Courtney M. Leonard, Shinnecock Nation, is an installation and multi-media artist. Leonard creates delicate ceramic sculptures grounded in the forms and histories of indigenous fishing technologies. She reimagines fishing nets and traps through weaving together clay coils in a similar fashion to traditional fiber baskets. These intricate ceramic pieces are glazed in organic shades of algae greens, rust browns and crystalline blues. These and other ceramic works, as well as natural elements, are combined in installations that address the relationships among human activity and the aquatic environment. Utilizing ceramic, sculpture, video, and painting, her poetic approach towards sustainability is a rumination upon the historical evolution of intimate and communal connections to water.
In Courtney M. Leonard: Intermodal, a new installation for the Pomona College Museum of Art, Leonard continues to explore connections to and intimate histories of the aquatic environment. Intermodal (BREACH: Logbook 19) is the most recent installment of her multi-year project BREACH. Here she invites us to contemplate water as a mode of transportation, the source of food, as well as a threatened resource. In this installation, Leonard combines her work with a traditional burden basket from the College’s permanent collection and early twentieth-century photographs of indigenous life and work in this area. While identifying the connection between basketry and women’s labor and referencing traditional aquaculture techniques, Leonard’s work is adamant that we acknowledge the oceans as a critical space of globalization. This nuanced web of past and present is a continuation of BREACH, which Leonard describes as “an exploration of historical ties to water and whale, imposed law, and a current relationship of material sustainability.” In BREACH Leonard conducts a conceptual breakdown of the language, images, and cultural associations surrounding the notion of BREACH through installations, and ceramic, sculpture and video works. Her process is based in practices of documentation and collection and informed by her ongoing dialogues with cultural communities for whom the natural world incorporates land and water. BREACH re-contextualizes in material forms the memories and lived experiences of communities and their relationships with water.