Multimedia Artist Leah Devora’s Eye on Society

[My interview with mutlimedia artist Leah Devora for LA Splash.] 

This fall, Leah Devora Contemporary Art presents “Voices- Dating in the Modern World”, a multimedia art installation. Devora’s exhibit will incorporate audio of individuals discussing what they’re looking for in a potential soul mate, juxtaposed against modern art of personal ads on the gallery walls, as well as encouraging viewer participation.

“It’s a sound installation,” she explained. “I’m recording men and women speaking about what they’re looking for. What are your deal breakers, what are you needing right now? One part will feature just women speaking, one part with just men, then an area where it’s layered. The idea is to listen to each other, to really listen– because we don’t do that anymore, we’re so overly visually stimulated. I’m taking that down a notch and I want people to actually listen. I’m also going to have an interactive element where people can write on the wall: what they’re looking for, must haves in a partner, etc., perhaps recording their own audio as well. It’s like therapy.” The event will be held in a gallery in the Papillion Art Institute, on 1835 South Main Street, Los Angeles.

Devora says her works are mixed media, “a combination of digital painting and traditional painting together. I use a lot of news stories, political stories; storytelling is a big part of my artwork. A lot of my stuff is realism and social commentary, reflecting what’s going on.”

“I have always been visual, just not always a painter,” explains Devora,who has an MFA from Pratt and a BFA from the Art Institute of Chicago.  “In the beginning, I was a writer. I painted when I was 10, and my dad was a painter, but I didn’t really get serious about art as a career until my thirties. I devoted myself to my art career in New York for about seven years.”

Influenced by contemporary artists such as revolutionary feminist and activist Kiki Smith, Leah also delves into polities, particularly with her Obama series. “I feel like artists have stopped making social commentary, it’s become “me me me”– so self indulgent. I think artists have an obligation to participate in politics.”

“About four years ago I did the first one, right before he [Obama] was elected. I wanted to explore Obama, the Montgomery marches, the African Americans in Alabama, social commentary about “could a black man be president?”, because it hadn’t happened yet. Then, as the idealism died, I continued the series and this one is a socially dynamic series. Every few months when something politically meaningful happens, I add something to the painting. As a former sculptor, layering is something I use in my work to give dimension. I layer items about the economy, the jobless rate, the gay marriage issue. I have about six pieces right now, and each one has different elements of what’s going on politically– Detroit car plants closing and infostructure issues, a whole series of “Made in China” paintings.“

Art reflects life, and as the President’s time in the O
val Office has, arguably, been blanketed with problems, Devora’s portrayal his of legacy has too. “You see Obama get more and more buried under this stuff. The same image from four years ago, layered by what he’s experienced.” Her skeptical eye also analyzes the Commander in Chief’s oft-discussed celebrity status. “On my website I have a portfolio link called “Rock stars”, and Obama is in there. He is a pop figure. He’s on talk shows. He’s on pop television. He’s a part of pop culture. If your president goes on David Letterman, come on. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Politicians are just Hollywood movie stars; they’re the rock stars of Washington. It’s all hyped up glam; they’re puppets in a way. But I like him because he does have his own point of view and he does talk back, he doesn’t always say the ‘right’ thing and he’s not afraid.”

“And don’t worry, Romney’s not going to get out of this one,” she assures, “he’s going to be in something.. He’s the exact antithesis of what this country has been wanting for itself. “

For more about Leah Devora’s work, visit

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