COURTNEY M. LEONARD:
On View June 10 through November 12, 2023
Artist’s First Retrospective Debuts New Artwork and Explores
Intersections of Indigenous Cultural Viability, Ecology, and History.
Huntington, NY – The Heckscher Museum of Art presents Courtney M. Leonard’s first retrospective, and the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in the greater New York metropolitan region. Leonard (Shinnecock, b. 1980) is among the most original and compelling voices in American contemporary art. Her work amplifies Indigenous knowledge and expresses reverence for the earth and sea while advocating for their protection. It engages with Long Island’s history, breaks new ground in the disciplines of ceramics and installation art, and underscores the importance of dialogue between indigenous knowledge, marine biology, and other sciences.
Image: View of Courtney M. Leonard’s site-specific installation BREACH: Logbook 20 | NEBULOUS, 2019, ceramic, glaze, paint, sinew, and two-channel video projection. Commissioned by the Hood Museum of Art.
COURTNEY M. LEONARD: LOGBOOK 2004–2023 will be on view at The Heckscher Museum of Art, June 10 through November 12, 2023. During summer 2023, Leonard will also have work presented by Planting Fields Foundation at their location in Oyster Bay, NY. Leonard is the Planting Fields Foundation 2023 Catalyst artist, and as such will be creating a site-specific outdoor installation, located in the Taxus Field at Planting Fields, from summer 2023 to summer 2024. Leonard’s practice investigates narratives of cultural viability as a reflection of environmental record. The Heckscher Museum exhibition also includes a site-specific installation. The exhibitions at The Heckscher Museum and Planting Fields both explore themes of food and cultural sovereignty, as well as ongoing ecological issues that endanger the Shinnecock Nation and Long Island as a whole.
Leonard is an enrolled member of Long Island’s Shinnecock Indian Nation and creates immersive installations that encompass ceramic sculpture, painting, and video. Informed by historical research and drawing on cross-cultural art traditions including wampum beadwork, scrimshaw, and blue and white Delftware, her work champions environmental sustainability and Indigenous cultural viability.
Image: Courtney M. Leonard, Matcik Way, 2005, ceramics, New York State Museum.
Three of The Heckscher Museum’s galleries are dedicated to the exhibition, which will feature more than a dozen individual artworks. The show will also feature one of Leonard’s signature room-sized installations, BREACH: Logbook23.
Composed of contour mapping lines painted on gallery walls, ceramics installed in surprising configurations, and video projection, this immersive installation offers visitors a multisensory and emotional experience of Leonard’s message:
“Can a culture sustain itself when it no longer has access to the environment
that fashions that culture?”
New Commissioned Work
A significant new work commissioned by The Heckscher Museum for its permanent collection debuts in the exhibition. Titled Contact 2,023…, the approximately eight-foot-long wall hanging focuses on the moment of colonial contact on Long Island, by mapping the contours of the island with thousands of individual clay thumbprints resembling shells. Sewn onto a cotton canvas with artificial sinew, each thumbprint becomes a “maker’s mark” indexing the artist’s contact with the earth.
This monumental work is a sister piece to two other artworks in Leonard’s Contact series. Contact 2,021, a work measuring 6 feet by 6 feet, is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through April 2023. Contact 2,009 is co-owned by LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and The Autry Museum of The American West (Los Angeles). [Image: Courtney M. Leonard, detail from Contact 2,021, canvas, ceramic, brass, and artificial sinew. The Metropolitan Museum of Art.]
The retrospective includes loans from Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, CT; Mystic Seaport Museum, CT; the New York State Museum, Albany, NY; and private collections. Tracing the development of Leonard’s art over the last twenty years, it features the artist’s earliest explorations of the relation between European modernism and her Shinnecock culture. Artworks from the early 2010s demonstate the growth of the artist’s work in ceramics and her expansion into the media of painting and printmaking.
The show extends Leonard’s ongoing project BREACH, which she began in 2014. Conceived on the model of records kept by eighteenth-century whaling ships, each “logbook” of BREACH records— in ceramic, paint, and video —one year of the artist’s experiences of “environmental fragility, shifting adaptations, and/or the ability to simply become anew.”
The exhibition is organized by The Heckscher Museum Curator Dr. Karli Wurzelbacher in dialogue with the artist. A publication and related programs accompany the exhibition.
Partnership Statement from Planting Fields Foundation
Planting Fields Foundation (PFF) is proud to partner with The Heckscher Museum of Art to present the work of Shinnecock artist Courtney M. Leonard. The dynamic activation of a traditional museum space, historic house museum, and an Olmsted-designed landscape will result in concurrent exhibitions across both sites. Leonard is the Planting Fields Foundation 2023 Catalyst artist, and BREACH: Logbook 23 | ROOT, her site-specific outdoor installation, will be located in the Taxus Field from summer 2023 to summer 2024.
ROOT will examine how the colonization of Long Island has impacted traditional Shinnecock foodways and explore themes of food and cultural sovereignty, as well as ongoing ecological issues that endanger the Shinnecock Nation and Long Island as a whole. In collaboration with national and international museums, cultural institutions, and indigenous communities in North America, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, and the United States Embassies, Leonard’s practice investigates narratives of cultural viability as a reflection of environmental record. For more information visit www.Plantingfields.org
The Heckscher Museum Land Acknowledgement Statement
The Heckscher Museum of Art is situated on the traditional territory of the Matinecock Tribal Nation, whose presence continues in New York today. We acknowledge the meaning and sacredness of the land for the Matinecock and its sister tribes on Long Island. We recognize histories of land theft, violence, and erasure, as well as the continued disenfranchisement and displacements of Indigenous peoples. We commit to building a more inclusive and equitable Museum for all.
THE HECKSCHER MUSEUM
The Heckscher Museum of Art is in its second century as a source of art and inspiration on Long Island. Founded by philanthropists Anna and August Heckscher in 1920, the Museum’s collection comprises more than 2,300 works from the 16th to the 21st century, including European and American painting, sculpture, works on paper, and photography.
Located in scenic Heckscher Park in Huntington, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Visit Heckscher.org for more information.