With over one hundred exhibitions, Leslie Nichols is well known for her visual artwork that incorporates the use of found and original text to form intimate portraits. Born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Nichols currently works out of a studio based in Kentucky. She began to create her unique textual portraits after being gifted a typewriter and, upon deciding that she wasn't destined to be a writer, began to use the typewriter to create meaningful drawings. The following is a selection of images from her highly successful series Textual Portraits.
For Nichols, the inclusion of text in her artwork is an allusion to how the lives we lead are created within our minds. Identities and labels are self-chosen, a result of social constructions and “our awareness of [these] constructions.” As a key tool of the secretary of the past, the use of the manual typewriter to create the images is deliberate as well: Textual Portraits allows the visualization of the “historical context of American women's lives, and conveys a sense of social heritage.”
Textual Portraits shines a light on contemporary women as their images emerge from classic social texts, just as strong women emerge throughout history in specific times and places. Portrait of a student named Kaitlin created on a manual typewriter with text from the Equal Rights Amendment drafted by Alice Paul in 1923.
Portrait of potter Lindsay Oesterritter created with excerpts from “The Enfranchisement of Women” written by Harriet Taylor Mill in 1851
Portrait of artist Siobhan Liddell created on a manual typewriter with text from “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes” written by Sarah Grimk in 1837
Portrait of writer Nadine Pinede created with text from Their Eyes Were Watching God written by Zora Neale Hurston and published in 1937
Portrait of artist Kathleen Swift created on a manual typewritter with text from “A Solitude of Self” written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1892
Portrait of artist Neli Ouzounouva created on a manual typewriter with text from “La Conciencia de la Mestiza: Towards a New Consciousness” written by Gloria Anzalda in 1987
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?”
Portrait of student Marlee Jones created on a manual typewriter with text from “Letters on the Equality of the Sexes” written by Sarah Grimk in 1837