Leveille’s Visual Slant towards Heightened Awareness
R. Leveille’s modernist paintings hover between Pop Art, Expressionism, and Art Nouveau, using expressive brushstrokes and a lush, colorful palette to create strong pictorial content that conveys a powerful message. Leveille inducts the narrative of each piece by strongly delineated figures, adding powerful design elements and text, so that the visual content doesn’t crumble under the weight of her subject matter. She succeeds at directing the viewer’s focus of attention towards both visual and analytical content.
Leveille’s paintings invite the viewer to look beyond the archetypal female figures and engage with the story that plays out in quite palpable terms, supported by witty symbolism and well-chosen, relevant words or sentences. Touching upon personal themes, such as sexual identity, sensuality, feminism, and today’s sociocultural and political currents, Leveille firmly uses her paintings as megaphones, sharing her point of view and asking for awareness.
Leveille’s painting entitled We are Happy to Serve You examines the paradoxes of the artist’s ongoing love-hate relationship with sexist stereotypes, reflected within the title through its subservient wording. It depicts the French actress Carole Bouquet as she appeared in the 1981 James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only — a movie Leveille loved when she first saw it. Watching this film again recently, she felt sickened and repelled by the glaringly barefaced as well as abstruse sexism, yet still feels attracted to the imaginary stereotype of the “quiet, strong-looking man.”
Working out her conflicting emotions through this painting, Leveille seeks to convey her admiration for resilient, beautiful women, yet adds an element of bitter irony disguised within the extravagance of the woman’s pose and background design. Many women today are confronted with their younger selves’ passive acceptance of social norms as expressed in yesteryear’s stereotypes that lead to an unspoken yet tangible celebration for our inner growth and newfound awareness which was dormant just a few decades ago.
Leveille’s painting You Can Do Anything speaks of a deep-seated anger and frustration many women as well as men share. Numerous amongst us, including Leveille, have survived sexual assault and many more of us have suffered under sexual harassment. The entitlement-fueled behavior of sexual predators — using both verbal as well as physical force — inflicts deep wounds in those they target and forever scars them.
Most of us do not tolerate aggressive, predacious behavior — whether by word or deed — rejecting and distrusting those who conduct themselves in this way. Yet sadly many are still willing to overlook this type of behavior and find reasons to tolerate, condone, and even justify the infamous words depicted on the canvas — disgustingly depraved statements that allegorically defile the portrait of the artist and her young daughter. Leveille is not alone in being horrified that so many seem to condone the pervasive rape culture that is sustained and even encouraged by those in power. As a woman and a mother, Leveille feels compelled to express her anger, despair, and utter disgust, resulting in You Can Do Anything, a solid, beautiful, and authentic interpretation of her present state of mind.
See Rebecca Leveille’s work on her website.
Written by Lorena Kloosterboer, realist artist & author © Antwerp, Belgium.
Originally published in PoetsArtists Magazine, April 2017.