I’ve been creating watercolor portraits based on photographs collected from old family albums. In my paintings, I embrace the white of the paper to capture the ephemerality of our memories of loved ones over time. My portraits use a decontextualizing white background, which places an emphasis on both the physical and emotional presence of the subject while narrowing attention to moments of both acuity and translucence in the form. This technique alludes to the melancholia that comes from acknowledging our fading recollection, and from recognizing lost versions of those we cherish. As photos attempt to capture a moment in time, my paintings capture that which makes us human: the desperate attempt to hold onto treasured memories—and people—as they slip away.
Lincoln native Erica Leon has been developing her portraiture since 2016. While she creates works in many media through her study at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, her recent portrait series exploits the properties of watercolor to explore the psychological underpinnings of family, memory, trauma, and the irrevocable process of change.
Erica currently lives in the home in which she was raised, nestled in a run-down neighborhood between university campuses. Having witnessed up-close the slow disintegration of her locality and dramatic uptick in reported violence in recent years, she intends to expand the subjects of her watercolor portraits into her community in order to contend with notions of systematic oppression and the shame often associated with economic status.