19. LESLIE LOWE
Heaven is where everyone knows the dance and there’s no rehearsal, 1985, 18’ x 21’
A response to the gentrification fraying the fabric of the neighborhood, Leslie’s mural presents “iconic figures especially popular in the East Village and the Lower East Side, important to the people who actually LIVED there.”
Leslie remembers “imagining a group of dancers meeting on a rooftop at sunset. The sky is framed by two tall buildings, their shapes suggested by the white rectangular ‘windows.’ From left to right, the figures are Chango Macho, Loa or spirit of wealth, energy and fire; Pittsburgh Pirate right fielder Roberto Clemente (behind the tree); Yemaya, the Goddess of the Sea; the Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau (whom I still paint); Elvis Presley; Michael Jackson (half hidden); James Brown (his back to the viewer); the Widow Ching, a notorious Chinese pirate; and a Native American Indian.”
Finding her wall covered in black tar, Leslie decided “to use black as a base color rather than paint over it. The bare ground was uneven and, admittedly, it was a struggle wrestling with the ladder. Working around the trees in front of the wall was also a challenge. The Puerto Rican man who ran the garage next door was very helpful and, as I hoped, he recognized the figures in the mural, as did most neighborhood people when they came by to take a look. Most white people had to be informed who the figures were—which says something about the neighborhood at that time.”
A native of New Mexico, Leslie spent the 1960s and 70s in San Francisco and Chicago, arriving in NYC in 1982. Migrating to New Orleans in 1993, she was “blown back” to NYC by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “An amateur anthropologist and professional right brain thinker,” she cites as influences alternative belief systems, music, and Egyptomania. Leslie was presented with a 2017 Acker Award for her contribution to the avant-garde arts community.