Visual Art Spotlight: Melville by Dennis Leon

LBC is honored to have three of Dennis Leon’s sculptures in our permanent collection. This month, our Visual Arts spotlight shines on Melville, Leon’s bronze sculpture, proudly perched on the lawn of our Sculpture Courtyard at the Center’s North entrance. Through material, form, and subject, Dennis Leon’s lifetime of visual art draws us to nature and the outdoors. To its ephemeral essence, as depicted in the legendary unsanctioned, sites-specific exhibits throughout the Bay Area’s open space in the mid-1970s. To our experience in it, as preserved in Leon’s pastel and charcoal drawings of landscapes where he placed those sculptures.

Leon’s work also has been exhibited widely and is represented in the collections of SFMOMA, the Oakland Museum of California, the San Jose Museum of Art, Crocker Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among others. His site-specific, outdoor installations continue to be on view at the Oliver Ranch Foundation in Geyserville and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, and his work was featured in an exhibition of at the California College of the Arts in April-May of this year. 

After Dennis Leon passed away in 1998, his daughters, Ann Leon and Susan Peterson, made a gift of five of his sculptures to LBC, two of which, sadly, were lost in the 2017 Tubbs fire. The remaining sculptures include Melville, as well as Altered Rock and Whisper Rock, two of Leon’s wood sculptures, housed in our North Atrium.

Melville’s irregular bowl shape has a rough wood-plank texture that calls to mind the remnants of a shipwreck washed ashore. From every angle, a new form emerges, a new question is asked, a new curiosity is triggered.  It is one thing to consider Melville during California’s dry season, perhaps reflecting on 19th Century American author Hermann Melville’s literary work. Perhaps imagining the possibilities that fill the open space hollowed into its rugged form.

It is quite another thing to see Melville after a good, Northern California rain. Suddenly, it is a different sculpture altogether with even more to see! For some, the water captured in the bowl may reflect the relief of a quenched earth in our drought-burdened environment. For others, it will reflect the fresh new sky above, with its storybook clouds and all the hope that is released after a storm – without or within.

To our North Bay community, LBC extends an open invitation to come and visit your curiosity upon Melville, along with the other art works in our Sculpture Courtyard and Garden. But especially, don’t miss Melville after the next good rain.

Learn more about these works, along with other pieces in our collection, by visiting our website.


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