LSU School of Art alumna Leslie Charleville led a Gyotaku demonstration as a guest artist in Professor Kelli Scott Kelley’s advanced drawing workshop.
Kelley’s students are working on a project titled “Nature/Science” in conjunction with the LSU Museum of Art exhibition, Painting Enlightenment, and the Louisiana Art & Science Museum (LASM) exhibition, Lovely as a Tree. Painting Enlightenment runs through November 27, 2016, and features works by Japanese scientist and artist Iwasaki Tsuneo (1972–2002). Lovely as a Tree is on display now through November 27, 2016, and presents an international selection of artists who investigate the familiar form of a tree from a variety of new and sometimes surprising perspectives. Kelley’s advance drawing class toured the exhibits, and LSU Museum of Art curator Courtney Taylor and LASM Executive Director and Curator Elizabeth Weinstein introduced and discussed the exhibits with the studio.
Continuing the nature/science theme, Kelley invited Charleville to provide a demonstration of the art of Gyotaku. As a master of the traditional Japanese print process, Charleville keeps an active artistic practice, Gyo Collection (gyocollection.com), in which she offers her fish-printing services to the public—a unique and clever way for people to preserve their catch and prove their fish tales aren’t exaggerations! She travels the Gulf Coast region for commission work, making prints and connecting with the people and culture of southern Louisiana.
The process of Gyotaku (gyo meaning fish and taku meaning rubbing in Japanese), dates back to the mid-1800s, when the process was likely used by fishermen to record their catches. The practice has now become an art form for printing nature. Charleville, an avid angler herself, sees the process as a creative alternative to taxidermy. The process is hands-on. After evenly spreading the dry water creature with a non-toxic pigment, Charleville covers the specimen with rice paper to pull the impression. Using her eye for color and design, she begins with the predominant color of the fish then enhances the rubbing with chalks that turn the monochromatic print into a life-like, one-of-a-kind piece of art that serves as a record of the day’s catch.
Charleville has worked for LASM since she graduated from LSU with a Bachelor of Fine Art in 2008, first as preparatory, the registrar, and currently as the events coordinator. During her tenure at LSU, she started the LSU School of Art’s Painters’ League, an independent student-run organization that provides an opportunity for LSU students to conduct group critiques among their peers, attend gallery and museum exhibitions, and sponsor artist presentations.