“Octogenarian” artist Mel Leipzig discussed exhibit in Rider’s art gallery

Artist Mel Leipzig (far right) told the stories behind the artwork in his exhibit, Octogenarian, in front of a crowd during the Artist’s Talk event on Oct. 3 in the Art Gallery.

By Danielle Jackson

There are not enough labels to describe the unique talents of Mel Leipzig; artist, father and influencer to name a few. 

Born in Brooklyn but raised in Trenton, the local artist spoke at Rider on Oct. 3 about his current art exhibit, Octogenarian, in the Bart Luedeke Center (BLC).  

For his second show at Rider, Leipzig couldn’t have seemed more relaxed. Laughing and interacting with fans, he answered all questions and stayed after to sign autographs. Leipzig’s artwork adorned the walls of the gallery, telling diverse stories of families, colleagues and friends. His paintings looked like photographs that have been painted over. 

When confronted about this, he denied it, calling himself a realist.

 “I’m really trying to show reality in the time that I’m living in,” he said. 

He also said he couldn’t be called a realist because of his use of bright colors and pure blacks and whites. 

Although the subjects of his art are realistic in appearance, their backgrounds aren’t always lifelike. For example, his painting “Vincent, Leonardo, Duke and the Dinosaurs” shows his two grandsons and their dog in front of two fighting dinosaurs. 

Leipzig’s grandsons were clad in baseball uniforms, seated on wooden stools. He went on to explain how his grandsons bicker over sports. Leipzig described sports as “a form of aggression” and concluded that the dinosaurs from the Museum of Natural History best represented his grandsons. 

Diana Kurz, a fellow painter and associate of Leipzig’s, also created a painting with an unrealistic background in her Holocaust work. 

Kurz sits shadowed by the flag of the Austro-Hungarian Empire staring at the audience. The flag has portraits of her family anchoring each corner.

 Born in Austria, her family fled the country in 1938; those who stayed behind were lost to the violence of the Holocaust. 

The message of her family dying in the Holocaust was communicated without a word, but is evident through the bright colors and dark shadows in the painting. 

“You understand the paintings by looking at the background,” Leipzig said.

Each painting is part of a separate series rather than one entire collection. All of the individual series have different homes — some at the Natural History Museum, others at Leipzig’s own studio. Leipzig said as he continues to grow wiser with age, he will continue to paint.

BLC Art Gallery Director and professor Harry I. Naar invited spectators to a question and answer session after the presentation. Described as a “formal-informal” talk by Naar, spectators were allowed to make comments throughout the show.  

A former art student at Mercer County Community College, Andrea Seabridge, attended Leipzig’s show. She remembered being a pupil in his 1970 class. She wasn’t alone. Several former students came to tell Leipzig personally what he meant to them, and how he inspired them to continue making art.

When asked what she took away from the artist’s talk, Seabridge simply said, “Paint every day.” 

Leipzig recieved praise from not only his former students, but current Rider students as well.   

“I really enjoyed my time visiting the art gallery this week,” said Evan Colisto, a senior public relations major. “It was a very new and creative experience and I hope to attend another on campus soon.”

 

 

Published in the 10/10/18 edition.

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