'It's There And It's Gone': 'Left In Leaves' Is A Gallery Show Without The Gallery

May 15, 2020

With their gallery space still closed for the foreseeable future, the folks at Northern-Southern have been looking for ways to continue to share art with the people of Austin without asking those people to gather together in a room. The result of that quest is the new group show Left in Leaves. “

You know, we have to keep working,” says gallery director Phillip Neimeyer. “This is what we do. So [this is] a way to contextualize, a way that we that we could all work and do what we do and have an effect, a positive effect.”

Left in Leaves is essentially a gallery show without the gallery. Several artists were given a prompt and encouraged to create something interesting for people to notice somewhere in the city. 

Neimeyer says the gallery gave very little guidance; the idea was to encourage the artists to create whatever struck their fancy and seemed like fun in the moment. “It could be sculptural, it could be painting, it could be just arrangements of leaves,” he says. “But they’re interventions of joy, or interventions of artistic intent spread throughout the city, not meant to last any longer than they last. Something that anyone could see, and it’s there and it’s gone.”

If you’re not lucky enough to stumble upon on one of the pieces created for Left in Leaves (or if you’d just rather not leave the house), you can view the various interventions online as well. “You can see the pieces on Instagram… to see the documentation of them,” Neimeyer says. “But if you really want to visit them, you have to actually reach out to the gallery and we’ll send you a map… because it’d be irresponsible to have giant groups of people [visiting at once].”

Stone sculptor Meghan Shogan says the ephemeral nature of the show was freeing. “I usually spend like hundreds of hours making something that has to be perfect,” she says. “And this one was kind of quick, more free. And I really had just as much fun making the map for it. To keep the stress low, and not to take on a project that’s going to take weeks and weeks and months… that is kind of something that I think we need as artists right now.”

“I didn’t think about it,” Ted Carey says of his entry for Left in Leaves. “I just reacted. There’s some other part of my brain that’s in control, that I have grown more and more trusting of. And it’s some kind of intuitive aspect that I don’t question because it knows more what it’s doing than my… so-called ‘conscious’ mind.”

When we spoke, Emily Lee (no relation) was still considering her contribution to the project. “I’ve been really excited for this prompt specifically because I like that the piece can kind of come up at any point in the entire month,” she says. Though she was still considering her artistic options, Lee was excited by the notion that by creating a piece outside, she and/or her audience can decide where the art begins and ends. “You know, if you install something in the middle of a creek, then suddenly the entire creek is part of the work,” she says. “And if the creek is part of the work, the rocks that one would walk down to get to the creek are also part of the work, and maybe your drive over there is part of the work, and what you had for breakfast that day.”

“The so-called ‘artist’ only does part of the art,” says Carey. “Whoever come upon it, whatever they bring to it, completes the cycle.”

Neimeyer agrees, and says that’s the main theme of Left in Leaves. “The viewer comes to complete the piece,” he says. “The viewer can complete anything, and by completing we can add beauty and transcendence to the everyday.”

‘Left in Leaves’ is documented on the Northern-Southern Instagram account, and you can request a map to the works at their website.