A Complex Picture- Article from the Capital Gazette
The following is an article by Theresa Winslow featured in the January 2014 Capital Gazette
Leo Hylan has secrets he’s eager to reveal.
Take “Box Scar,” one of 40 pieces in his art show at the Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge in Annapolis. The small piece appears to be a cubist-influenced array of muted colors.
But look close, and the images are strangely reminiscent of X-ray shadows.
That’s half-right — and half the puzzle.
The shapes come from an MRI Hylan had in conjunction with back surgery.
Look even closer to see the word “pain” written over and over again.
“I’ve never seen anything like him before,” said Lindsay Zetter, co-founder of The Artery, an artists’ group that arranged for the show.
Called “A Retrospectale,” the exhibit is part tribute to Hylan’s late mother, who died of brain cancer at 55 in November. The 30-year-old artist completed 15 of the pieces the week she passed away.
There are also references to his late sister in the show, which is on the Metropolitan’s second floor. “Abstract No. 9” has two tiny “9s” embedded in the splash of colors. They represent 18, the age at which she died of a seizure.
Another secret revealed.
The exhibit is part evolution of Hylan’s art, with everything from photos to mixed media pieces. Nothing is exactly as it appears, because he uses technology to manipulate images. The studio in his Annapolis home is filled with computer equipment.
Another piece in the show, “Polarization,” consists of three video monitors.
“When you see it, you’re sort of mesmerized,” said Jody Danek, one of the owners of the restaurant.
The screens on the left and right are morphing composites of anchors from liberal and conservative television. The center screen flashes black and white with images from the the news. Audio broadcasts are available through headphones.
“Anybody can call themselves a VJ, but Leo has the unique ability to express emotion visually,” said Chris Mandra, guitarist for Telesma.
Hylan handles the video presentations for the band. He balances that with his own art, and a full-time teaching job in the Performing & Visual Arts Magnet at Annapolis High School.
Teach it forward
Hylan owes his career to Joseph Ward, a teacher at Chesapeake High School.
Ward had him transfer to his advanced photography class, and it jump-started an interest in art.
“He believed in me. Without him, I’d probably be in jail, I really don’t know. But it wouldn’t be good.”
Hylan went to art school after graduation. Later, he earned a teaching degree, following not only in his mentor’s footsteps but his mother’s. Jan Elizabeth Hylan taught for more than 20 years in the county.
“Teaching is an art form all on its own,” he said. “The two exist together in order to make the other one better.”
Jean Orzech, chair of the PVA program at Bates Middle School, where Hylan used to teach, praised him as a colleague and an artist. Hylan’s been with the Annapolis High PVA program 1½ years. He was in the Bates program 3/½ years.
“He’s always about students and pushing them as far as they can go,” Orzech said.
Part of that is discussing his own work, which she said gives them something to admire. Orzech appreciates the way Hylan juxtaposes old and new techniques.
His photographs are an example.
Hylan takes pictures with film, then scans them and breaks them down digitally. “I don’t want to be constrained. I always hated being labeled as anything.”
He hopes viewers take away from his show new possibilities for art in Annapolis.
“I like to have fun with art and have the end project be something I have control over,” he said. “The majority of my life, outside my art, is out of my control.”