I am a painter based in New York City and my subject is the rapidly changing urban landscape as seen through the construction sites of high-rise buildings in midtown Manhattan. Observational and expressive drawing and painting are the basis of my process. My media range from India ink and watercolor on paper to acrylics and oils on wood panel or on canvas, and I often paint on site, on sidewalks around Midtown Manhattan.
This project dates to 2015, when construction of a 42-floor building began outside my painting studio window on West 39th Street. My first impulse was to move. Instead, I decided to stay and make paintings of the process as the new building went up and blocked my view. I started calling it the Monolith. It had this slab-like quality, this immovability — and it began to represent other monolithic things in my life that couldn't be shifted. It became a metaphor for things we can’t change, but have to learn to live with and to work around in some way.
Once the Monolith was finished – now the Aliz Hotel on West 40th Street – my interest in construction took me outdoors, painting at a travel easel on sidewalks across Midtown Manhattan. I have now spent five years following skyscraping building projects that are dramatically changing the cityscape, such as Hudson Yards, Billionaire’s Row on West 57th Street, the new MoMA tower on 53rd Street, and One Vanderbilt rising next to Grand Central Station.
I work from the same vantage points multiple times over many months. It is the in-between building stages that capture my imagination. It has been an incredible experience to document these massive buildings as they rise from holes in the ground, surrounded and crowned by towering cranes. I stand at street level, dwarfed by massive forms, striving to capture the light and weather as they change endlessly across a man-made mountainous landscape where each time I come back the structures have changed!
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New York City based artist, Gwyneth Leech has been painting the rapidly changing urbanscape of Midtown Manhattan since 2015. She has been in solo and group shows across the United States and in Great Britain. Her most recent solo show was held in association with Clinton Housing Development Corporation at their art gallery in Hell’s Kitchen in 2019. In the Fall and Winter of 2019 her paintings were included in “New Cityscapes”, a group show at CRG Realty in Harlem, and in “Picturing Space”, at the art and design gallery, FIT in Midtown Manhattan. She was an “Art on Link” featured artist in November 2019, her paintings appearing on 1700 video kiosks across all five boroughs. Leech has been featured in The New York Times, The Village Voice, City Realty and on NY1 Television. She is the subject of a multi-award-winning short documentary, The Monolith.
Leech holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland. In 2019 she was awarded a Hell’s Kitchen Foundation Grant. Her artwork is in private and public collections. Recent corporate acquisitions include Brookfield, Cimolai Italia, Despé Italia, Metropolitan Walters, NYC Constructors/Banker Steel, Sciame LLC, SL Green Realty and Stonebridge Inc.