Landscape Artist Leslie Neumann
Photo Credit — Beth Reynolds

Leslie Neumann received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from the California College of Arts in Oakland, California, and a Master’s Degree in painting from New York University in Manhattan.

After living in New York City for 14 years and teaching studio art and art history at St. John’s University in Queens for 6 of those years, she moved in 1991 to the small fishing village of Aripeka on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida, where she became a self-employed artist.

In Aripeka, Neumann and other members of her community, including the late artist James Rosenquist, became active environmentalists, facilitating the preservation of more than 15,000 acres so far of pristine coastal lands since 1992. These wetlands surround Neumann’s home and studio and serve as a source of inspiration for her artwork.

Neumann is a recipient of a Fellowship from the New York State Foundation for the Arts, an Individual Artist Fellowship from the State of Florida, and an Artist Enhancement Grant from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and a Gottlieb Foundation Emergency Grant for Painting.

One can find Neumann’s work in many private and public collections throughout the USA, including Nissan Motor Corporation, ADT Securities, Marriott hotels, Baylor College of Medicine, National Space Biomedical Research Institute, 42 Firebirds Restaurants in 15 states nationwide, Polk Museum of Art, Tampa Museum of Art, Leepa Rattner Museum of Art, as well as the City of Tampa and the City of Orlando’s Public Art Collections, and many more.

Landscape Artist Leslie Neumann
George Blanchette

After living in New York City for 20 years, I moved to a small fishing village on the West Coast of Florida. My home and studio are surrounded by 15,000 of acres of coastal wetlands.  All this beauty has inspired and influenced me as an artist, and every day I’m engaged by its raw, primitive energy.

I produce two bodies of work, both landscapes. One I call the Wetlands Series and it’s characterized by close-up views of lush tropical environments with saturated colors. The other is called the Transitions Series, where I emphasize an immense sky filled with storm clouds. Often there is very little visible ground, which is symbolic of “nowhere to stand, no ground beneath our feet.” This series illustrates the disarming beauty of nature and offers the “transition” between fearful states to serene states.

I find that landscapes are a wonderful vessel for metaphorical and emotional states. Ultimately, I choose beauty - and hopefulness.

My painting medium is encaustic, or hot beeswax, which produces beautiful, rich surfaces.  As you view my work from across the room, the illusion of deep space draws you into my paintings. But what appears as a realistic scene when viewed from afar, quickly dissolves into abstraction as you approach the painting, so you can experience both the dreamy quality of an imaginary scene from one vantage point, and the pure pleasure of color and texture from another vantage point.  

While my artwork does fulfill one of my primary objectives - to create beauty, I also achieve my other objective - do good in the world - by being a citizen activist, focused on land preservation. I’m one of the founding members of a local land trust called The Gulf Coast Conservancy which facilitates the protection of environmentally sensitive lands by placing them into public ownership. Since 1992, we have helped save 15,000 precious coastal acres.

“Aripeka resident Leslie Neumann is dedicated to preserving Florida’s wetlands, but the wetlands are scarcely recognizable in her color-infused paintings. Instead, they become places inhabited by sorcerers.  Her swamp grass erupts in flames that appear to have been started by supernatural forces.”

“Leslie Neumann is a dark romantic whose mysterious landscapes seem independent of time – or weather.  Over the years, she has refined her unusual technique of layering oil paint and hot wax, to create settings that seethe with haunting luminosity, as if permeated by spirits.”

“I keep appreciating more and more how hopeful, mysterious, and uplifting your landscapes are.”

“Hard to say whether Leslie Neumann's subject matter serves her medium or the medium serves the subject. Which is to say, they work very well in partnership.  She is essentially a landscape artist and paints using oil and encaustic, a hot wax method that creates texture and depth. The wax also provides a luminous quality that takes the works to a mystical, mysterious level.  Her gift for color is undeniable. You can get lost in her imagined lands.”

“Your landscapes make me change my mind about landscape painting.”

“To the casual observer, the work of Leslie Neumann evokes a distinctive artistic paradox. It is both passionate and soothing, powerful and disarming, apocalyptic and transcendent, predictable with an element of surprise. It’s a dichotomy of sensations from an artist intent on peering into nature’s soul.”

“Like the word love, “landscape painting” is often put to use as a common place term, wasted on work of little distinction or feeling.  Leslie Neumann’s visions of natural scenery are the real thing.   There’s no peace here, no safe hold. Neumann’s landscapes are about life.  They celebrate unpredictability and mood. If you want to see the sublime, if you want to see what Florida would be missing without its wetlands, see these pictures by Neumann.”

“If you thought about land conservation and wondered why it was important or whether you should care about it -- one only has to look at these paintings to see what we stand to lose. Sometimes a beautifully and lovingly crafted work of art speaks louder than a megaphone.”