“There is No Other” Exhibition Inspires Us to Stay Connected in Times of Stress and Isolation

by | Dec 14, 2021 | Creative Destinations, Detroit Designers

This past weekend I made a trip to Ypsilanti’s 22 North Gallery to visit ”There is No Other”, a solo exhibition by environmental artist Leslie Sobel that explores connection, natural networks, and finding beauty in a time of stress, fear, and isolation. What I loved most about visiting the exhibition was being able to learn more about Sobel’s mixed media pieces as well as her process for creating this thought-provoking body of work.

Shed 5 in Detroit's Eastern Market

Leslie Sobel at 22 North Gallery. (Photo: The Creative Armory)

Q. Can you give me a little background about the artwork in this collection?

A. “I began creating the works for this collection while in isolation during the pandemic, and the name for the showcase was inspired by the title of an album by Rhiannon Giddens. There are two sets of paintings and all of the work incorporates wax in some way. On one wall, the works were made with wax, oil, and layers of stencils. You’ve probably heard people talk about painterly prints, but in a sense, these are printerly paintings because I used a lot of printmaking techniques to build layers to make paintings.”

Pollinator Song artwork at "There is Only One" exhibit

“Pollinator Song”.  (Artwork: Leslie Sobel/Photo: The Creative Armory)

Power of the Press Fest Promo Poster

“Trio -Above and Below” painting. (Artwork: Leslie Sobel/Photo: The Creative Armory)

“On the opposite wall, the works are encaustic monoprints on paper and some of them do use stencils, but there’s far fewer layers and they’re simpler. Encaustic, which uses beeswax and damar resin, is a really ancient medium that’s been around for about 2500 years. It started out life as a painting medium to make funerary portraits in Fayum Egypt, so making monoprints with it is a much more modern thing. Aside from those, there are also some works on display with resin on top that was buffed to make a nice matte finish.”

Melinda Anderson at Signal Return in Eastern Market

Resin artworks on display. (Artwork: Leslie Sobel/Photo: The Creative Armory)

Q. What inspired you to create these pieces?

A. ”The inspiration for these came out of a mixture of studying some ecosystems and looking at the impact of harmful algae blooms on places like Lake Erie. I’ve worked with some scientists studying those blooms and really looked hard at how ecosystems are interconnected. I feel like we often sever ourselves from those connections, and obviously, we’re not severed from them whether it’s the pandemic, climate change, or pollution issues. All of them are results of us trying to separate ourselves rather than being good stewards and being connected. So, there’s a real element of grief in that; grief for what we are losing environmentally, personal grief, and trying to find solace through nature and beauty.”

Melinda Anderson at Signal Return in Eastern Market

“Connected Underwater” artwork.  (Artwork: Leslie Sobel/Photo: The Creative Armory)

Q. Your art is truly unique. How were you able to layer in shapes of leaves and other elements?

A. “I make stencils from microscopy. Using photomicrographs that have been scanned, I then take them into a photo editor to simplify them. Then, I use a Silhouette machine to cut out the image with a tagboard to make a stencil that I layer into a painting. I reuse them until they completely fall apart.”

Crowd shopping Power of the Press Fest

Custom stencil used in artwork. (Photo: The Creative Armory)

Floating Bloom artwork by Leslie Sobel

“Floating Bloom” encaustic monotype with resin topcoat. (Artwork: Leslie Sobel/Photo: The Creative Armory)

Q. With everything going on, how do you think pieces like this can offer comfort?

A. “I think it’s been a deeply traumatic time for pretty much everybody I know. Art is partly about trying to provide some healing for both the maker and viewer, so there’s an element of hoping to find that through those interconnections and visual pleasure.”

Rooted artwork by Leslie Sobel

“Rooted-Network” cold wax and oil painting.  (Artwork: Leslie Sobel/ Photo: The Creative Armory)

Exhibition Information

There is No Other” first debuted to the public on Friday, November 19th, and will run until Monday, December 20th.

For more information about the exhibition and gallery hours, visit 22 North’s website here.

22 North Gallery

2021 Power of the Press Fest demo schedule. (Photo: Signal Return)

By Jess McKenzie

By Jess McKenzie

Jess McKenzie is a brand identity designer from Detroit, MI. She is a self-proclaimed nerd that loves 80s movies and longs for Saturday morning cartoons to return. When she is not tied to her computer, she can be found taking random road trips and practicing landscape photography.


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