‘Art Is Fed by Experiences’: Watch Artist Leonardo Drew Explain How His Worldwide Travels Inform His Work

As part of a collaboration with Art21, hear news-making artists describe their inspirations in their own words.

Leonardo Drew at Pearl Lam Galleries. (Photo by studioEAST/Getty Images)

Traveling is off limits for many people right now, but art can offer a window into new places and experiences.

One artist for whom travel is integral is Leonardo Drew. Despite an early life spent tethered to his neighborhood in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and a career formed on the basis of that localized experience, Drew eventually made his way beyond his city, traveling to Peru, Cuba, Spain, Switzerland, and Japan in quick succession.

“If you allow your antennas to reach out,” Drew says in an exclusive interview with Art21, “you’ll find what it is you need for this part of your journey.”

Drew’s practice relies heavily on being in the studio, where he creates massive sculptures from materials that he has transformed by oxidizing, weathering, burning, and manipulating objects. From sifting through landfills to amassing piles of hay bales and cotton, Drew’s work is rooted in the physical. 

“The art is fed by experiences” he tells Art21, explaining that while he was in Japan, he learned techniques for naturally dying fabrics.

I went there to physically learn,” he says in the video, which originally aired as part of Art21’s Extended Play series. “But actually, spiritually learning was a whole other thing.” 

Watch the video, which originally appeared as part of Art21’s series Extended Play, below.

This is an installment of “Art on Video,” a collaboration between Artnet News and Art21 that brings you clips of newsmaking artists. A new series of the nonprofit Art21’s flagship series Art in the Twenty-First Century is available now on PBS. Catch all episodes of other series like New York Close Up and Extended Play and learn about the organization’s educational programs at Art21.org.

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