COMING HOME - A review of Leslie Laskey's retrospective exhibition in the Manistee News Adocate

The following is from the Manistee News Advocate, June 17, 2013:

Leslie Laskey exhibit opens to high reviews at West Shore Community College

By KEN GRABOWSKI – Manistee News Advocate Staff Writer

SCOTTVILLE — A large crowd turned out on Friday evening at the Manierre Dawson Gallery on the campus of West Shore Community College for the opening of the retrospective art works of Manistee native Leslie Laskey.

Laskey is professor emeritus of architecture at Washington University in St. Louis, Miss., where he trained generations of students in a career spanning five decades.

Known throughout art circles both in Missouri and Michigan, the 91-year-old artist has his works displayed at many locations. His prints and paintings are shown at the Mark Pasek Gallery in New York as well as numerous St. Louis venues including the Sheldon Art Galleries, John Burroughs School’s Bonsack Gallery, St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, Left bank Books, Elliot Smith Contemporary Art, the Center of Contemporary Arts and the Columbia Foundation of St. Louis.

A long-time summer visitor to Manistee, Laskey has held his Art Kamp in various locations around Manistee County throughout the years. The Art Kamp allows him the opportunity to work with students on their techniques and to discuss artwork.

It was through those visits back in 1972 that West Shore Community College Board trustee Richard Wilson first became acquainted with Laskey and his works.

“Tonight, we celebrated the life of Leslie Laskey in person and through his expressions in the works that have been chosen for display,” said Wilson. “Not only because of his many academic prizes, but like Manierre Dawson who adorns our college’s gallery, Leslie is from around here. He is one of us and the son of Manistee County born in Eastlake. Like Manierre Dawson, Leslie attended the college in Chicago that has become the Illinois Institute of Technology.”

Wilson said he remembers how he first met Laskey 41 years ago.

“Leslie burst into my life as a bald headed guru of a traveling band of what were in real life his students at Washington University,” he said. “For two summers of my college days they were a rag-tag collection of hippies, musicians and flower children, as we all were back then. They were on a summer vacation and just happened to be studying with their teacher.”

Laskey invited Wilson to observe what they were doing and it was the start of a friendship that has endured to this day.

“With Leslie’s explicit blessing, his merry gang took me into their fold to watch what they created under the eyes of the master,” he said. “I was a complete neophyte in the world of art back then and still am. Of the works I remember the most were the abstract depiction of old pipes, steam valves and other things found on the upper floors of the Arens Building in downtown Manistee where his studio was located one summer.”
Wilson said he continues to stay in contact with Laskey although more from a distance.

“For the last 30 years, Lesley and I have enjoyed the benefits of what I would call the distant neighbors, close enough always to have time to stop and chat when we meet while he is in town,” he said. “I am the proud possessor of two pieces of his works, both gifts from Leslie, which is his nature and spirit. They are among my most treasured possessions.”

Laskey said Friday evening’s opening was a wonderful experience. He also cited the documentary Manistee native and filmmaker David Wild and his wife Lulu created over an 11-year period called “The Forty Seven Views of Leslie Laskey” that was played that night in the Center State Theater for those attending the opening.

“I am really touched by your presence,” he said. “I love seeing my summer family here, and with my real family. What a great way to show parts of my life. You all make it wonderful. David and Lulu gives you another view of me tonight — forty seven actually.”

Laskey said that he is often asked about his artwork in terms of inspiration and how long it takes to create it.

“If you ask me how long any one piece takes to complete, I would say a lifetime, with all the pleasure one could add,” he said.

Wild’s documentary detailed a behind the scenes type of look at Laskey, the man and the artist. Wild who graduated from Manistee High School and the University of Southern California Film School has an impressive list of credits throughout his career.

“Lulu and I met Leslie through my sister Susan and her husband Jamey almost 20 years ago,” said Wild. “We went over to his house for dinner or coffee many times, and we would always come back charged. It was in two ways, as we were inspired and kind of electrified by his enthusiasm, which is contagious. But were also charged in we have to get to work on this documentary about him.”

Wild said it took some time to convince Laskey to allow them to make the documentary.

“What we wanted to do, and it took years to talk him into doing, was we wanted to try and bottle him,” he said. “ I didn’t want to make a standard documentary on him, but little windows of Leslie so you would be seduced by his spirit.”

The exhibit will be on display through Aug. 23 in the Manierre Dawson Gallery in the Arts and Science Center. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays.