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Adrift: Art and Humanity
With the recent illness of the long embattled and aging leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro, it is perhaps particularly timely that I received this interesting contribution to ArtComment which relates the story of how one individual was instrumental in, and inspired artistically by a real-life drama of great human interest which transcended the world's attention, if only momentarily, above the acrimony of one of the greatest and longest-running political sagas of our time. - Editor's Note
"If suffering is indeed permanent, obscure and dark, and shares the nature of infinity, then it can be witnessed in two of Chicago attorney-artist Jeffery Leving's paintings, both of which were inspired by his involvement in the Elian Gonzalez case.
Gonzalez was at the center of a heated custody and immigration battle in 2000 involving the Cuban and United States governments. The battle reached a climax on April 22, 2000, when federal agents seized the boy, which created a stir in the Cuban-American community. Leving, whose firm specializes in helping fathers with litigation and negotiation strategies while always focusing on what is best for the children, identified with the plight of Elian Gonzalez, a boy washed up on the shoals of life. Leving helped reunite Elian with his father in Cuba.
In the early stages of the federal case, Leving served as the Chicago attorney in the proceeding. He represented Manuel Gonzalez, at Juan Miguel's request, to be designated as Elian's care giver. Two of Leving's paintings found their beginnings in his experience working on the case. In "Adrift," the predominating blue in the painting communicates the artist's perception of what was going on in the boy's mind while adrift.
'You can see the beauty of the ocean,' explains Leving. 'But you can also see the uncertainty of being lost.'
In the painting entitled "Reunification," Elian and his father are pictured in the foreground of the painting, while Fidel Castro looms in the background - a stark reminder of how international politics can threaten to drive a wedge in between a young boy, his father and their family. The painting is primarily black, blue, and green, with a tad of yellow.
'The paintings are a display of the pain that clients suffer,' says Leving, who has been painting with acrylics and oils since childhood.
In these paintings, Leving has created abstractions of his clients' suffering. His works have everything to do with feeling and with sensitivity to his clients' pain. The artist combines figures and faces with abstract forms. Painting for the attorney-artist is largely about the process.
'I have had very painful cases as an attorney,' explains Leving, who has had cases involving murder/suicide and homicide. 'It is very therapeutic.'
'I fought the fight in this case because it was there. I made these works of art because they were not there,' said Leving."
from Washed up on the Shoals of Life - By Josh Hoff
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