During the month of August 2021 Gallery 114 presented a show of paintings by Jeff Leake entitled "Hagiography," which examines our cultural ideals through images of revered historical figures in ironic juxtapositions that often are anti-heroic. This body of work is Leake's attempt to re-contextualize these idealized images and stories to convey more complex relationships between those and the ideals we genuinely hold and what we actually do, and the impact that incongruity might have on us. Says Leake, "I am interested in the interaction between those professed ideals, how they define our histories and our actions today, and how that dictates our relationship to the environment. This work is about an idealized sense of history that we often present as fact." While these cultural ideals may not necessarily be good or bad, he notes, they lack complexity and are told from a singular point of view which is often at odds with our actual behavior and are disconnected from the original context.
Our visual culture has been one of the primary means of reinforcing these adulatory histories, according to Leake. Paintings and sculpture may commemorate lofty historic scenes and key figures that come to represent and perpetuate certain cultural values. "My hope," he says, "is that this [work] not only questions the real animus behind many of these images but allows people to inject their own narratives into the paintings, in a way a kind of remixing of history."
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