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Leo OsborneLeo E. Osborne   SAA Master Signature Artist, NSS Fellow, AFC Leo Osborne
Sculpture, Painting & Poetry

The Story of Leo And The Group of Seven

I have chosen this title for a number of reasons! I love numbers and especially so the number 47.

For reasons unknown to me this 47 has had significance since birth in 1947 which happened to be the Chinese New Year of the Golden Boar. It is every 60 years that the Golden Boar makes an appearance and so in this lifetime I have now experienced 2 Golden Boar years and each was magnificent!

My suggestion of there being a group of seven has reference to simply me. I have been referred to by some friends who are internationally known artists to be one who has continued to ‘reinvent myself’. So it is with deep passion that I walk in life, not alone, but richly woven into seven beings representing me during this incarnation of human experience.

It has been my distinct pleasure to spend this life at making art or ‘living art’ as I prefer to describe it as being. I am the tool that gets used by the muse…. and it is fitting that my muse is a busy body and keeps me in the flow continually.

The mystical powers of the universe have led me here to this moment, from past lives on Cape Cod and Boston, to the Maine Coast and then to the great Pacific Northwest, which has been my home for the past 20 years. My reverence and love for this land continues to grow and to be nourished by the land itself and the beauty that it holds out to me and to all. My love and communications with the “wild creatures” of the planet keep me in the desire to be in harmony with that which is our heritage and our responsibility of stewardship.

My work in sculpture, painting and poetry has given me a rich life and a wealth of information to work with. I love what I do! I wish to mention one person in this writing who was, in my mind’s eye, and heart, the one mentor that come into my pathway, my journey. It is David M. Carroll of New Hampshire who has been referred to as “the Turtle Man of New England” for his dedication to the wood turtles and his passion for creativity. He has been wonderfully rewarded for his lifelong passion by being given the McArthur Fellowship several years ago for his wonders as a genius of our time. I am honored at heart to be loved and to have been artistically nurtured by this man and his wife Laurette while I was a young art student and they my next door neighbors in Pembroke, Massachusetts.

I have been blessed with many honors in this life and as my resume will show I have been very busy. My work has been in numerous worldwide museum exhibitions and I have been the recipient of many awards of excellence. In the past two years I was given the status of a Master Signature Artist of the Society of Animal Artists along with 9 other artists who have received over 5 Awards of Excellence from that society and its jurors of renowned critics and curators.

On a more local scene, I should mention that just this month my sculpture that is one of the dozen works situated on the Commercial Avenue of Anacortes, was the receiver of the most votes for the public voting via the internet. My sculpture WINDSONG was placed in the Kiwanis Waterfront Park next to the ferry dock of the Guemes Island Ferry Terminal several years ago. This was a purchase made by the City of Anacortes, the Kiwanis Club and the Anacortes Arts Commission in conjunction with one another.

I was invited to be the Featured Artist at the Western Washington Fair, September 2010, which offer I gladly accepted. This event lead to having two of my bronzes selected for the Arts Downtown in Puyallup, Washington. I should mention also about having my work chosen as the piece for the Governor’s Art and Heritage Award. This happened in 2004 with a piece ORCA FIN. In 2005 I again sent my work in to the selection committee and again my work was chosen and this time it was the small bronze of RIVER OTTER. It was then that the State Government put a new law on the ART BOOKS of the state. It said that anyone who had their work chosen as ‘the piece’ could not submit again for 5 years! I got to create an art law!!!! I think that is one of the funniest things to happen to me in my life! An artist, a free thinking, lover of freedom to be responsible of having an ’art law’ placed on record. It was all just too funny. It so happened that the government ran out of money to finance that award in 2005, so it did not happen until about five years later, when it was used. I think the government put bad karma into the system when they did that law writing stuff, but it has created a cool story for me!

As seen on my resume, I am a member of the National Sculpture Society and the Society of Animal Artists. For many folks on this planet, I am considered in their need to put people into slots, as a wildlife artist. I create all sorts of imagery, not only animals but just about everything in subject and in a variety of mediums and styles. That refers back to the “Group of SEVEN”. I have to say however, that at this time on the planet I take full honor of being called a wildlife artist or an environmental artist. It is with reference to what we are sadly doing to our beautiful planet that I feel such great concern for creatures other than humans. We as humans have pretty much #$% up our planet…..I cannot even watch the programs being aired on television about the horrors that we continue to allow to happen. I can say no more about it, it makes appalls me!

An artist should be a visionary and with that the fierce responsibility to be a spokesperson and in my own case, a storyteller. I was moved in 1989 to create STILL NOT LISTENING, which piece is included in my works enclosed with this letter. It was during the Valdez Spill and I was living in Maine. The ‘internet’ had just come into existence and a neighbor was in daily communications with folks in Alaska trying to send help in various ways. The red tape that he had to overcome was impossible and much help never got there because of it. I was working on a sculpture depicting 3 shorebirds in a mating dance and nesting. I had two birds carved, one dancing, one feeding and the other to be on a nest. I decided in that moment to make the third bird stuck in crude oil. The piece got international attention and went on to tour Japan for a year at seven venues and then to several museums in the United States. I cannot tell you the many stories that this piece created in its adventures around the planet and being wept over by many viewers. One story came back to me from a man in a village hut in Belize. A friend of mine who saw me creating that piece in my Maine studio was told by this man in answer to his question about how did he, as man living deep in the jungle find the expressions of art in the world to affect him. He took up a magazine from under his table and turned to a full page picture of my work STILL NOT LISTENING and told this man that it was through such periodicals that he saw the art of the world and how he was elated to see that visionaries were speaking out in behalf of the planet and the life on it! That was a great moment for me to hear that story when my friend came home. This was 5 years after I had made the sculpture!

At the World Bird Carving Competition sponsored by the Ward Museum in Salisbury, Maryland, where I did one year become the winner of the World First Place Award, this sculpture got much attention. It was a Master Carver from Japan, Mr. Haru, who looked at the piece and with tears in his eyes spoke something in Japanese. Mr. Haru did not know that the title of the piece was Still Not Listening and he said, “We must listen to the bird songs”! It was a moment when ART transcended all borders and together we wept and hugged each other. Several months later Mr. Haru requested that piece to come to Japan for a year of venues! How exciting it was. The work traveled the world in venues and got much acclaim and praise and hopefully awakened some minds and eyes.

Sad to say, this piece is coming out again! I have had it with me since it came back from those journeys and I did not know why it had not sold. I know now, as we are in the throngs of this horror in the Gulf. It is incomprehensible to think about the damage that has occurred and will continue due to this incredible human error and arrogance. I am again appalled. It was in an email exchange with a long time friend and curator David Wagner that we both agreed it was time to bring this piece back into the flow. David is now sending invitations to museums to produce a show as soon as possible in their schedule for The Environmental Impact Exhibit. STILL NOT LISTENING will be a featured piece for this show of environmental works, some of which were done by artists Kent Ullberg and Bob Bateman back in 1989. I am talking with David about this show and we are approaching other artists with its concept for their participation.

Being the artist that I am, I attempt to keep “listening to myself” and in doing so I have come to a decision that there is a piece which has also been with me for some years now and it is titled The Ploy. It is a killdeer done in maple burl wood that is feigning a broken wing to lure a predator away from its nest holding 4 eggs. However, this time the predator is the ”human condition” and it is spewing its black crude waste up on the beaches where it will swallow all life that it touches. I am now at this moment refining this piece and it will be used shortly in a public exhibition where I will use a caulking “gun” in symbol of destruction and myself will ruin the pristine beauty of this finished waxed sculpture by squirting this black ooze onto the work and imbedding too some plastic trash items that are found in our oceans. I will make this into another Osborne Art happening!

Although I do not consider myself an artist who makes environmental statements, there are times when it is necessary for me to do so. That is the passion and the muse speaking. That is why I visit my 7 internal beings from time to time and use whatever is given me at that moment to infuse me with the direction that I must take to create something. It may need to go back to the time that I did realism, so that I can properly tell the story though this medium or it may be the need to take the subject into the abstraction of its being so as to get to the deeper roots of the matter. I cannot be boxed in. That is one of my personal objectives in this life. I want to express myself in whatever means I feel free to do so. I tend not to work on series, but on the individual work of the moment, to be in the now of being.

This seemingly undirected path that I take has what I refer to as a ‘red thread’ running through all that I do. If one sees my studio home with the 7 aforementioned styles, it is as if seeing the work of several artists in one place. But as one looks and deciphers the content, it is truly woven together by the red thread of my life.

The general impression of my work is that it borders on recognizable subjects and the realm of mystical abstraction, and that is impressionistic. I believe that my viewers and collectors see something recognizable about my work and then it takes them by the mind and allows them the freedom to interpret it themselves, to fill in the details with their own mind’s eye and imagination. I love doing that, it is the magic about what I do. I like magic! One of my names is ZIAM, which is of the I Am nature and the mystic observer!

I have been blessed in recent years to meet some young artists who have followed similar paths to my own. They have expressed to me how much of an influence I have been to them by not doing the same thing over and over. This is thrilling, for to me it is the greatest gift that I can give as any teacher to these young aspiring artists.

My life continues to be an exhilarating experience and a dream come true. We are the creators of our own destiny. We do create our own realities.

My experimentations have taken me into an adventure with painting that has been ongoing for the past 15 years. I paint on gold leaf and imitation gold leaf with acrylics. I have named this technique ”acrylusion”. This process has then taken me into what I currently refer to as “patinization painting” or the oxidizing of the metal leaf. I came upon this by what some refer to as an accident…but there are no accidents. This was an awesome and fierce moment when something occurred out of the blue that took me into realms previously unknown. In fact, I do not know of any artist doing what I am doing with these materials.

To explain briefly, I will gild my canvas or panel and using a medium of acrylic, it oxidizes the metal imitation gold leaf. I can then repaint a subject for example with gold size and then gild that. By certain applications I can cause the leaf to oxidize to various shades of green, thus by doing this over and over, layering, I can create depth of field and tone. I have done several paintings where I use no paint at all….just the shades of green and gold, creating most stunning effects. I am taking this into some philosophical areas as of late that refer to the “green movement” and also about the chemical rusting of our society and the oxidation of life that is shaping so much of our existence today. Like my fellow artist Dylan says, “everything is broken” and Leonard Cohen sings, ”it’s through the cracks that the light gets in”.

I have a wonderful life here on my little island of Guemes and I know that this is my place of belonging. I will remain here for the duration of my life on this earth. It has been my intention this year to devote time to expanding my reputation here in my home state of Washington. That is why I gratefully accepted the awesome invitation to be the featured artist at the Western Washington State Fair. I have been told that over 75,000 people will go through my exhibition which covers a room of 16 x 60 feet with both sculpture and paintings represented. I have had over the two decades of living here works placed at public locations in Wenatchee, Anacortes, Bremerton, Port Angeles, Burlington, Bellevue, Tacoma, and the Museum of Northwest Art in LaConner.

I am still having my love affair with this part of the world. I live in awe each day as I rise with my wife Jane and take the first hour of daybreak to walk up our little Guemes Mountain. This is a preserve that we the people of Guemes purchased for over $2 million with the assistance of the San Juan Preservation Trust just last year, DURING THE DEPRESSION!!!! We live next to yet another marsh preserve held by the San Juan Preservation Trust, where two eagles awaken us each day with their beautiful, illustrious trill and song. Upon the marsh we walk each day and talk to the herons and eagles and many song birds that inhabit that land. I find it difficult to seemingly ‘boast’ about my life and work, but it is that which gives inspiration to others, so I will add some things here to show you my passion for this, ’my place of belonging’.

It was on July 7, 2006 that the Skagit County Commissions of that time took it upon themselves to go against the democratic vote of the Guemes Islanders and they changed our ferry schedule to run later at night so as to create a commuter bedroom community instead of the rural beautiful little island that this is. I created with the assistance of what is now known as the Guemes Island Pranxters, a Cristo-like wrapping of our ferry dock with black drapes that read in large white letters GUEMES MOURNS. This was installed in just 5 minutes by young clown masked men or maybe women, while the ferry was returning to Anacortes to bring over the first “illegal” group of travelers on that county scheduled 6:30 pm. run! This was a moment when the muse called upon me to create a ‘statement’. I think it was well said and was indeed a truthful response to the county’s illegal action. It did get some publicity. We have since then and since the upswing of imposed ‘fear’ upon the world done another piece of statement art. We now have Navy Air Base training pilots fly loud and obscene jets over our island and they make a horrible, deafening noise. I am opposed to war and to the bringing of destruction to humans and to the planet. The “Pranxters” have now painted my white roof with 9 foot letters in red and blue that read IMAGINE and on the other side of the white roof is a 20 foot diameter PEACE SIGN. I hope that along with the warrior training that is being given to these young men and or women, that they will get the message and in their minds they may find the means to imagine peace and not war.

Thus my life takes many directions and uses many mediums for expression. I like the way my gallery owner in Charleston, SC mentions of me in publication: that “Leo is my Picasso at Martin Gallery”! I do like to consider myself a sort of ‘magician’ and who knows; there may well be some of that cellular thread of web running between me and the soul of several artists…at least 7.

I believe that what I have done in life is worthwhile and that it is a talisman for other artists who are coming along, to let them know to speak their truth and to be all that they can be. It is not the flash in the pan or the flavor of the month that is important in the art world, it may and often is the one who had put forth a great effort and has left behind a fierce track record for demonstrating the ‘art of living’.

Leo E. Osborne


Direct Correspondence to:Leo Osborne
Leo Osborne
c/o Milkwood Studio
5166 South Shore Drive, Guemes Island
Anacortes, WA
USA 98221
Tel: (360) 293-4685
Fax: (360) 293-4685
  Worldwide Nature Artists Group
Email: milkwoodstudio@hotmail.com
Home Page: http://www.leoosborne.com
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