LESLIE IWAI

Location: Middleton, WI
Website: leslieiwai.com
Featured Work: rootlet

Describe your featured work
Lately my quiet interest in the carrot has grown into a full exploration of the dynamic between the “carrot” and the “stick”. It started about 10 years ago when sewing a fabric carrot with a zipper for my two-year-old nephew. I found it delightful and casually made more when I had spare time. However, in the last several years I had begun noticing that my studio practice had fewer small moments of delight like that and more moments of the driving force of the “stick”. As I thought about the underlying themes of driven-ness versus small sweet rewards, my own issues of pride came to the surface. I saw how pride and the burden of performance can humiliate those, myself included, under its discipline rather than uplift. In 2017, I attended a lecture by William Cavanaugh, titled “The Politics of Humility,” and when he quoted Dorothy Day her statement struck me deeply,
“I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for these tiny invisible, loving, human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets, or like the capillary oozing of water, which, if given time, will rend the hardest monuments of pride.”
Inspired by this quote, I created “rootlet” to be part of a Madison, Wisconsin CSArt (Community Supported Art) share. Being that I enjoy all things folded, I delightfully designed and created these “rootlets” from one piece of paper.

You build ecologically and sing memories, 2003, catalpa seed pods and spirituals, dimensions vary.
Daughter Cells: Interphase (While We Slept), 2016, photograph, 3′ x 3′
Hold Fast, 2018, Installation, 20′ x 20′ space, photo credit Barry Sherbeck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist Statement
I am constantly curious about the underside to the stories and research that we read and hear about in our most sacred and ordinary moments. My artistic exploration is fostered through creating installations with wide-ranging media choices that spur unexpected friction or fluidity between the text and our human experience. I love to dig into the making process by working with a variety of techniques and machinery to bring transformation to raw and reimagined material.
Two important questions I ask when I am making something are “How is it?” and “What is it?”. Through this, I am inevitably led to new connections and uncovered narratives. One of my favorite seminars in graduate school was Craft and Scholarship where I happened upon the threads between the woven, the engine and the feminine. Between the hardness and softness of these three, my work rests.

Rend, 2007, Installation, dimensions vary

What are you making now?
I am just beginning my research for a new performance-based installation in 2020. It is an idea that has been in my “back-pocket” for about 10 years. The concept will combine elements from the story of the Princess and the Pea and the making of a pearl. Last year I prayed specifically that I would either be able to bring this into reality soon or that I would be able to let it go. Within a week or so after I prayed, this exhibit opportunity was presented. I am overwhelmingly grateful that I can pursue this idea with both space and support.

Why do you belong to CIVA?
I found out about CIVA when I moved to Madison, Wisconsin in 2011. I really did not know what to expect as I had not been around an intentional community of Christian artists. As I got to know other members in my local community and from other parts of the country, including the women artists from CIVA’s Doing Good Well, I have found so much encouragement and support. I love being part of a community that holds each other up, surrounds each other in deep discussion about our art, faith and life and prays for each other. I continue to grow as an artist and a Christ follower through my interactions within and fostered through the CIVA community.


Leslie Iwai is an installation artist and sculptor. With an undergraduate degree in mathematics and chemistry from Wayne State College in Nebraska and a Master of Architecture from Virginia Tech, her work is multidisciplinary and material rich. From the Midwest, Iwai cut her artistic teeth in Omaha, Nebraska. Leslie was the first recipient of the Bemis Community Arts Fellowship (2005), and most recently was the Artist in Residence for Urbana 2018 amongst many other awards and residencies. She now enjoys living and exploring Wisconsin with her husband where she makes art, collaborates and connects with her local community.