117: Exploring Binaries and Getting Your MFA at 40 with Leslie Fandrich

Artist/Mother Podcast
Artist/Mother Podcast
117: Exploring Binaries and Getting Your MFA at 40 with Leslie Fandrich

Holding tension in the in-between – this is where our podcast guest, Leslie Fandrich, finds her strength. In this interview we touched on so many topics: gender identity, parenting, sexuality, the value of studio time, the importance of research, MFA programs, and, of course, her amazing artwork. Leslie describes her work as “familiar, but strange” – seducing the viewer with inviting textiles before confronting them with off-putting imagery: bulging veins, protruding genitalia, and tangled hair. She desires that her objects have a personality all their own – as if they, too, are caught between two forces, like motherhood and sexuality or male and female.  

Born and raised in Canada, Leslie immigrated to the United States in 1998 and became a US citizen in 2014. She currently lives in Warwick, New York. She received a Master of Fine Art from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA and a Bachelors of Fine Art from the Alberta College of Art + Design (nka Alberta University of the Arts) in Calgary, AB, Canada. We opened up our discussion by drawing some lines back to her childhood – how her mom’s sewing and her dad’s furniture rummaging and repurposing helped form her current process of stitching textiles and breaking down interesting furniture that she finds. In this repurposing she creates something new – a melding of hard and soft, male and female – and brings beauty to the strength it takes to hold both identities together.  

As our discussion deepens, we talk about her bold decision to return to art school and earn her MFA at 40 years old! Through a low-residency program and lots of support from her partner and kids, Leslie was able to take up space for herself and demonstrate that value is found not only in the monetary, but also in the creative process that brings health and wellness to a person. She also discovered gratitude in learning how to integrate her personal and family life in with her art career – setting her up for a smoother transition after graduate school. She keeps very strict studio hours, and saves the domestic errands like grocery shopping and cleaning for the mornings or evenings – making sure her two kids are a part of the process so they can learn how to do these things for themselves later in life.

As we dive into the topics of gender identity and sexuality, we agree that the current narrative in our culture does not support holding seemingly opposing forces together – like motherhood and sexuality. As mothers, how do we hold our sexuality? Leslie argues that they should be held together, and therein lies beauty and truth about what it means to be a caregiver and a human. She sees these identities as feeding each other, not harming each other. Her own identity as a bisexual invites male and female to blend harmoniously together – creating a new and beautiful person with the strength to hold both.

Final Five: 

Biggest Art Crush: Sarah Lucas

Dream Trip: Drive from New York state all around the US seeing all the landmarks and galleries, end up at her parents’ storage facility, pack it up, drive back

Film or book: “Wet” by Mira Schor and “Inappropriate Bodies” Rachel Epp Buller

Favorite meal: Ribeye steak and romaine salad

Shout-out: her partner, two kids, and art friend Olivia Baldwin

To see more of Leslie’s work check out her website and follow her on IG @lesliefandrich

The Artist/Mother podcast is created and hosted by Kaylan Buteyn. You can see more of Kaylan’s work on her website or connect with her on Instagram @kaylanbuteyn

Take a Stand by Leslie Fandrich
No Whole Without the Part – Leslie Fandrich
Cat In Gloves – Leslie Fandrich
collage work by Leslie
Thesis, InstallationView – Leslie Fandrich
Leslie’s kids in her studio

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