Leonora Loeb: An Artist Embracing the World of Visual Studies
Updated: Jul 17, 2021
As artists, musicians, photographers and designers bring their talent and unique knowledge to students of visual and creative arts, one must do it with enough brevity to make them strong and more courage to make them unique. By working in two fashion programs, I am fortunate enough to connect with these fantastic individuals who choose to share their knowledge with students in all disciplines.
My first Q&A is with Leonora Loeb, an instructor in the Visual Studies department at LIM College in New York. We connect on many things in life, which is probably why we became friends in our first semester teaching there. Someone who believes in human connection and collaboration, is the kind of fabulous teacher we all need at some point in our life. This born and raised New Yorker, with time spent living and working in Europe is an artist who continues to run her own visual art studio while she balances full-time teaching. Leonora meets me for coffee, and I couldn't help but notice the paint and plaster splatters on her dress and shoes, which could only mean one thing. This teacher takes her art very seriously, and so do the students that leave her classroom. Before diving into the questions I had for her, we chatted a little about what her own college experience was like. She mentioned that Pitzer College is a positive and special place, where the atmosphere is warm and kind, blended with incredible intellectual intensity. This could be the reason why she also chose to mention that college and grad school were the moments in life that she would absolutely do over, and probably the biggest reason why she is currently in the academic environment. This teacher never wants to leave school.
How did you get started in teaching?
I am a studio artist and designer, and have always sought out multidisciplinary learning environments- I went to a small liberal art college, (Pitzer College), where the focus was on interdisciplinary study of social sciences and cultural studies. I chose the School of Visual Arts for my MFA because of its intense studio environment where the students and faculty work with diverse media. I came out of the program with so many new experiences and skills which changed the way I make my work.
I love that LIM’s Visual Studies department attracts students and faculty with a wide range of professional interests within varied visual fields- for example set design, interior concepts, photo styling, and visual merchandising. It was LIM’s range of studies which first intrigued me when I had the opportunity to apply for the position of Adjunct Faculty in 2016, and I’m so happy that I am now fulltime faculty in a department which embraces the worlds of art, design, fashion, and culture.
What part of your personality is brought to the classroom when you teach? Has teaching affected your everyday life and the way you engage with people?
In my studio and design practice, I crave solitude in making and thinking, but also human connection and collaboration. In this sense, teaching is a great fit in that it requires independent research as well as alliance with students, faculty, and staff. I love having a job where my work encompasses so many different activities, and where I am constantly challenged and learning.
There is also a performative aspect to teaching- standing up in front of a class and speaking was definitely an adjustment, though I’ve learned to embrace this side of the job too!
What are some issues you are noticing with the way students are learning or engaging with their studies or peers today? My students are so busy! I find that many of my students are busy with work, internships, family obligations- all of these components of their lives are incredibly important, but take time away from school work, and this can be an added challenge. I encourage my students to think of ways to incorporate what they are learning in these other contexts into their projects.
I have a great respect for my students’ professional determination, and I try to instill a sense of general curiosity and open-minded approach to learning. It is often hard to predict how new ideas are generated, so it’s important to experience new things.
What do you think of the future of higher education?
I see online education as a clear growing force in the current educational landscape, and while there are many pros and cons, that it is a growing reality is indisputable. I both teach and develop curriculum for online coursework, and am still quite excited to work through the challenges of the online modality. That there are so many opportunities for students to take courses online also means that there is the necessity to make the most of face-to-face classes. If a PowerPoint could have just as easily been watched online, why have the student come to class to watch it? Face-to-face classes must take advantage of the opportunity for in-person support and interactivity.
Biggest accomplishment in life personal or professional?
Biggest accomplishment questions are always tough! I would say that it’s hard to make a division between personal and professional, in that I’m always working and always living my life.
Developing a sustainable balance between the two certainly is an accomplishment and I feel that I have found that balance. We often talk about this balance in relationship to child rearing, but it is true too for people without kids- everyone is caring for someone! My kids are now eight years old, and I love that they are around so much of my work, both studio and academic.
What is something you teach that can't be found in a textbook?
All of the readings that I incorporate in my courses are used to create a sense of shared knowledge in the classroom, but the studio work and field trips are just as important. For example reading about color theory in our color and design textbook is accompanied by in-studio experience with color and visits to galleries, museums, and design studios to see how these ideas are activated. We are so lucky to be in the middle of NYC and have access to these resources!
Anything you are currently working on inside or outside of academia?
I’ve curated and co-curated a few shows, and this is something I’m interested in further developing. My partner and I are currently working on developing an online project which will include curatorial work both online and in temporary physical spaces. He’s from Argentina, I’m from New York, and lived in LA for a few years; and together we’ve lived in Spain and Italy- we have so many places that feel like “home” to us! The name of this project is Wish You Were Here, a reference to the project’s collaborative and community building nature.
What type of art/design do you do and can you talk about where you find your inspiration?
My design work for Lucaio Studio is mostly done in collaboration with my partner. We design unique surfaces, mostly for residential spaces, but also for business, pop-up spaces, and photo shoots. We work with lots of different materials, depending on the job, but we often use paint, plaster and metal leaf. We design textures and patterns too. The design process comes from different places- historical images and textiles for example.
My art practice is much more solitary, though I have worked on several collaborative multi-media projects. I work primarily with sculptural installations and video, though I have been working on a series of small porcelain wall hangings over the last three years. This series began with a succession of walks through the city and an attempt to document visual connections I found between textiles, jewelry, building facades, and graffiti.
Visit Leonora's website to see all of her work.