By Jeff Davis
This month I visited the art studio of David Leitch. The artist focuses primarily on abstract wood sculpture and is also a well known furniture designer and manufacturer for restaurants, offices and creative spaces in Los Angeles. His sculptural work is currently on exhibit in the foyer gallery of the Hawthorne Arts Complex (HAC) and can be seen by setting up a viewing with the artist directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the HAC complex assistant manager, Stephanie Sherwood (hawthorneartscomplex.com/Index.aspx).
David was born in Kearny, New Jersey and moved to Rochester, New York at the age of three. After completing high school in 1972, he was admitted to The University of California, Berkeley to study architecture. He escaped without a degree after losing interest in the mechanical aspects of the work. After Berkeley, David took some time off and signed up for classes at a community college before enrolling at the San Francisco Art Institute where he focused on ceramics and earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1983.
Post art school, Leitch earned a living remodeling, as well as installing art and fabricating museum exhibits in the Bay area. Although he was always producing art, he realized that only full-time artists were taken seriously by the galleries, and while he had sporadic showings in SF and LA, it was difficult to show and sell his work. Leitch moved to LA in 1990 using a residential remodel project in Santa Monica to make the transition into the area.
His initial foray into restaurants involved extensive custom woodwork for the original Wabi Sabi restaurant in Venice. After that, he worked on a number of restaurant projects, most commonly for the Gjelina Group on Abbott Kinney Boulevard. Today, steady demand from commercial clients allows him to focus on his first love, sculpture and painting. Project remnants supply source wood and inspiration for his sculptures.
David’s creative method has several approaches. At times he uses the remains of the commissioned pieces to suggest or even inspire sculptural solutions. Instead of staring at a blank slab of wood for hours, an odd shaped leftover pares down the possibilities. He is forced to find solutions that fit the problem presented. At other times, he will focus on a single shape, such as a 30°, 60°, 90° degree triangle and see what develops. The 30°, 60°, 90° form is often the base for irregularly shaped sculptures with antlers, animal skulls and feathers attached, such as “Stag“. He likes antlers because they are organic and their look and feel is difficult to capture in reproduction. Skulls are also a favorite; they represent life, thinking and the center of the soul. He is on a constant search for unique wood types and natural components.
While the sculptures are beautiful to look at, one must touch and handle them to appreciate the craftsmanship, and experience the textures. My favorite of his works is a “simple” wood doughnut. The 6” x 2” shape, he explains, was a “pain in the neck” to create, with one side shaped on a lathe and the other requiring work on a shaper. It was cut from a laminated billet made from figured maple and walnut in addition to a few slices of veneer. It is luxurious to hold in ones hands. Initially cool to the touch, and as you turn it in your hands the wood begins to warm and the oils from your skin add to the luster and sheen. I want it.
Another of my top picks is “Tunik”, an alien pet sculpture created from wood, antlers, sunglasses and feathers. His bowling ball shaped torso is made from walnut burl and from it sprouts his antlered head and tail. Its would-be evil appearance is softened by cool, vintage goggles. Evidently the alien is just visiting California’s beaches and not taking over the planet.
“X-tinction” (wood, crow skull, syringe, currency and wood), on the other hand, is a bit darker. It focuses on the subject of vaccines and corporations and governments that promote and profit from them. The crow’s skull is embedded in a giant blood red “X” which in turn is surrounded by a square of currency and a syringe pointed at the departed bird. It might be interpreted as a symbol of the increasing corporate greed associated with price hikes of basic pharmaceutical drugs required by many to stay alive.
Some of David’s works are based on preconceived ideas such as “Change”, the 73” x 18” word sculpture that leaves its interpretation up to the viewer. The letters initially emerge from the wood slab toward the eye and as they move to the right sink deeper into the walnut until the last letter, “E”, is completely transparent. Like all his works the craftsmanship is superb and one must touch the sculpture to appreciate its perfection.
Contact David through his e-mail, email@example.com, if you want to meet David and experience his work. If there are art gallery exhibits, museum shows or other art experiences you think readers would enjoy please reach out to me at my website davisphere.com or my e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.