian-era Romanticism, with its preoccupation with intuition, emotion, the irrational, and the transformative power of imagination. “Reality is expansive, and there are always multiple views of things,” the artist says.
Leibowitz portrays the efforts of these women as creating what she calls “conduits to the shadow world” that are still open to us today. Her work is an example of scholarly giving: she wants to help her viewers and herself become part of a just-dusted-off world of feminine imagination rather than blocking the way with an authorial injection into found aesthetic artifacts. She thinks of her drawings as “pages loosed from a long, dreamy novel,” using found ledger papers and pages from diaries to create a sense of the work as fragmentary—not the whole story. The blanks between the pages push us, the audience, to fill in the gaps, allowing us to enter the imaginative lives of her Victorian subjects. Leibowitz invites us to the door of that world and shows us the way in.
Penciled on old, weathered pieces of paper, Ms. Leibowitz’s drawings look uncannily like the works of a self-taught Victorian mystic. Narrative imagery focuses on women, implying occult experiences and same-sex eroticism; these themes are enhanced by densely elaborated patterns that cover dresses, fill pictorial space and decorate the borders. All together it suggests an artist in a state of ecstatic creative possession.
In artist Roz Leibowitz’s estimation, making art is about “being in [correct] alignment to the cosmic show.” However, her intricate pencil drawings and collages are not portrayals of a fantastical realm but rather depict a curious blend of vernacular culture relating to folk art and folk belief. In particular, she is influenced by the Victorian sensibility of ideas and interiors. Her work is compelled by notions of womanhood as expressed in the in the pseudo-sciences of that period, a time when scientific rationality was emerging as a dominant world view. She pays homage to the leading role of women in fringe movements like phrenology, spiritualism, utopianism, mental healing, mesmerism, and table rapping by casting them as the central characters in her work. Leibowitz invokes simple formal devices that mimic Victorian illustration such as borders and captions, but the finished pieces do not attempt to be windows to another era. Instead, each of her images portrays an intimacy with history, memory and the past — themes running through the body of her work. In pencil-drawn snapshots like Flower of the Eternal Imagination, ornate frames reminiscent of lockets or pendants feature scenes from an alternative visual family tree.
© Copyright 2019. Roz Leibowitz. All Rights Reserved.