Leslie Fedorchuk: Artist in Residence at Kratzsch Conservancy
October 28, 2020 | Topics: featured artist
The Natural Realm presents Leslie Fedorchuk, who is one of 12 artists participating in a year-long residency program called ARTservancy, a collaboration between Gallery 224 in Port Washington and the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, River Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee Area Land Conservancy and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory. The mission of ARTservancy is to promote the visionary work of both the artists and conservationists. Each artist has selected a preserve to spend time in and to engage with.
Artist Statement by Leslie Fedorchuk
“Our indigenous herbalists say to pay attention when plants come to you: they’re bringing you something you need to learn.
“Restoring land without restoring relationship is an empty exercise. It is relationship that will endure and relationship that will sustain the restored land. Therefore, reconnecting people and the landscaper is as essential as reestablishing proper hydrology or cleaning up contaminants. It is medicine for the earth.
“The guide nods and replies with downcast eyes. ‘Yes, I have learned the names of all the bushes, but I have yet to learn their songs.’ ”
~Robin Wall Kimmerer
Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants
I want to learn the songs.
That is what I have tried to do this past year at Kratzsch Conservancy.
I had originally planned to tell the story of this place through the eyes of my grandchildren.
My first two visits there were with them. Each had their own way of interacting with the land. Otis and Muriel take off running the trails. Muriel stops, Otis pauses a moment and then continues—while Muriel is now examining a particularly interesting little toad that she notices on the side of the road—almost no bigger than a thimble. She sees things that no one else does. Of course, she is closest to the ground, and has the youngest, sharpest eyes. But it makes me wonder, what am I not seeing?
Then it was winter, and then there was COVID. My visits were different. I realized I needed to listen and pay attention differently.
Everywhere I look, although I can’t directly see it—everything is moving. Shifting, evolving, reacting—to the seasons, the creatures, the plants, to climate change, to viruses. In this body of work I wanted to grapple visually with the idea of movement, of evolution, and of sustainability.
The land is a conglomeration of how it was formed, how it has changed over time, and how it will continue to change. The land is interconnected and we are a part of that connection. It sings to us, it tells us things—if we can only pay attention. Mostly it seems, we can’t.
I began taking as many photos as I could (using my phone) and making small videos. Of the things I would notice, of the sounds I heard. The land, the light, the river, the creatures, the plants—and then they began to talk to me.
A note about the work:
In 2018 I first began really paying attention to the rollbacks of environmental regulations. As I write this in the autumn of 2020, the current administration has dismantled major climate policies and rolled back many more rules governing clean air, water, wildlife and toxic chemicals. I had already made a commitment to focus on the environment in my studio practice several years earlier. A residency at the Trout Lake Limnology Center, and my youngest son’s work in environmental justice were instrumental in clarifying this direction. What is happening with current policies has made this work even more of an imperative for me.
I consider my studio practice a form of research. The work I have created during the residency at Kratzsch includes altered digital images and video, waxed eco-dye prints and book art. While some of the pieces are complete, others will continue to be developed for the foreseeable future.
Link to Working Document:
Digital book (Click tab in center. Some of the pages have embedded videos. Move mouse over screen to access videos.)
Leslie Fedorchuk is an artist and educator who has been working in the genre of alternative processes and artists’ books for over thirty years. She earned her BFA from University of Michigan and her MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She completed further graduate study in theology at St. Francis Seminary. Her written and visual work deals with issues of autobiography, memory, and domestic narratives. She has exhibited both nationally and internationally and has work in many private and public collections including the Milwaukee Public Library, The Tweed Museum of Art, UW Milwaukee Special Collections, and the Museum of Modern Art.
Fedorchuk is a Professor of Humanities at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, where she has developed and taught courses in the humanities, art history, writing, letterpress and book-arts. She has been a part of the MIAD community since the early nineties serving both on the faculty and as an academic dean.
Currently serving as the Director of Academic Service Learning for the college, Fedorchuk had a decade of experience in human services before coming to academia. She believes in the importance of creative people in every aspect of community life and encourages students to see themselves as change-makers both in and out of the studio.
See more of Leslie’s work on her website.
This is the latest in our series of featured artists, which is intended to showcase the work of photographers, artists, writers and other creative individuals in our community whose subjects or themes relate in some broad sense to nature, urban nature, people in nature, etc. To see a list of previously featured artists, click here. The work of the 2020 ARTservancy artists in residence is currently being exhibited monthly at Gallery 224. To meet the other ARTservancy artists in residence, click here.
All images courtesy of the artist, except as noted. The featured photo at the top of the artist at Kratzsch Conservancy is by Eddee Daniel.