Up & Coming Magazine, Fayetteville, NC
January 21-25, 2008

By Staff Reports

When one thinks of the Army, the idea of artistic creativity is not usually the first thing to come to mind. When one things of the word Artist, the word Soldier is also not the first thing to come to mind. But for one Fayetteville artist, the Army was a springboard into a full-time career in the arts. On Thursday, Jan. 24, Gallery 208 will welcome Leslie Pearson, a former Soldier now artist, to the main gallery.

Pearson, a Missouri native, came to Fayetteville by way of the U.S. Army, although art was her first love. Prior to joining the Army, she received a bachelor’s in fine art from Southeast Missouri State University in 1998 and was heavily involved in community arts programming as the assistant director of the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. In 2000, she moved to England to tackle a master’s degree in museum studies at the University of Newcastle. Then 9/11 hit and funding for arts programs took a sharp decline. Unable to find a job in her field, Pearson joined the Army as a photojournalist for a military intelligence unit and freelanced as an arts and entertainment journalist for the “Augusta Chronicle,” a daily newspaper in Augusta, Georgia.

While she didn’t actively pursue her art while in the Army, she did find inspiration during her time in service, and upon hanging up her uniform, she jumped feet first into her art and has an impressive body of works to show for it.

Pearson’s art “explores life’s complexities and offers insight into the human condition while primarily speaking through the experiences of women.” Pearson, an art instructor at Fayetteville Christian School, gains her inspiration in a variety of place -- poetry, history and from her own general musings and love and relationships.

She says that her works are “often allegorical and offer a figurative mode of representation to convey a meaning other than the literal. I use myself as a model for the majority of the figural work as a way to connect with the character I’m seeking to identify with.”

Unlike many artists who shy away from the use of text in their works, Pearson embraces text and uses it as a recurring element in her work.

“Sometimes the words bring clarity to the painting and sometimes it adds to the ambiguity of the image,” she explained. “Many artists have combined words and images in their art on occasion. Some artists reject the combination on the grounds that visual art should stand on its own without language. Others prefer to use words exclusively. In my case, the interplay between the hand-painted words and images acts as an effective vehicle for communicating ideas.”

Understanding that art and the interpretation of it is an individual experience, Pearson notes that people take their own experiences and try to find meaning in the art they observe. Often that meaning is different than the artist intent, but it is still a personal observance.

“I use text as a way to inject the tone and voice of the piece -- not to offer an explanation. Words have a way of catching the eye; letters are merely symbols that we attach meaning to,” she said. “People bring their own recognition of those symbols, an understanding of what the words mean within the given social and historical context of the painted image, and within that framework they can find their own element of truth.”

Pearson’s exhibit will open with a premier party on Thursday, Jan. 24 from 5:30-7 p.m. at the “Up & Coming Weekly” corporate offices located at 208 Rowan Street. Join the staff for an evening of wine, food and fine art as we celebrate a truly gifted community artist. Gallery 208 is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.