Leonie Rhodes: sculpting souvenirs for Bleach*

Leonie Rhodes has travelled extensively, but she came to Australia in 2008 and never left. An accomplished sculptor, Leonie has been chosen, amongst a heap of other Gold Coast artists to participate in Made In Queensland: Ode to the Souvenir.

Leonie’s pieces will be included in the pop-up souvenir shop associated with the exhibition. The Culture Shop will be a free-standing souvenir booth located in the foyer of The Strand, Coolangatta. As well as Leonie, Suzette Macgregor, Shannon Doyle, Byron Coathup, Leah Bartholomew, Nanda Ormond, Kymberley McElroy, Stephen Baxter, Dean Cogle, Claudio Kirac and Laura Strange are also involved in the project.

The souvenirs that Leonie has made are created from pieces of the old fence line on the Queensland – NSW border. She tells me she’s making about 30 pieces which will be for sale at the pop-up shop as well as four markets during Bleach. They’ll retail for about $40 each.

“I’m delighted to be included in the Bleach* program,” Leonie said, as we look at some of her sculptures. “I haven’t been a part of the festival before – only an attendee.”

“I live right on the border,” Leonie said. “When the border changed, they changed the line of the fence. I like that – conceptually. And the wood is really beautiful. It’s got a lovely grain.”

“When I was little I was obsessed with pestles and mortars. And little figurines. So I would travel to a place and request those from my parents,” Leonie said.

The notion of buying mortars and pestles as souvenirs just goes to show the diversity of those items people consider souvenirs.

“I thought about why I am excited to live in this place –it’s the natural environment,” Leonie explained, when asked about the creative process.

“It’s the biological diversity and colour and smells and all of that incredible richness of environment so I felt that had to be what I described in my souvenirs. The colours are inspired by sunsets, sunrises, plants and animals,” she said.

“I wanted it to be simplistic but striking at the same time – much like the landscapes here.”

While Leonie is excited about her involvement with Made In Queensland she’s also planning for it to be her last festival for a while. “I’m trying to pull back slightly, I’m going into an intense working period on my figurative sculpture. I’m preparing for a gallery exhibition in maybe a year / year and a half.”

“My bronze teacher is very supportive and believes in my skill, he’s pushing me a lot – saying I shouldn’t have to work or be doing other kinds of work and that I should be able to auction,” Leonie explained, adding that her teacher (Phil Piperides) will support her by allowing her to work at his studio without charge.

“I need to take advantage of the time and take advantage of that opportunity,” Leonie said.

“I am so privileged, as an artist, living on the Gold Coast, to have access to that kind of support,” Leonie said. “He is a master of his trade and it’s a good working environment. Very fast-paced and intensive, which is good for me to learn from. My process is usually very slow.”

So, before Leonie takes some time to focus on her sculpture practice, go check out her pieces, made especially for Made In Queensland’s pop-up Culture Shop.

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The Culture Shop opens 9.00am – 5.00pm in the foyer of The Strand between 4 – 20 March. Visit bleachfestival.com.au for full exhibition details.

Photo by Lamp Photography

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