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Member Portfolio

Leah Macdonald

Philadelphia, PA


Artist Statement

Macdonald’s work abstracts through the creation of palimpsests. Like viewing the interior of a house through gauze, or the next page of a book through a velum layer of handwriting, emphasis is achieved through mystery, shadow, hiddenness. It should come as no surprise that Macdonald is also a bookmaker; her love of paper, texture, and language are underscored in that work. What narrative is present in her images has this sense of book-ness—her images can seem singular pages of fleeting beauty taken from some dark fable. Her figures have stories that range before and after these moments, and those stories are somehow contained within the single image. If, as Diane Arbus once said, “a photograph is a secret about a secret,” then Macdonald’s work is a secret upon a secret. The levels interact to comment on one another, and the interplay between them can be harmonious or dissonant, obscuring or revelatory.
The artist’s interference in the world is what makes of the world art, but always that interaction causes friction. In Macdonald’s work, black-and-white photography reduces an image to contrast and line. Then wax and paint re-introduce color in a manner invoking memory. Stencils and floral patterning both distract the eye and create background against which an image comes into focus—as the wax and the materials beneath it vie for attention. Since the tapestry makers of the middle ages, flowers have served artists as both powerful symbol and as decorative field. Macdonald’s recent work reverses this traditional foreground and background. She seems to suggest the flower as figure: after all, like the body itself, a bloom suggests brevity—of life, its tenuous beauty. And yet Macdonald’s painted photographs and collages evoke timelessness, an insistence upon beauty arising from and protecting us from chaos, a talisman against darkness. Still, the darkness is present—in the opaque black wax of a rupturing bloom, in the ghostly outline of a vine etched white-into-white, its milky viscosity.
In recent pieces where her pattern work is foregrounded, the material becomes insistent. The viewer begins to notice the wax, to question its relationship to the subject matter. What is the connection between human, flower, and bee (the producer of the wax Macdonald uses called to mind through hexagonal patterning)? It is the bee who travels between flowers, reproducing them but also harvesting pollen for its own use. So does Macdonald reproduce these subjects—flowers and the female form... and in the process seems to steal material for her own mysterious purpose.
Macdonald uses both chemical and physical processes in her art: she photographs, she collages, she paints with oils and wax, she marks her images, sometimes scars them. But this making art upon art she does with the sensitivity of a poet. She is not about destruction but about extraction: she brings to the surface the worlds that hide within and behind. This is already an interior world, a dreamt world, an elusive world half-remembered, available to multiple interpretations, never-fully-grasped. Figure and flower, photograph and wax: Macdonald’s hybrid art makes space for the in-between-ness of experience. We are neither one thing nor another, not fully our past and its traumas, not fully the beauty we seek—we are all of these, accreted layer by layer over years. And we are the space between.

Artist Biography

The human condition along with our environmental, and cultural health are vitally important to me. I have years of involvement with the disenfranchised members of society. My very first project in photography at age fifteen was documenting homeless people who lived underneath the ground at Suburban Station in Philadelphia. As a young artist in San Francisco, I reached out to the public in a newspaper ad asking for women to be photographed who had evidence of life trauma or injury. I am inspired to use real life to tell a story. At times, my art has been directed to areas of social challenges: homelessness, sexual identity, drug addiction, and physical pain. Recently, my work has become more abstract and more imaginative but still based on important social realities. I have integrated many forms of media to describe the physical and emotional trauma of my subjects. Starting with black and white film photography, my art and teachings have expanded to digital imagery, book arts, film making, spoken word, theater installations, performance, video and encaustic photographs.


California College of Arts & Crafts, Oakland, CA
MFA, Photography
San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA
BFA, Photography

Awards & Honors

Encaustic Castle, Lexington, KY
Two week artist residency with stipend to create a new body of artwork
CFEVA/New Courtland Fellowship, Philadelphia, PA
Grant Recipient
Corporate Sponsorship
2011 - Present
Hahnemuhle Fine Art Paper


Wax Fusion Magazine
Philadelphia Magazine
Shots Magazine
Click Magazine
Rangefinder Magazine
Pique Magazine
Rangefinder Magazine, New York, NY
B&W Magazine, Ross Periodicals, Inc
Shots 101 Dreams, Autumn 2008
After Capture, Waxworks Encaustic Painting Enhancement
Shots Magazine
Photo Review, Summer Competition Issue, Langhorne, PA
The Photo Metro, San Francisco, CA
Photography Contest, The Bay Guardian, Oakland, CA

Martha Stewart
Featured artist/artist demonstration


Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center
Cerulean Gallery

Professional Experience

2000 - 2018
Susan Beard Design, Philadelphia, PA
Event photographer, photo retoucher, studio assistant, encaustic artist, digital artist
2006 - 2018
Bliss Books, Philadelphia, PA
Owner & designer
2015 - 2016
In My Body, The Musical, Philadelphia, PA
Scenic artist & creative team member

Additional Professional Experience
2012 - Present
Jewellea Photography, Philadelphia, PA
Freelance wedding, event, & portrait photographer
1997 - 1999
Sanchez Elementary, San Francisco, CA
Teachers Assistant
Artspark Multicultural Youth Project, Oakland, CA
Art Teacher
1995 - 1997
Red Shoes Photography Lab, San Francisco, CA
Slide duplication technician
1991 - 1995
Charles Gatewood, Artist, Bernal Heights, CA
Studio Assistant

Teaching Experience
2012 - Present
Camden County College, Camden County, NJ
Adjunct Professor of Photography
2004 - 2012
The Art Institute of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Adjunct Professor of Photography

Additional Teaching Experience
2018 - Present
Hope Partnership, Philadelphia, PA
Art Teacher
2017 - Present
Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center, Roxborough, PA
Education Director/Board of Trustees Member
2010 - Present
Main Line Art Center, Haverford, PA
Art Instructor

Volunteer Teaching Experience
2015 - Present
Julia R. Masterman School, Philadelphia, PA
Photography Instructor
Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland, CA
Art Teacher
Landscape & Nature & Figure, Lamaux Farm, Waitsfield, VT
This & That: Photo Collage & Encaustics, Big Dramatic Questions Art Retreat, Collingwood, Ontario, Canada
Encaustic Painting on Photos, Cerulean Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Encaustic Layering, Main Line Art Center, Haverford, PA
Encaustic Mixed Media, Main Line Art Center, Haverford, PA
Photo Collage, Main Line Art Center, Haverford, PA
Photo Encaustics, Big Dramatic Questions Art Retreat, Collingwood, Ontario
Celebrating the Figure with Marcie Wolf-Hubbard, Leah's Studio, Philadelphia, PA
Advanced Photo Encaustics, Cerulean Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Encaustic Workshop, R&F Fine Art Store, Rochester, NY
Photo Encaustic Workshop, Big Dramatic Questions Art Retreat, Collingwood, Ontario
Photo Encaustic Workshop with Elizabeth Messina, The Arte Department, Carpinteria, CA
Photo Encaustic Workshop with Kara Taylor, Kara Taylor Gallery, Chillmark, MA
Photo Encaustics, LUZ Gallery & Workshops, Victoria, BC, Canada
Photo Encaustics & Collage with Athena Petra Tasiopoulos, Private Small Group Workshop, Barre, VT
Photo Encaustics, LUZ Gallery & Workshops, Victoria, BC, Canada
Revival in the Desert with Diana Millar & Quinton, Chickasaw Homestead, Joshua Tree, CA
A Lovely Workshop with Elizabeth Messina, GA
Photo Encaustics, LUZ Gallery & Workshops, Victoria, BC, Canada
Mixed Media & Encaustic Workshop, Private Group Workshop, Philadelphia, PA
Photo Encaustics with Athena Petra Tasiopoulos, Private Group Workshop, Philadelphia, PA
A Lovely Workshop with Elizabeth Messina, France


Cerulean Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Pop-Up Art Exhibit, The Loft Gallery, Thornbury, Ontario, Canada
Encaustic Photos, Rohrer Gallery, Camden College, Cherry Hill, NJ
Ethereal Dreams, Boston Street Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Encaustic Photographs, 2nd and Loma Loft Space Gallery, Wilmington, DE
Bloom: Encaustic Photographs, Manayunk-Roxborough Art Center, Roxborough, PA
In My Body, Prince Theater, Philadelphia, PA
Artwork for the Musical
Encaustic Photographs, Sweet Mabel Art & Craft Gallery, Narberth, PA
Black is Back, Gush Gallery
Unlocking Whimsy, Galerie BMG, Woodstock, NY
Translucent, Susan Maasch Fine Art, Portland, ME
Encaustic Photography Show, Penn Charter School, Philadelphia, PA
In Light of the Lens: Ethereal, The Hall, Inliquid at Crane Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Soliloquy, Galerie BMG, Woodstock NY
In My Body, WEXLER Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Female Fairytale, GalerieBMG, Woodstock, NY
Entangled: Black and white fiber photographs with encaustic, Galerie BMG, Woodstock, NY
Playing Ace: black and white photographs, Photo 612, Haddonfield Heights, NJ
Holding On: and other New Figurative Works, Rodger Lapelle Galleries, Philadelphia, PA
New Figurative Works, Rodger Lapelle Galleries, Philadelphia, PA
Reverie: New Photographs, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Philadelphia, PA
Secret Times, Art & Soul Gallery, Woodstock, NY
Body Manipulations, Artforms Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Paintings from the Attic, La Colombe, Philadelphia, PA
The Baby Doll Show, The Atlas, San Francisco, CA
Relent, Myrtle Street Gallery, Oakland, CA
For Eleanor, Farley’s, San Francisco, CA

Halide Project, Juried Analog Photography
Aline Smithson
Powell Lane Arts Center, Collingswood, NJ
Award Recipient
Art at City Hall, City Hall, Philadelphia, PA
Benefit Exhibit for the Wunder Family, Benna's Cafe, Philadelphia, PA
Connections: Reunion Exhibit - Members of Artforms Gallery, Abington Art Center, Jenkintown, PA
Member Exhibit, Cerulean Arts Collective, Philadelphia, PA
Constructing a Body, InLiquid Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Teachers' Exhibit, Bankos Gallery at the Banana Factory, Allentown, PA
6th Annual Show, Malvern Retreat, Malvern, PA
Street Art, The Bazemore Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Encaustic Photographs, SE Photo Center, Greenville, SC
Diffusion Retrospective, Verve Gallery, Santa Fe, NM
Floriography, Galerie BMG, Woodstock, NY
Environmental Art Show, Penn Charter School, Philadelphia, PA
Photoencaustics, Galerie BMG, Woodstock, NY
Photoencaustics, Galerie BMG, Woodstock, NY
Diffusion Exhibit, La Luz Gallery, Queen Victoria Island, BC, Canada
Lunar Arrangements, Dalet Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Monmouth Museum, Lincroft NJ
Juried Exhibition
Wax Poetic, Nichols Berg Gallery, Chestnut Hill, NJ
Luminosity, Flinn Gallery, Greenwich CT
Faculty Show, Philadelphia Art Institute, Philadelphia, PA
2007 - present
A Square Deal, Philadelphia, PA
Traveling Exhibition
Arcadia Boutique, Philadelphia, PA
CONTOUR, Wired Gallery, Bethlehem, PA
Two Women Show, Yo Darkroom, Philadelphia, PA
Atrium Gallery, Ball State University, Muncie, IN
Encaustic Works 2007: Sixth International Encaustic Exhibition, The Gallery at R&F,
Kingston NY
The Variety Show, Falling Cow Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Small Works, Rodger Lapelle Galleries, Philadelphia, PA
Wild, Weird and Wonderful, Maria DiElsi Connolly, Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Photo New York, Galerie BMG, New York, NY
The Kandy Project, Lemuria Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Escape to the Underwater Woods, PhotoWest Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Annual, Perkins Center for the Arts, Mount Holly, NJ
Juried Exhibition
2005 - 2006
Wild, Weird and Wonderful, Maria DiElsi Connolly, Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Holiday Show, Photo 612, Haddon Heights, NJ
Women’s Photography Show, Galerie BMG, Woodstock, NY
Oil & Wax The Community Arts Center, Wallingford, PA
Traveling Exhibit
Three Person Show, Dragonfly Gallery, Oak Bluffs, MA
The Birth Show, Artforms Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
New Nudes(mostly men), Art & Soul Gallery, Woodstock, NY
Photography Show, Dragonfly Gallery, Oak Bluffs, MA
The Affordable Art Fair, represented by Rodger Lapelle Galleries, New York, NY
Three Photographers, Dragonfly Gallery, Oak Bluffs, MA
My Space Our Reality, Alma Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Collage and Mixed Media Exhibit, McGOPA, the galleries at The Schuykill Printing Plant, Conshohocken, PA
US Art Expo, represented by Sande Wedbster Gallery, National Armory, Philadelphia, PA
Annual, Artforms Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Juried Exhibition
Featured Artist New Works, Rodger LaPelle Galleries, Philadelphia, PA
Red, White & Blue, Artforms Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Absence of Color, Sande Webster Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
William Penn Charter School, Philadelphia, PA
Juried Exhibition
Master of Fine Art Exhibition, Oliver Art Center, Oakland, CA
Annual Juried Exhibition, Pro Arts Gallery, Oakland, CA
Juried Exhibition
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