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UNT alumna explores past experiences through artwork

UNT alumna explores past experiences through artwork

UNT alumna explores past experiences through artwork
April 14
17:11 2020

In order to interpret and explore past traumatic experiences, UNT alumna and artist Leah Flook curates illustrations and sculptures to process her thoughts and emotions. 

“I really make my work based off this experience I had when I was 18 in 2011,” Flook said. “I was living in a house that my family and my friends perceived as haunted. There [were] a lot of paranormal happenings and things like that.”

At first, Flook did not know how to interpret these encounters, so she avoided them. 

“During that time period, I was having, I think my father as well, we were [experiencing] sleep paralysis,” Flook said. “There’s this happening when you see things. You have hallucinations. I saw this character, well, I saw different versions of this character over and over again. The last time that I saw the character, he was actually this goat man. So for the longest time, I kind of stayed away from that. It was so terrifying when it happened, and I was so scared.”

As time went on, she became more comfortable with the idea of this experience and decided to use art to explore what had happened.

“When I got into this type of work, I decided to try to seek out what that character is, kind of a way of investigating,” Flook said.

Those familiar with Flook’s work have been able to see the meanings behind her pieces and how she hopes to reach people. 

“I think Leah has an exquisite sense of aesthetic composition [and] pleasure. The way she manages to balance all the materials and themes is delicate but at the same time absurd,” said Sofia Bastidas, SMU curatorial fellow and Dallas resident. “I think people are drawn to her work in a familiar place but also allows them to wonder what this new form and scenarios might mean.”

Flook has always been intrigued by the arts, but it was not until she got to UNT for her undergraduate studies that she was taken seriously by those around her. 

“I was always told that I was an artist when I was really young,” Flook said. “But I come from a family of only sportspeople and things like that, so they didn’t really understand it was a career until I got into college and started winning awards and doing things with that.”

She hopes people can interpret her art to find an escape from reality, Flook said.

“I like to include these safe spaces,” Flook said. “This idea of a base, like a home base. It’s like the safety net for your fears, like a world that I made that I can explore these things that are so scary to me.”

Flook uses familiar icons and symbols to reach a wider range of meanings. 

“There’s a lot of iconography throughout it, like iconography that I make for myself as well as things that are just always universal,” Flook said. “It’s universal when it comes to painting, there’s certain meanings behind certain fruits or flowers or things like that and sometimes I piggyback off of those.”

During her time at UNT, her work ethic was evident though her artistic abilities and dedication, said Alicia Eggert, UNT sculpture program director and Denton resident.

“She is one of the best students that I’ve ever had,” Eggert said. “She’s really determined — she works really hard, and she’s not afraid to take risks. She was constantly teaching herself how to do new things. She has visions in her head that she’s compelled to make real.”

Flook is continuing to make more art and it continues to entice her viewers, Bastidas said. 

“I think her work is constantly evolving and I believe it is in that process of experimentation that she has found her most exciting pieces [and] moments,” Bastidas said. “I can’t wait to see what she continues to develop.”

Flook’s artwork has been featured in various locations around the Dallas area, including the North Park Project. In this project, she was selected to design the storefront barricade of a vacant store. She has also won many awards for her sculptures and illustrations, and her most recent win was Best in Show at the 500x Student Expo in 2017. 

After graduating from UNT in 2017, Flook said she wanted to continue learning about art but not on her own. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Fine Arts at SMU and is in her last semester of graduate-level work, learning more techniques to keep viewers engaged and to tell her stories.

“I think people can take and share the beauty of her combinations,” Bastidas said. “I think what is very important in her work is the ideation of her proceeds and pieces while always keeping in place the basic principles of design and art-making.”

Featured image: Courtesy Leah Flook

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Maria Lawson

Maria Lawson

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