My friends who suggested we come here!
It's a very animated town
The diversity of its resdents
It's got a "treasure hunt" feel to it, you always come across something new and exciting
It's bohemian but not hipster!
LEEZA pye - art from the soul
When we first come across Lisa's art, we can't help but be completely intrigued, stopped in our tracks, fascinated even.
We can sense there's a story behind each and every one of her pieces, a symbolism and we want to know more.
Is it morbid? Is it light-hearted?
Her creations evoke a Tim Burton film, a curiosity shop, an imaginary world, a religious ritual, a Frida Khalo painting...so many things.
Leeza, an American in Montreuil since 2010, makes her surrealist sculptures from old dolls, thrown-away items, found objets...often integrating lights and foliage into the works too.
When we look at her art, we look within her, her past, her highs and lows, her search for meaning, her femininity...art from the soul.
ALL AMERICAN GIRL
Born in Michigan in the 60s to Jewish New Yorker parents (2nd generation immigrants), they were "nouveaux riches".
Their white-picket fence suburbian lifestyle didn't sit well with Leeza at all. She felt completely out of place.
Her mother ran an impeccable home, not a spot of dust in sight, nothing out of place. Too perfect in Leeza's eyes.
Just as her mother valued anything and everything new and shiny, Leeza loved anything old, dusty and broken.
She rebelled against this sterile life à la "Stepford Wives", and with her Art Diploma in hand she left to live in London.
In the metropolis of the English capital, she was part of the punk movement, getting into the underground anti-system world, hanging out with subersive and somewhat dodgy characters.
Under the guidance of a kind of "Guru" she made industrial punk music, wrote poems and lived off state benefits. She was out to 'beat the system'.
"I got kind of really lost for about10 years but I didn't think so at the time"
She lead a marginal life before coming back to Michigan.
But the call of the big city was too tempting and after a couple of years, with her artist friends, she left for THE city where anything and everything is possible - NEW YORK.
A DOUBLE LIFE
Still drawn to the underground, artists, punk rock...she continued to live an alternative lifestyle.
AIDS and crack were doing serious damage in the party scene. Leeza managed to navigate through these epîdemics unscathed.
She was leading a bohemian, counter-culture lifestyle between burlesque shows, clubs and squats but...
...still managed to get a Master of Fine Arts degree and a teaching qualification, thanks to a student grant...
She was leading a double life- Art teacher in the day. Rebel at night
It was in New York where she started to seriously collect broken dolls, found objects, dumpster diving for bits and pieces. She started making her sculptures from these old, broken items...everything her mother hated.
Dolls have a past, they've been loved, she found they had a special kind of energy.
"I was one of those intelligent girls from a nice family who was living this borderline lifestyle, but I saw myself as"a marginal tourist" because I knew in the back of my mind I could walk away."
In Leeza's creations, dolls have a main role.
Whether it be female or baby dolls, their de- and re-constructed bodies dominate her work.
No-one can deny that they represent a certain sorrow. They evoke a personal struggle, a deep pain, a journey through her womanhood (and more than likely her childhood too).
"When I create, it comes from my guts, it's visceral. I don't always plan in advance.
Although there are themes to my work, I usually just start with one item and my instinct takes over, after it's like finishing a puzzle."
Often she only sees the symbolism and meaning of each sculpture after finishing it, even though it seems obvious to us.
It's as if her own past, her thoughts and her dreams have come to life to create themselves.
CONFORM TO THE NORM?
Living in France now for over 26 years, Leeza leads a slightly more conventional lifestyle, especially since meeting her husband 25 years ago (although certainly NOT a conservative one!)
"My husband helped me understand a lot of things. I adopted a "healthier" vision of what it means to rebel,
that you don't have to be out of the system or provocative to make your point or a difference.
He taught me to be less self-centred and channel my revolt".
Now an art teacher in a private school in the posh suburb of Saint Germain-en-Laye for the last 13 years, she's clearly a world away from her "lost" years in the suberversive, underground world of NYC.
BUT she does live in here in Montreuil, an arty town, itself full of rebellious hearts and unusual characters, so actually a town that fits her like a glove...albeit a leather and lace vintage one ;-)