Leslie Molina: freezing psychological tales

International time zones have been my friends as I traveled mentally to global locations through unscheduled, welcomed calls coming at all hours of the day and night from Australia, Belgium, Bordeaux, Brazil, Germany, Hawaii, Hong Kong, Paris, Mexico, London, Singapore and Switzerland. (Yes I am. Name dropping.)  What started mostly as work calls soon mushroomed into updates from friends.

So, it was no surprise when I received an enthusiastic call close to midnight, “Girl, I am glad you haven’t gone to sleep as yet.”   “Hola, comment allez vous.”  I mixed Spanish and French to greet my Paris-based Latina friend.  “How’s your Spanish?”  She responded, not waiting for my usual response, “I am hosting a Venezuelan-born artist, I just purchased a few pieces of her work.  You must see her work,” Sara said all in one breath.  She then prodded me to look at the artist’s Instagram page @Oh_Long_Leslie.  I promised I would do so.

Instead of climbing into bed, I made my way downstairs and spent another hour or so on the iPad thumbing through Leslie’s artworks on her Instagram page.  I was highly intrigued, partly fearful and completely in love.  I needed to hear from the artist's mouth – how did she choose her topics, what was her medium and what did she want the world to know about her art.  I received a presentation a few days later: “OH LONG LESLIE – I am a world wrapped in illustrations.”  How moving, I thought.

With my friend’s encouragement, Leslie signed on to be among the stable of emerging artists I promote on leading e-commerce site 1stdibs. It is certainly not a business I should be in; I am too emotionally invested as I view the art created by these artists as their babies, and certainly share their relationships with rejections.  

I approached Artnet’s Editor after a Conversations session at Art Basel Miami Beach 2019: “May I encourage you to offer a podcast session on emerging art?” I said.  They were not even a consideration among the panel discussions at the time.  “I don’t think these art students know what they are in for.”  He kindly took notes and my name.

Leslie Molina was born in 1988 in Caracas, Venezuela and lives and works in Panama City, Panama.  She says about her psychologically jarring illustrations, “Since my childhood, I just can’t stop making illustrations.  I feel drawn to the idea of freezing moments that arouse curiosity through their content and context. There’s always a subliminal message in my work along with an intrinsic complexity.

I needed to probe deeper.  So, I approached Leslie for a conversation in this Q & A to offer her an opportunity to expand on her art practice :

Q.  What motivates you as an artist?

A.  The central idea is basically to disorient.  Suggest a direction that never is, a message that never can be understood because it was not made for that.  It's made to get lost.  The first to be lost in that language has been me, with my nightmares, dreams and my own stories behind.  

Or because I want to make millions.

Q.  What is your process of making art?

A.  The idea is the most important thing, but the trigger can come from anywhere, in fact it is very abstract, it can come from the delicious pancake that I ate this morning or when I touch the darkest part of my being. When I have a specific idea, I put together a composition on paper and start sketching until I find the one I like best.  Then I finish it on paper and pencil or digitally.

Q.  Why do you draw, sculpt and practice photography?

A.  I don't think of those as different areas.  They're at the end, just tools.  Like the different types of brushes I use that are extensions of my hands.  Except in these cases, these disciplines are extensions of the real source, my imagination.  It may be painting, sculpting, or photography, dancing, playing an instrument, whatever, they are just tools for my imagination, to put it into something concrete, something you can play with and share with others.

Q.  Do you remember the first time you took up a paint brush?

A.  When I was in my mother's womb, I took a strand of pubic hair and I drew a rudimentary picture of La Pietà. It was a little blurry, but you must consider I was seeing the world through my mother's belly skin.

Q.  Why do you choose one type of paint over the other?

A.  I will always prefer quality paint because the art can last forever.

Q.  For your prints, which paper do you prefer to print on and why?

A.  For digital printing I like archival paper because it preserves the artwork for long periods.

Q.  What do you want people to know about you as an artist?

A.  The first thing they should know is that it's all a lie. All of it, it's pointless, and therein lies its beauty, in its marvelous uselessness.  Nothing is certain, everything is ethereal and I live between this and in the middle of the efficiency and utilities of the money-maker artist. 

Q.  Where are you from?

A.  Venezuela.

Q.  What are some of the challenges you face as an artist?

A.  The prices of the crayons, have you seen those? They're more expensive than tampons.  But, if I have to be honest, my biggest challenge is me.  Myself.  My self-doubt.  My I’m-never-going-to-feel-like-I-fit-here. The doubt that sets you apart from humanity, because it says that you are never going to be enough, no matter what you do.  Everything will be at risk always, and that, somedays, is too much to handle.  And all of that comes back to a single line, to the decision about a single line of a mural.  So, the biggest challenge is emotional.

Q.  Which artist do you admire and why?

A.  Gervasio Troche, because he can shrink the entire universe in a drawing.

Q.  Is there an anecdote or quote you’d like to share about your practice, the art world or in general?

A.  Life is short, art is long.

I admire Leslie’s deep dedication to her craft and how she sets out methodically to freeze moments with her delicately detailed miniature creations that excite the viewer’s senses and set you in a place of wonder, as she tells psychological tales with her illustrations.  I also love the fact that she is fluent in English.  One of my intentions was to be conversational in Spanish at some point in my life.  I can hear my Grandfather's voice right about now: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

Thank you Ellie Meek Tweedy, Editor

Visuals: 1. Diagram of the Middle Intersection; 2. Enjoying a Bath of Tears; 3. Anatomy of a Hummingbird. Copyright ©️2020 Leslie Molina. All rights reserved.