Leah GuadagnoliI: I’m A Painter But…

by Nathan Mullins

What follows are excerpts from Leah Guadagnoli’s thesis submitted to Rutgers for her MFA. Leah is currently working in Brookyn, New York. Her website is leahguadagnoli.com.

I’m a painter, but f–k painting.

Wet Thong (A Trip to the Beach) – 65 in. x 48 in. Felt, chiffon, and mesh on canvas. 2014.
Wet Thong (A Trip to the Beach) – 65 in. x 48 in. Felt, chiffon, and mesh on canvas. 2014.


My process is rooted in reusing and recycling. I travel to second hand stores and fabric outlets across the country in search of scrap textiles. Class, economic necessity, femininity, and domestic space are concerns I address. I want to extract a realized idea of the feminine. My work is unapologetically decorative and speaks to class in its material specificity. I am thinking more directly about the predominately male dominated art market and how to insert an aggressively feminine twist, with a smirk and a wink, of course.

Limitations inspire me. I use the restraints of the rectangle to maintain the intensity within the frame. The material is never sewn and is minimally altered. I want each painting to have a sense of temporality and reproducibility despite its specific arrangement.

Marquee Moon – 36 in. x 26 in. Pleather, vinyl coated spandex, and ribbon on canvas. 2014.
Marquee Moon – 36 in. x 26 in. Pleather, vinyl coated spandex, and ribbon on canvas. 2014.


My personal attraction to everyday material can be traced to Arte Povera, the political art movement initiated by a group of Italian artists in the late 1960’s. The material used in their work was considered unglamorous, low-class, dirty, and poor.Like[Lucio] Fontana, [a contributor to the Arte Povera movement,] I cut into the painting, though not as an act of destruction, but as one of generosity. My motives are sarcastic and playful – they make fun of the seriousness of painting and reveal what is beneath.

The “artist’s touch” is very much a part of the content in my work. My paintings are very physical, and I am very present in them. I want people to look at my work and think, what happened here?


Alone At The Danube River – 55 in. x 36 in. Burlap, fabric, and mesh on wooden support. 2014.
Alone At The Danube River – 55 in. x 36 in. Burlap, fabric, and mesh on wooden support. 2014.


I love the color orange and use it often. I think it is the most underused color when it comes to painting… It is the opposite of green… and presents itself with boldness, signals caution, is the most confident color of the spectrum.

I use the flashiest and most abrasive color combinations, tackiest felts, and plastics to create a situation where the work desperately tries to be beautiful even though it is made up of cheap material. It is like a middle-aged aunt showing up for a holiday deal meal over-accessorized with her makeup overdone bursting with blue eye shadow and bright red lipstick. My paintings try to be luxurious; they are trying to be scandalous. It is the concealed beauty and sincerity hidden in the act of “overdoing it” that excited me. It is one of my strongest motivators for making work. Something that tries so hard to be beautiful must be.


Champagne Hangover – 50 x 52 in Fabric, mesh, and upholstery on canvas. 2014.
Champagne Hangover – 50 x 52 in Fabric, mesh, and upholstery on canvas. 2014.



Nathan Mullins

Nathan Mullins was born and raised in Clarksdale, MS. He has a BFA in Drawing and Painting from The University of Southern Mississippi and is currently working on his MFA in Studio Art at American University in Washington, DC. Nathan has previously studied in New York City; Berlin, Germany; and Cortona, Italy. His paintings have been featured in both domestic and international shows. - See more at: http://ms-modern.com/admin/site/about#sthash.BbkCF63Y.dpuf