Lela Pierce (Jerome Emerging Artist Fellow 2018) is a multiracial black artist born and raised in the St. Croix River Valley of Minnesota (Dakota and Ojibwe land). Her installation work addresses the intelligence found in nature and the countless teachings it offers to those who listen. Her paintings are attempts at mapping ancestral healing through experienced and imagined confluences of energy in and outside of the corporeal body. Lela has participated in residency programs at The Soap Factory in Minneapolis (July 2016) and Kultivera in Tranås, Sweden (August 2017). She has shown her visual art work internationally in India and Sweden and locally at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, The Soap Factory, The 801, Form and Content, Franconia in the City at Casket Arts, CUTL, Janet Wallace Fine Arts Gallery at Macalester College, Modern Times Cafe, Boiler Room Coffee Shop and the VFW in Uptown, Minneapolis.
Lela has been a student of the Himalayan Yoga Tradition since childhood (living in an Indian yoga ashram, on and off for about 7 years). She has danced extensively with Ananya Dance Theatre as a founding member of the company from 2004-2016. In more recent years Lela has toured with Rosy Simas Danse in the production Skin(s) and has been a performance collaborator with Pramila Vasudevan of Aniccha Arts.
In my work I try to imagine an existence beyond the corporeal. Through a mapping of both experienced and imagined confluences of energy I search to locate vehicles of life force. As a multiracial artist, identity is central to my practice. While investigating it through artistic style, I also seek freedom from the more limiting aspects of it.
My painting aesthetic is influenced by several traditions. From those of my kin, I look to African and Eastern European textiles and patterns. I have also seriously studied and integrated the aesthetic of Madhubani painting, indigenous to Bihar, India under the guidance of Manisha Jha in New Delhi. These stylistic traditions resonate deeper with me than other Eurocentric methods, which have historically excluded women of color from their cannon of “high art”. I am interested in claiming these aesthetic lineages as a non-essentialized woman of color, maintaining aesthetic roots, and adapting them into a more contemporary context.
My sculptural installations focus on the intelligence found in nature, and the countless teachings that it offers when we really listen. Through a process that integrates found materials in nature, I examine the conflicts and parallels between humans as nature and humans as something separate (aggressors of nature). Forms are intentionally life-size echoing the impermanence of life and the human body as carcasses.