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The Benefit
January 17, 2014

Benefit v.14 Stand-out Emerging Artist: Drew Leshko

About the Author
Erica Minutella

See the exhibition here

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The Benefit v.14 Young Professionals Party, a high-profile preview cocktail reception and networking event, takes place on Friday, 6 – 10 pm at Crane Arts. In honor of the preview event, we’re highlighting up-and-coming artists who have donated to this year’s Benefit.
Drew Leshko builds beauty out of rust and acid rain. You can find the Fishtown artist’s work at Benefit v.14.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Drew Leshko. I am 30 years old and I live and work in the Fishtown neighborhood. I’ve been living in Philadelphia for the last 6 years with my wife, our 2 dogs and a cat.
How did you decide to focus on architecture in your pieces?
My focus on architecture came from my interest in some of the photo-documentary projects from the Works Project Administration (WPA) projects post Great Depression era that were employed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Of the many subjects captured by these photographers, they hi-lighted both beautiful buildings and decaying buildings in order to show the state of the nation to a larger audience. Obviously, architectural photo-documentary projects have been explored in great depth, but the idea of documenting some of the buildings in my city of Philadelphia in various states of beauty and decay resonated with me. I thought that I could approach the idea in a sculptural manner, continuing in the archiving tradition, but in a three-dimensional format. I’d never seen works presented in this manner and felt that it could be a strong body of work.
How do you select the buildings you choose to create?
There are definitely a few different factors that contribute to selecting a building to take on as a recreation project. Often there is a juxtaposition of ornate charm and disrepair — buildings that were originally built for the very wealthy, but now have been converted to seedy businesses. I find myself drawn to quick fixes that have been applied to buildings throughout the years. Simple solutions that take away from the original beauty of the structure, but that intrigue me and make me contemplate why these decisions were made, often for financial reasons or maybe because of the contractor’s laziness. Most of the buildings I select are in neighborhoods going through some serious gentrification and I’m attempting to archive these before they are razed or reworked into far different structures.
You mention in your artist statement that acid rain deposits and rust become adornments in your work. Do you find that this is a commentary on the distinct yet raw beauty of cities?
No, rust marks and acid drips aren’t specific to cities. You know, I’m not sure if most people would agree with me here, but I really love how rust inadvertently colorizes buildings. In a way it shows the life span of that particular fastener, whether on a fire escape or from a nail adhering a sign. I guess I kind of read these chemical reactions as something festering, sort of like a disease spreading from one object to the next.
Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
Currently, I am working toward a private show scheduled to open the Spring of 2015 at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Arts(DCCA). I’m really excited about this opportunity, as many local artists that I admire have shown/are showing there. The DCCA does a great job with their programming and its a true honor to be shown in the same venue as these other great artists.
Tell me about the piece you’ve donated to the Benefit.
The piece, “Untitled”, was a building on Frankford Ave. I was really drawn to the metal framed roof and the stacks of old shipping pallets (another common theme in my work). To me, this building could be anywhere… it’s sort of ambiguous and plain, but at the same time extremely familiar due to its generic nature. This piece has only been exhibited once, at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, New Orleans in 2013.
What are you looking forward to most about the event?
It’s always great to participate in local events and have an opportunity to meet the artists. Though I haven’t seen a complete list of participating artists, there are a few that I’ve been following for the last couple of years and if possible, I’m hoping to purchase a piece by one of them to add to my personal collection.
You can find Drew’s work up for auction as part of Benefit v.14.
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