Suburbs, but not as we know them: Stacy Leigh imagines a surreal world to escape

In film and television production, B-roll is a term that refers to supplementary stop shots with the main shot. For example, in a cop show or sitcom set in New York City, it’s common to cut from the main action to dramatic overhead shots of the Empire State and Chrysler buildings.

As a New Yorker who attended New York University and has exhibited in the city many times, this is exactly the kind of B-roll that could be used to approach artist Stacy Leigh. But recently, she started imagining an alternative B-roll for her life: a fantasy world, far from the city, to which she wants to escape.

This led to an unplanned series of 10 paintings, now to be shown at WOAW Gallery Central in Hong Kong. We spoke with Stacy to learn more about the impetus behind her work and how she went about creating it.

Prompt to escape

The underlying theme behind these paintings is the need to escape the city. For Stacy, this is not just a theoretical scenario, but one based on real and personal experience. “The desire to escape my current living arrangement is the result of an extremely unpleasant experience with my boutique condominium,” she explains.

This came as a bolt from the blue for the New Yorker who has lived in the city, “squeezed between all kinds of people,” for more than 30 years. “During this time, I was fortunate to live in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan without ever having any problems. But as often happens, chance eventually caught up with me, unfortunately. Suffice it to say, the situation is not yet resolved, but whoever he has lived in a big city he knows it’s like a relationship: you have to be sympathetic to the needs of others. I can no longer have my physical comfort of being beholden to my neighbor’s dilapidated property.”

As such, her desire to sell her Manhattan loft and move into a house without being crammed between people is so strong that it has prompted a whole new job. “Escape to B-roll gave me the opportunity to live out my imagination on canvas,” he says. “It was really very therapeutic to make these special projects.”

Suburban yet surreal

The world these paintings represent is based in the suburbs. But instead of the mundane world of fences and soccer moms we all know. they envision these remote districts as something a little more surreal.

The Baked Clam, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

My Life The High Life, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

My Life The High Life, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Inspired by Stacey’s dream of selling her apartment and moving to a house somewhere without neighbors, her series of unplanned, freestyle paintings feature quaint houses and lush green landscapes, in bright, bold colors.

With quirky titles like ‘House full o hoes’, ‘Bad bish’ and ‘The life of a drone day 8’, they’re all a bit weird, and yet the scenes remain grounded in some sort of reality. Stacy’s paintings exude a suburban calm, filled with potted plants, tiny dogs and beautiful cars.

Behind the half-drawn shutters, viewers get a glimpse of the cozy, warmly lit interiors of the houses. Outside, manicured lawns and secluded rocks provide the setting for weekend barbecues and picnics on a summer’s day.

Yet there is also an unsettling quality to the perfection of these scenes, with their vivid colors and bold strokes, as if at any moment, the arrival of a stranger might pierce the imagination and bring the serenity to an abrupt end.

Most strikingly, these houses are set against a backdrop of sunset-filled skies, with no trace of human presence in any of the frames. The artist sprinkles a sense of humor into the hidden corners of the paintings, and these artworks require careful viewing to bring all their details into focus, such as the barbed messages on the doormats.

Narrative based

Stacy Leigh first became known in 2017 when she held her first solo exhibition of paintings, Nerves, at the Fortnight Institute in New York and the American painter and photographer Richard Prince discovered her figurative works and gave them importance.

A self-taught artist, she describes her style as narrative-driven. “I studied film production with the dream of someday making music videos, documentaries and films,” he explains. “So my painting style lends itself to storytelling.

Bless This House & Hoes, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Bless This House & Hoes, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Gangsta's Paradise, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Gangsta’s Paradise, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

The Life of a Drone Day 18, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

The Life of a Drone Day 18, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

House Full of Hoes, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

House Full of Hoes, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Beyond that, he says, “My paintings are vibrant and unique, but somehow I think they have a sense of nostalgia or familiarity. It’s hard to describe my style because it doesn’t fit neatly into a box. As a child, I spent a lot of time in front of the TV, so I can’t help but see the influence of animation on me.

“Even when I’m painting figurative work, the flesh and eyes look real, but there’s an artificial intelligence quality to the figure. I can’t really describe my style in my own words, so instead, I’ll say this: the style to me it’s ‘Post Place Contemporary’. That’s something clever I think Richard Prince would say.”

Most recently, Stacy presented her solo show, The Condition of Things, at Harper’s Gallery in August 2022. She has also attracted attention with her series Average Americans, for which she created sets and directed stories with sex dolls to interrogate the rise of artificial intelligence. human connection and the politics of desire.

But despite her career success and decades of living in the city, recent events have enticed her to step away from the rat race and find a calmer pace.

A calmer pace

“I think part of being human is thinking about what life would be like if you had taken the other path,” Stacy says. “Often, we’re deep into a life we’ve created for ourselves, only to stop and wonder why we chose that path. Life is definitely about balance, so most of us imagine a calmer pace occasionally.”

In fact, she has already made a big change in her life by becoming an artist in the first place. “I was a stockbroker at a firm on Wall Street around 9/11,” he explains. “I continued working in finance until 2004, when I took stock of my life and realized I was miserable.

Bad Bish, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Bad Bish, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Where The Locals Go, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Where The Locals Go, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

“I quit stock trading and went with what my mother and husband always told me was my destiny, art. I started painting right away, though I quickly drifted away from photography, which would become my focus for the next decade, to find my way back to painting. While being in the creative realm was calmer, it presented a whole new set of challenges.”

Right now, he thinks the perfect getaway would be somewhere by the lake. “I can’t help but imagine an indoor/outdoor bedroom with all the windows open and a warm fresh summer breeze,” she says. “I imagine myself relaxing with my 10-year-old adopted chihuahua on a huge bed with soft, crisp, cotton sheets and the sound of birds chirping and leaves rustling. One of my favorite movies would be playing in the background, probably something silly to me makes me laugh, like Dirty Grandpa with Zac Efron.

“There would be a table nearby with a plate of fresh fruit and a glass of iced citrus mint water. Nothing more. Just my dog, a breeze and me. Maybe we’d take a nice long walk afterward in a park somewhere. Sure, there’s one theme here, and it seems to be solitude with my dog! To me, that’s perfection.”

Untitled, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

Untitled, 2023 © Stacy Leigh

But she was self-aware enough to wonder where this fantasy would actually make her happy. “I wonder if human beings can ever really be satisfied with everything at once?” he ponders. “I’m happy even now in my current apartment, despite the awful situation! But I’d be happier if I could escape my current living conditions. Absolutely! But make no mistake: I’m happy despite the odds. Or should we say , despite adversity? I believe that positive attitude will see me through the toughest of times.”

Escape to B-Roll is on display at WOAW Gallery’s location at 9 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong from 20 March to 19 April 2023.

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