On Edgewood Avenue, a little-known Yale building sits removed from the street, separated from it by pedestrian walkways.
The structure, known as the Sculpture Building, contains studio space for Yale art students, including Leonard Galmon ’19. Once inside the building, visitors must open a sliding door to enter the studio space Galmon shares with two other students. At night, white light illuminates the contents of the studio, including Galmon’s desk, strewn with half-empty paint tubes, cups of assorted brushes and short cylindrical pots of paint.
As demonstrated by the many faces rendered in paint that sit along windowsills and adorn the partition walls separating the studio into personal spaces, Galmon’s current artistic focus is portraiture. Throughout high school, Galmon aspired to become a writer. But when his art teacher introduced him to painting, his focus immediately shifted.
“I just took to it,” Galmon said of his first encounter with painting. “I like paint, I like moving paint around, and I like trying to render something: There are a lot of choices you have to make, like which colors to use, or which kinds of marks you want to use.”
Galmon also cited his uncle as an early motivator. After he saw his uncle draw a lifelike piano, he said, Galmon decided he wanted to surpass him in realistically representing the world in art. Soon, he achieved his goal.
Galmon has also found inspiration from his studies as an art major at Yale. He said he did not consciously consider many of the formal aspects of art that he learned in class while he painted — until the beginning of last summer.
“I was just on auto-pilot for a long time, and then slowly, things different professors and teachers have told me started to manifest themselves in my work,” Galmon said.
Although he wants to learn from his professors, Galmon said that adhering to prescribed ideas in his art can sometimes be a challenge. Still, he aims to follow the main advice he receives from his mentors.
“They tell me to stop thinking and just make more, which I’m trying to do,” Galmon said.
When painting portraits, Galmon starts with numerous photographs and selects one image to work from. He said that looking at a photograph allows him to take his time while painting. It also means he does not have to translate three-dimensional bodies into two-dimensional paintings. However, he said, critics of his work say that by adding an intermediary step between the subject and the painting, his use of photography distorts his representation of his subjects.
Galmon has had “doubts about the art world, more specifically about the pressures one comes under as a working artist,” said Amy Xu ’19, a friend. But, she added, he has never let his doubts “affect his understanding of who he is.”
Galmon said that he is drawn to portraiture because “so much can be gleaned from a face.”
“I think it’s cool how you learn all these facial proportions and how things are generally in certain places, but it’s tiny differences that make all of us look different,” Galmon said.
In his work, Galmon seeks to highlight these differences, focusing on his subjects’ faces rather than adding intricate backgrounds. He said that “all the other stuff seems unnecessary right now — there is enough to play with right there in the face.”
Galmon said he is usually drawn to representational painting, but has recently developed a taste for abstraction, particularly color-field abstraction and geometric forms.
Finding a union between the elements of his paintings is a crucial aspect of Galmon’s current approach. He focuses on portraits as well as color field abstraction, and since the way he paints faces involves deconstructing the colors, he is interested in exploring the relationship between his two current artistic interests.
“I have this feeling that there’s a connection between these geometric forms and colors in the way I paint, so I’m trying to figure it out,” he said.
Galmon said he seeks this unity in all areas of his life. He often wishes school was not broken up into different subjects and instead focused more on the interconnectedness of the disciplines.
Galmon noted that he still has time to figure these things out. After all, he is young and plans to continue painting.
“I’m committed to doing this,” Galmon said. “I don’t see myself doing anything else.”
Julia Carabatsos | firstname.lastname@example.org