Brian T. Leahy (American, born 1988)
Brian T. Leahy is an artist based in Chicago, Illinois. He received a bachelor’s degree in studio art and religious studies from Davidson College in North Carolina, where he studied with Herb Jackson. Afterwards, he spent time as an organizer for a Buddhist community center in western North Carolina, and then as a trim carpenter’s assistant working on high-end custom homes. In 2013, he relocated to Chicago where he earned a master’s degree at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Currently, he is studying for a doctorate in art history at Northwestern University.
His work is often rooted in painting, though he continually experiments with a variety of formal and conceptual strategies. In addition to significant curatorial experience, he has deep investments in the study of art history, all of which filter into his work. Text, publications, objects, research, and performance have all played significant roles in Leahy’s art, which tends to resist simplified categorization.
His recent body of work engages directly with the relationship between painting and the domestic environment. Experiences as a finish carpenter and a stint working amongst the high-end interior design showrooms of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart have fostered a fascination with the materials of domestic environments – wallpaper, molding, drywall – and led to an exploration of the cultural and aspirational resonances these materials evoke. In some works, a repetitive floral motif evokes nostalgic emotions of safety and comfort while also serving as simplified marks through which he explores painterly strategies. In others, the use of wallpaper to make paintings confuses the relationship between the painting and its environment, and disrupts distinctions between high and low.
Brian’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in Chicago and throughout North Carolina, and is found in private collections across the country. In addition, his work is in public collections at Davidson College, the Joan Flasch Artist’s Book Collection at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Design Museum.