Leslie Nichols is an accomplished Kentucky-based artist whose primary medium is the manual typewriter or what she calls “an early tool of the secretary.” She uses it to create the most stunningly haunting images of women with nothing but typed text. Her recent series, Textual Portraits, features images of modern women constructed from historic social texts written by pioneering activists and feminists like Alice Paul, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Sarah Grimké.
In her artist’s statement, Leslie writes of the series, “I create works that visualize the historical context of American women’s lives and convey a sense of social heritage. Images of contemporary women emerge from classic social texts, just as they emerge into specific contexts of time and place.” She adds, “The titles in this series reference academic citation. For example, Lindsay (Taylor Mill 1851) is a portrait of potter Lindsay Oesterritter created with excerpts from ‘The Enfranchisement of Women’ written by Harriet Taylor Mill in 1851. The excerpts address women’s ability for high achievement in society. Lindsay embodied the social changes that Taylor Mill argued for when she was awarded the highest honor for faculty research in 2013 at Western Kentucky University.”
“These aren’t just women, they’re women made with women’s words.”
It’s this level of thoughtful consideration that went into each of Leslie’s pairings of women. As noted by Women’s Studio Workshop, she “researched and read several iconic works before she talked to her models and then, based on these conversations, she matched the texts to these women.”
Of her creative process, Leslie says her use of text in portraits “alludes to the idea that our lives are the creations of our minds; how we identify ourselves and label others is a product of social construction and our awareness of this construction.” And as for her unique medium, the manual typewriter, she loves the “technical challenge of creating fluid imagery using a rigid machine.”
In the end, she meticulously renders works of art that are both visually and intellectually powerful, and we are just blown away by her incredible talent!
Be sure to check out more of Leslie’s stunning Textual Portraits and other works on her site.
Kaitlin (Paul 1923)
Created on a Manual Typewriter, 9.5 x 9.5″
Portrait of a student named Kaitlin created on a manual typewriter with text from the Equal Rights Amendment drafted by Alice Paul in 1923.
Tiffany (Truth 1951)
Typewritten Ink on Paper, 9.5 x 9.5 inches, 2015
Portrait of a student named Tiffany created on a manual typewriter with words Sojourner’s Truth’s 1851 one speech called “Ain’t I a Woman?”
Siobhan (Grimké 1837)
Typewritten Ink on Paper, 9.5 x 9.5 inches, 2011
Portrait of artist Siobhan Liddell created on a manual typewriter with text from “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes” written by Sarah Grimké in 1837
Kathy (Stanton 1892)
Typewritten Ink On Paper, 9.5 x 9.5 inches, 2014
Portrait of artist Kathleen Swift created on a manual typewritter with text from “A Solitude of Self” written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1892
Lead image: Nadine (Hurtson 1937); Typewritten Ink on Paper, 9.5 x 9.5 inches, 2015; Portrait of writer Nadine Pinede created with text from Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston and published in 1937
What Else You Should Know About Leslie Nichols
Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Leslie Nichols, who has a BFA from Fontbonne University and an MA from Western Kentucky University, currently maintains her studio in Bowling Green, Kentucky. She has displayed works in over one hundred exhibitions at venues including the Huntsville Museum of Art, the Carnegie Center for Visual and Performing Arts, and the Evansville Museum. Most recently Leslie was awarded a 2015 NEA Studio Residency Grant from Women’s Studio Workshop, which will support the creation of a new body of work in WSW’s letterpress studio.