Dutch-American painter brings his work to Madison Gallery


By Cuauhtemoc Kish

La Jolla Light

Madison Gallery is featuring an exhibition of internationally renowned Dutch-American painter Luc Leestemaker through July.

Alex Salazar, executive director of the gallery, said Leestemaker’s paintings can inspire a range of emotions in the viewer.

“Leestemaker’s paintings are by turns provocative, soothing, inspirational and energizing,” Salazar said.

Leestemaker’s lineage boasts of artisans, his grandfather and great uncle having been Dutch painters of some reputation. Before dedicating himself full time to the craft of painting, he had pursued interests in art, theater and communication, even founding an Amsterdam-based performing arts center. But even with these many accomplishments, Leestemaker was unhappy living in Holland and moved to the United States in 1990. He is now a citizen of the United States and a proud California resident.

“I am now in my own skin,” Leestemaker said. “I had to remake myself and take on a new identity when I came to the United States. I literally threw the keys away to my life back in Holland.”

Influenced by the CoBra movement of abstract expressionist compositions, his journey carried him through his “Inner Landscapes” and “Transfiguration” series, inspired in part by landscape painters Constable and Ruysdael.

“Art is a place where mind and heart merge and where one is at peace with himself,” Leestemaker said. “In order to successfully function in an increasingly technocratic society, reflection is more than a luxury, it’s a necessity. My aspiration is to provide that reflection in my art, back to the emotion distilled out of the noise of its dualistic reasoning, to a state of dynamic neutralism.”

His artwork’s exposure in film and television projects such as “Erin Brockovich,” “Spiderman III,” and “Boston Legal” have contributed to his growing popularity. He also contributed artwork to musician Charlie Haden’s Grammy Award-winning album “Land of the Sun.” His installations can be found in locations such as the Bellagio Hotel, the International Airport in Las Vegas and at San Diego’s Omni Hotel.

Leestemaker’s painting style falls somewhere between realism and abstraction. His inspiration is culled from a psychological framework he has developed through the years. This framework was especially impacted by his transition from his birthplace in the Netherlands where he felt somewhat claustrophobic in comparison to the expansiveness of the United States, he said.

His larger canvasses are treated with a cement layer mixed with raw pigment powder and then worked with acrylic paint. Both his large and small canvasses are marked by a layered effect that changes with variations of light. But it’s less about Leestemaker’s inspiration and more about how your mind transforms his color patterns to your very own unique sense of realism or fantasy.

“An artist is a seeker with a hunger,” Leestemaker said.

His hunger has carried him from his initial confusion and discomfort when he came to the United States to achieving the status of successful immigrant survivor. With time, he discovered the right environment for his creativity and freed up energy that propelled him directly into a prosperous and enjoyable career.

Leestemaker began painting a series of nudes, trying to find the right lines for his particular vision. Rediscovering the basics, he looked for purity in composition in his “Camelot” series. He forged ahead into the “Symphonies,” the period that allowed him to experiment with his fresco-like, concrete-on-canvass technique. In what he calls the “New Period,” he then discovered a raw convergence of different materials.

As Leestemaker began to define his “Inner Landscapes,” he had trouble seeing and almost lost his eyesight. While recovering after a series of medical procedures, he began painting small, psychological mood-scapes. When his vision improved, he went on to paint larger canvasses.

“I never know where the next series is going to take me,” said Leestemaker. “I simply build upon the discoveries from the past and somehow find the strength to move forward and discover newer ideas and concepts.”

Madison Gallery is located at 1020 Prospect St. Call (858) 459-0836.