Artist, teacher and new mother Layna Lesnau is the Arts Council of Greater Lansing’s Nov./Dec. exhibiting artist. Her exhibit, Perception, is open for public viewing at the Arts Council on Tuesday - Friday. An opening reception will be held on Nov. 2 from 1 – 3 p.m. In preparation for the exhibit, the Arts Council sat down with Layna to talk about her life as an artist and her work.
AC: Layna we are so excited to have your work in our office. Can you tell us a little about your exhibit and its title? Why Perception?
LL: Perception is, in its most basic definition, signals in the nervous system from physical or chemical stimulation of the sensory organs of our bodies. This series explores the act of perceiving and what that means for the idea of the self.
AC: When looking at the self as an artist, many experiences must have come into play that have shaped that idea for you. What are your earliest memories of loving art and the creative process, and how did those experiences contribute to your becoming an artist?
LL: I have always gravitated towards art. I can remember being a small child watching my older brothers play basketball outside and thinking, ‘That’s nice, but I’d rather be inside drawing what they are doing.’
AC: So drawing was your first love. When did photography come into play?
LL: I remember always asking, actually begging, my parents to take me to the Detroit Institute of Art. It wasn’t until I was in the ninth grade that I got to go on a class field trip. I saw the Charles Sheeler exhibition on the Rouge Plant (which the DIA is currently exhibiting, and I’m so excited!) and his other photographs, and I was captivated. I think I spent two hours in that exhibition.
AC: So you liked drawing and photography. Do you still gravitate toward those mediums?
LL: Photography is the main medium that I use in my artwork; however, I do enjoy creating drawings using graphite/charcoal. Some of my favorite pieces that I’ve created combine the two mediums.
AC: Who are your favorite artists?
LL: There are artists that I constantly look at and show my students, like Kandinsky and the artists involved in the Bauhaus movement, but it is difficult for me to pinpoint a favorite artist.
AC: How would you say the work of other artists affect your work?
LL: I am definitely influenced by others. I love to observe and record. I put a lot of emotion in my artwork. I’m usually a quiet person. I let my artwork do all the talking.
AC: What do you love about teaching art to kids?
LL: I love the eagerness of my students to learn. I love their creativity. Most of all, I love their energy. It’s nice to create carefree artwork with my students. I was in art school for so long that I forgot that there is a side of art that is playful. Being with my students allows me to relax and have fun.
Layna Lesnau is a K-6 teacher at Cole Academy in Lansing and serves as a board member and active volunteer for the local non-profit organization, REACH Studio Art Center. She holds a B.F.A. of art education and a Museum Studies Specialization from Michigan State University. She also holds a B.F.A. in photography from College for Creative Studies.
When she isn’t teaching, Layna enjoys spending time at home where she definitely has a full house, including husband, Brett; new baby daughter, Ada Love; two cats, Cosmo and Calypso; and three guinea pigs Stevie, Barry and Malcolm