David A. Leffel
Painter • Arroyo Seco, NM
Distinction: Leffel is known as a consummate master of the still-life genre and a revered teacher.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the art world during your career? When I was a student at the Art Students League of New York from 1959 to 1960, the avant-garde world of modern art was beginning to make its presence felt. The various schools of experimentation were the rage of the cognoscenti—Pop Art, Op Art, Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, Drips, Splats, et cetera. Representational painting was considered a very weak—“it’s all been done before”—stepchild. Today the fireworks of the above-mentioned schools have essentially fizzled out, and representational painting perhaps has made some in-roads into the art-conscious public’s mind.
How do you define success? Success is a word that I do not comfortably relate to. It implies achievement, fixed goals, the rewards of society. A good quality of living is painting better, which involves self-knowledge, understanding one’s relations with people, with nature, and the constant movement of life, rather than a fixed goal.
People would be surprised to learn that … Eating good food is one of the joys of my life—as well as watching professional football (when my teams win, of course!).
Where do you find inspiration? Inspiration comes from observing light falling on surfaces in a particular manner; also, the feel of the paint on the end of the brush as it touches the surface of my canvas. As well, I enjoy the complexity of finding an elegant solution to the problem posed in each painting.
What role has Southwest Art magazine played in your career? The articles I’ve had in Southwest Art have been wonderful, not only in the visuals of my work, but also in giving me the opportunity to express my ideas in print.
Describe yourself in one word. Describing oneself is a daunting task. In one word, it becomes exponentially horrific. Therefore I’ve turned to a person who’s known me for over thirty years. Her word is enigmatic.
If your home or studio was on fire, what one thing would you save? Sherrie McGraw [my wife].
What do you hope to accomplish in the next 10 years? More of the same—only better.
How would you like to be remembered? I’m not going anywhere, unless you know something I don’t, so there’s no reason to be remembered—fondly.
Featured in “40 Prominent People” in May 2011.