Artist mines fantasy experiences for new exhibit at The Grand

Staff photo by Gage Cureton Steve Leske, an artist based in Redwood Falls, poses for a portrait Friday in The Grand’s Four Pillars Gallery during the opening of Leske’s art collection called “Imaginary Memories – A Collection of Fantastical Art by Steve Leske.” “All the pieces are pretty personal,” Leske said. “It’s based off of a lot of old gaming experiences that I’ve had with friends.”

NEW ULM — For Steve Leske, an artist based in Redwood Falls, appreciating moments of fantasy in life is what he hopes people will achieve after viewing his art exhibit that opened at The Grand Friday.

“We all have our own inner world and getting to share that with people is really fun,” Leske said. “I think that if [the exhibit] encourages anyone else to do the same thing, then I feel pretty good.”

Leske’s exhibit collection, called “Imaginary Memories – A Collection of Fantastical Art by Steve Leske,” features a collection of illustrations and paintings of fantastical creatures and landscapes.

Leske said many of the pieces in the collection draw themes or material from experiences he’s enjoyed while playing videogames and role-playing games (RPG) like Dungeons and Dragons, the fantasy tabletop RPG that has players create their own characters and unique imaginary settings.

The themes and characters with each art piece in the exhibit come from Leske’s interpretation of characters in those games, and he said his goal is to capture those imaginary moments to allow viewers the opportunity to imagine their own.

“All the pieces are pretty personal,” he said. “It’s based off of a lot of old gaming experiences that I’ve had with friends.”

Leske said the experiences people have while playing videogames, and the feeling of being absorbed into the game’s world, can often be lost once a person quits playing. He said many of the works in the exhibit try to capture those moments or feelings.

One piece in the exhibit titled “Chesterwyck’s Temple District” is a painting of a fantasy cityscape that Leske and his friends had created while playing Dungeons and Dragons. The painting depicts the imaginary world they had created as a setting for their characters.

“It’s a city from that world that we’ve collectively built through storytelling,” Leske said. “For me, I get to see that layer, but for someone who doesn’t have those memories, they still get to see the parts of it.”

The exhibit also features original storyboards for two illustrated children’s books Leske had self-published in 2011.

While the storyboards may not match many of the videogame inspired pieces, Leske said “Cosmic Safari” and “The Dragon and Sir Richard” introduce a greater storytelling element to the exhibit.

“There’s a narrative, story-driven element behind all this stuff,” Leske said. “So I thought bringing that in would be a nice touch. And people get to see the illustration boards too and there’s texture on all these things. I’m a big fan of texture.”

Leske said he’s also a big fan of tropes and figurative language or themes. He said he feels the exhibit follows themes from the fantastical and videogaming world, and the two blend together.

“The edges start to blur,” he said. “And that’s fun for me.”

Gallery hours for “Imaginary Memories” are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.