My creative practice reflects my interest in devotional imagery. Appropriating the work of Renaissance artists, I look to blur the lines between the historic and the contemporary.
Often, symbolism in devotional imagery is playful. I strive to reflect this in my own work. What allegorical secrets are contained in fruit, or plants, or in the animals themselves? I am also interested in the double meanings of animal symbolism: how a bird, for example, may signify a prophet in one painting and the Devil in another, or both at once, suggesting that nature can be simultaneously serene and menacing. Subtle contemporary fabrics play another important role: swaddling clothes, or the Virgin’s dress are patterned in polka dots or bubble gum tones of yellow, pink and blue urban camouflage. Haloes become decorative plates or flowers and headpieces turn into knitted animal hats. All painted in fine detail in the attempt to ensnare the viewer’s attention.
My paintings are made in oil on wooden panels with attention to details. Increasingly, I am interested in the textures and finishes that come out of the processes I use to create the work. An additional printing process creates a paradoxical combination of the ‘look’ of fresco paintings with multi-layered oil techniques. Part of the process of making new work of appropriated imagery is deciding what to leave in and what to leave out. By bringing the richness of devotional imagery into the contemporary art space, I am expressing my own sense that such imagery is still somehow relevant to modern life.
Leslie Glenn Damhus’ childhood home in Pennsylvania was an apartment directly above that of the renowned artist Paul Bransom, who illustrated the US 1913 edition of Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows. He taught her how to draw animals, and this influence, coupled with her passion for Renaissance religious painting, can be seen in her present work. In keeping with Renaissance custom, Glenn Damhus’ paintings capture the spirit of how symbolism is adaptive to changing social values. The playful signs and symbols in her Marian portraits represent concepts that remain, even today, in our supposedly secular society, sacred and wonderful.
Leslie graduated from the University of the West of England, Bristol with an Honours Degree in Fine Arts. She has lived in the US, Denmark and Australia and currently lives and works in Frome, Somerset, England.