Minneapolis-based artist Leslie Barlow creates oil paintings with a purpose. Employed as a means of studying identity, multiculturalism, and issues of representation, her “otherness” art often incorporates figurative portraits of everyday people. In her recent series, Loving, she explores ordinary moments between real-life interracial couples.
Cleverly named after Loving v. Virginia, a groundbreaking, anti-discrimination Supreme Court case, the series of mixed media paintings presents the daily ins-and-outs of interracial couples from Minnesota. In an effort to both represent and normalize mixed race relationships, Barlow opted to depict seemingly standard moments between racially dissimilar partners. In one piece, a mother and father simply sit and observe their children. Another depicts a family snuggling and a different one captures a conversing couple as they clutch wine glasses. Each intimate depiction reminds viewers that, though often overlooked, interracial couples also lead “loving” lives worthy of consideration. “My work is about having agency over the representation of my story and stories like mine,” Barlow told The Huffington Post. “It’s a sharing of experiences we don’t often see.”
Somehow, the pieces—which convey conventional scenes yet are rendered in an modern blend of acrylics, oils, and pastel—feel simultaneously traditional and avant-garde. Though paradoxical, this combination of contrasting sensibilities is entirely intentional. “I want each painting to be unique, but to also have this thing in common of feeling normal,” she saysThe paintings felt mundane in the best of ways. That’s what I want, to normalize these images.”