Artists | Marietta Patricia Leis

Marietta Patricia Leis
From a young age, art has been a way for me to express myself. Whether it was dancing, acting, or visual art, it was a safe container for my feelings. The arts have given me license to explore my avid curiosity and to follow the multidimensional path that has informed and seasoned my life and current studio practice.

I grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, a Big Apple commuter city. My extended Italian family provided the rich though chaotic background of my childhood with original art, a library of books and opera on the radio. My grandmother gave me the rich sensual memories that I cherish in my life and work to this day. I still vividly recall her gardens of intense colors, the smells of her kitchen and the grace and details of her home.

From the age of seven I studied ballet with a passion. Looking back I recognize that my classes were the seed for the discipline that has served me ever since. The repetitive barre exercises that I performed each day for self-improvement gave me a deep understanding of the value of hard work. I witnessed in wonder George Balanchine’s elegant choreography for the NY City Ballet Company—with its clean lines and spare movement—forging my admiration for the minimal aesthetic.

While in high school I worked as an actress and dancer in summer stock repertory companies. I soon boarded the commuter bus one last time and moved to New York City and began a bohemian life. New York City was in many ways my wise and colorful teacher and mentor. I studied dance and method acting, went to the Met Museum almost every day, painted, auditioned, worked at a myriad of temporary jobs while simultaneously landing work as an actress and dancer Off-Broadway and in experimental film, television and movies. I played the student in Ionesco’s The Lesson while my paintings exhibited in East Village galleries. And then there were all those mandatory coffee house discussions on ‘the meaning of life.’

Acting opportunities, a need for sunshine, the chance to explore the new and unfamiliar and break traditions and molds precipitated my move to Los Angeles. Many of my friends there were steeped in the performing arts, but the lure of performing was becoming less attractive to me. Looking inward, being quiet and working alone were becoming more meaningful objectives and I began to focus and define myself solely as a visual artist.

In 1982 I moved to New Mexico to pursue an MFA degree in studio art at the University of New Mexico while actively continuing to engage in my art career. Not surprisingly, this juggling act was an extraordinarily busy time for me so it’s no wonder that my oil paintings during this period were fragments of real and imaginary elements incorporated into abstract landscapes. Drawings, constructions and altered photographs also became an integral part of my vocabulary as well as public art projects. When I completed my degree I taught art for 10 years in Albuquerque which has continued to be my home, providing me with the right mix of solitude, stimulus and nature.