Monday, May 23, 2016

HONORING THE ARTIST: LELAND NEFF, DAN'S COVER PAINTING BY LELAND NEFF

HONORING THE ARTIST:LELAND NEFF, DAN'S COVER PAINTING BY LELAND NEFF Looking through Leland Neff's assorted notecards is like gazing through a candy store window: each photograph on the notecards duplicates a luscious, delectable nature painting that we immediately want to touch or smell. (The art on this week's cover is similarly attractive, the bouquet of flowers begging to be picked up and caressed/ sniffed.) A penchant for nature comes easily to Mr. Neff - whether this "nature" is beast or man. While horses have served as a prominent subject for his paintings, the human figure has also been important in Mr. Neff's career as a fashion photographer for clients like Bloomingdales and Barneys. The two seemingly unrelated subjects, horses and humans, have other things in common, according to the artist: "When I'm working on a horse race, for example, I have to have hand-to-eye coordination and accuracy, just like in fashion photography. Also, at the end of the day, I have to be done with the project. You have to pull it off." Mr. Neff's particular love of horses started at an early age along with his interest in art. "My father was a naval fighter pilot, and I grew up all over," Mr. Neff explains. "Wherever we went, we became involved with the local activities, so when we lived in Texas I started riding when I was three year-old." Mr. Neff continued to get involved with other local life styles around the world. After graduating from Pratt Institute with a painting degree, he toured Europe by train, finally ending up in the Caribbean to visit his parents. "I inteneded to stay only six months" he recalls, "but ended up living there for a year and a half. I became best friends with the native fishermen, doing a series of paintings about them that were exhibited at the hotel on the island." Mr. Neff's wonderlust took him to Argentina, near Cordoba as well, where his love of horses again took hold. "I never felt like a city person,"he notes. "I loved living in the countryside of Argentina, where people ride horses into town and hitch them up in front of a store. There was no TV and only one telephone. The people had no idea of wanting to be a 'star.' They were very rooted. I bought some horses and of course, painted them and their riders. I want to go back; I still have horses thee." While Mr. Neff has since moved to East Hampton from Manhattan, horses are still very much a part of his life: he keeps very busy doing commissions from all over the world. For example, he'll soon be going to Belmont to paint the favorite to the Triple Crown. Then it's off to Middleburg, Virginia, where he'll photograph Steeplechase. (Mr. Neff says that he also plans on training for the event while he's there, although he he won't participate.) Neing the horse enthusiast that he is, Mr. Neff also used the winter here to good advantage, taking lessons in jumping. Future plans call for his exhibiting works at the upcoming Hampton Classic Horse Show, paintings that cover diverse aspects of equestrian culture, like polo events in England and the country fairs in Massachusetts. We can't help but wonder if Mr. Neff had some famous cobowy in a past life, given his love of horses. "No," he answers with a laugh, "but one of my relatives was Wild Bill Hickok. No kidding." -Marion Wolberg Weiss Mr. Neff will be teaching landscape courses at The Art Barge this June/July.

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