movie, “Bread ... that this house may never know hunger.” Mary’s struggle, compared to that of Tamsen Donner’s, seems trite. And for Leigh, that’s explosive fuel for his conceptual fire.
Leigh’s drawings often suggest comedy, violence, and sex simultaneously, and as part of his installation, he developed what he calls a giant food pyramid. “The Donner Party and certain aspects related to the history of that time got my mind focused on things like food chains, food pyramids, things like that.” Instead of a pyramid shape, it resembles a 6-foot ladder, and Leigh created stickers of animals to place on the ladder. “I’m trying to organize some of my thoughts concerning animal hierarchies in nature and how humans consume them, as well. It’s nothing scientific in any way — it just sort of becomes a language game or a visual game.”
Leigh, who used to work primarily with paint, narrowed his focus to drawing about four years ago and attributes his strong interest in this technique to his love of literature and language. “For some reason, something compelled me to think at one time that I needed to illustrate a lot of the things I was reading. But they were never one-to-one linear desires, like, Oh, I’m reading On the Road, and now, I want to illustrate On the Road. Drawing is simply the primary vehicle by which I now choose to deal with ideas.” In 2009, Leigh contributed a large-scale drawing to the SITE Santa Fe group exhibit Pretty Is as Pretty Does. It was the largest piece I’d ever made,” he said, “and there was something about changing the proximity at which a viewer would look at a piece. Now, more than ever, I’m really interested in seeing the drawings function differently at one foot away from the viewer as opposed to 10 feet away.”
As Leigh works in a gallery space or in his studio, he allows his mind to wander from the rote details of his initial inspiration, building upon the idea like a spoken-word poet riffing about a character or scene. “There’s this real need ... to get extremely bogged down in a certain set of visual information. It’s a weird way to work, because it requires a certain amount of endurance, not only in terms of how long you can draw, but how long you want to keep thinking about that one particular thing. There’s something ... strange about wanting to ask, time and again, What necessity drives my invention?”