I AM MUSIC feat. Leanna Leithauser-Lesley and Roger Stephenson

 In Art and Gallery Shows, Current News

Work will be on display in the SCAC’s EBSCO Fine Art Gallery from 8/5/21-9/9/21. The gallery opening reception will be 8/5/21 from 6pm-8pm.

Artists Leanna Leithauser-Lesley and Roger Stephenson first met in Birmingham on December 16, 2017 at a jazz concert featuring Bo Berry, Cleve Eaton, and Ricky Powell. Already familiar with Roger’s photos of jazz and blues musicians, Leanna asked if she could needlepoint Roger’s photograph of Dr. Frank Adams. Additional collaborations followed, with Leanna painstakingly recreating Roger’s images of Sam Frazier, Elaine Hudson, Elnora Spencer, and others—some of which are featured in this exhibition. In 2018, Leanna and Roger came up with the idea for a two-person show featuring performances by some of their favorite Alabama musicians who inspired both their artwork.

On December 4, 2018, one year after their first meeting, Roger and Leanna met curator Paul Barrett to discuss their idea. On October 3, 2019, their partnership became the first Snapshots, Stitches, & Selma Blues at ArtsRevive, with needlepoint portraits and photography of musicians and musical performances by Bo Berry, Sam Frazier, Elaine Hudson, and Elnora Spencer. ArtsRevive continues the Selma Blues  series with the original team and additional guest artists and musicians each fall.

This exhibition, I AM MUSIC, expands on the original idea for Snapshots, Stitches, & Selma Blues by including new and rarely exhibited works by Roger and Leanna, curated by Paul Barrett.

 About the Artists:

Leanna Leithauser-Lesley moved to Birmingham in 1993 and created her first needlepoint portrait in 1998. Her current series of jazz musicians grew out of a collaboration with the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame for a 2007 exhibition at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. As a fiber artist, she is preoccupied with the idea of weaving together the quiet, methodical process of needlepointing with the more freeform methods of jazz, while capturing the emotion of the photo she chooses to stitch. Rejecting the shortcuts associated with technology, she relies on her training as a visual artist to compose the image on canvas with yarn, using a photograph as her muse. Each piece stitched is a unique freehand homage to the musician whose likeness she needlepoints.

Leanna was awarded the 2019 Landmark Award at the 43rd Montgomery Art Guild Exhibition and the 2021 Foy Gilmore Goodwyn Memorial Award at the 44th Montgomery Art Guild Exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts; as well as a 2021 Craft Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts. Leanna continues to exhibit throughout the South, most recently at Shelby County Arts Council’s 2021 Adult Juried Art Exhibit. Her resume includes numerous group exhibitions and solo shows at the Alabama School of Fine Arts; Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; Historic Balzer Theater at Herren’s in Atlanta, GA; Kentuck Art Center; and the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN.

You can see more of Leanna’s work at NeedlepointFaces.com.

Roger Stephenson began snapping pictures with his Brownie box camera at the age of nine in his hometown of Harrogate, Yorkshire, England. In 2002 he took a job in Birmingham, Alabama with Southern Living at Home. Retirement in 2009 allowed him to focus on his love of photography and his other love- blues music. Roger’s love of photography and blues naturally lead to photographing blues musicians. He is currently an official photographer for the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards and International Blues Competition and a contributing photographer for Living Blues Magazine. His photographs have been published in Blues Blast, Blues & Rhythms (UK), Il Blues (Italy), Jefferson (Sweden), Bon Appetit, and the Magic City Blues Society Newsletter as well as many musicians’ websites, CD covers and posters. Roger joined Birmingham’s Magic City Blues Society in 2004 where he serves as Vice President.

His photographs featured in We Shot Rock & Roll and 50 Years Hope & Dreams in Birmingham; Shelby County Arts Council’s Listen you can hear the music and the 2021 Adult Juried Art Exhibit; Blues for Willie at the Columbus Arts Council in Columbus, MS; and at the Howlin’ Wolf Museum, West Point, MS. In 2020 he co-produced the documentary Alabama Black Belt Blues which was featured on Alabama Public Television and nominated for a Southeast Regional EMMY by The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. In 2021, he was named Hottest Photographer at the 7th Annual Alabama Music Awards.

You can see more of Roger’s work at RogerStephensonPhotography.com.

This exhibit was made possible by the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Caring Foundation.




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