Few artists feel as strongly about color as Leah Rosenberg. Her entire oeuvre is built around it.
The San Francisco-based artist (shown top, left) made headlines last year for her involvement as creative director of Color Factory, the pop-up museum of brightly hued site-specific installations from artists around the world. The museum’s run may have ended, but Rosenberg’s cheery work is a permanent fixture all over the Bay Area–from colorful wall installations at State Bird Provisions, Pinhole Coffee and Workshop Residence to an installation in Natoma Alley that’s part of Site Unseen’s public art project to activate alleyways around Yerba Buena Gardens.
Here, Rosenberg shares her thoughts on the role color plays in everyday life.
Your work has always been rooted in color. Why is it such a strong motivator for you?
Color, for me, is a medium. I am inspired by the stories that it evokes, the objects that hold color and the architectural features of the spaces where color will eventually be installed. Even though a final installation might seem to be all about color, it is really about everything else that led me to those colors: The sunrise, morning tea with milk, the red bike locked out front, the poppies in bloom on the hill on the way to work, a denim jacket hanging from a fence–these are all fodder for my work. I think of my collections of hues as maps or landscape paintings of places and records of time.
How would you explain people’s obsession with art experiences like Color Factory?
I think San Francisco has always been a colorful city–with all the seasonal produce at farmer’s markets, the Painted Ladies, the Golden Gate Bridge and the street cars. It might just be that this year we need the color more, so our eyes are more open to it. But I also do think, amid growing social tensions and devastating news, that vibrancy plays a vital role in fostering shared experiences of pleasure and joy, which can be medicine for times like these.
Where do you go looking for inspiration?
Ocean Beach for the salty air and to get my feet in the sand, Alemany Farmer’s Market for colorful produce, and Flora Grubb Gardens to get coffee and peruse the ferns. I bike to get around and find that it’s a good way to observe changes every day.
Favorite spots for art and design:
Minnesota Street Project, Crown Point Press, Owl Cave Books, Case for Making studio for workshops and art supplies, and The David Ireland House at 500 Capp Street are all gifts to the Bay Area. After you visit them, go to 20th Century Cafe for honey cake.
Share a page from your little black book of local creatives.
I relate to artists who maintain some humor while broaching emotion in their work. I love Tucker Nichols’ flower paintings. I also greatly admire Wendy MacNaughton’s “hedge spotting” project and how she can draw someone while getting them to tell their story. Clare Rojas’ ever-evolving paintings blow me away. I encounter her work everywhere I go–from her public installations to her music and the books she writes.