Needlepoint Portraits at The University of Alabama Gallery

Leanna Leithauser-Lesley, “Duke Ellington,” needlepoint. Image courtesy of the artist.

The University of Alabama Gallery is pleased to present Shaken By the Roots: Works by Leanna Leithauser-Lesley in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center, January 12 through February 25, 2022. There will be an artist’s reception in the gallery on Friday, February 4, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. during Tuscaloosa’s First Friday festivities.

Leanna Leithauser-Lesley is a fiber artist who characterizes herself as “an avid needlepointer compelled by the power of jazz music, the drama of photography and the intention to raise the awareness of needlepoint as an art form.” “Jazz,” she notes, “is an American art form, the product of a cultural collaboration and a universal language of tolerance and freedom.”

Leithauser-Lesley weaves together the “quiet, methodical ways of needlepointing with the often unrestrained methods of jazz while capturing the emotion of the photograph she prefers to stitch.” “Rejecting the shortcuts associated with technology,” she explains that she stitches each work in “a unique freehand homage” to her musical subject.

And her subjects include jazz icons like Duke Ellington (shown here), Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Ray Charles, Thelonious Monk, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Dinah Washington, and Nina Simone. Check out her exhibition below, with music by the UA Jazz Ensemble!

Shaken by the Roots | UA Gallery from UA College of Arts & Sciences on Vimeo.

“Leanna Leithauser-Lesley’s highly skilled portraits in needlepoint offer an alternate view of what portraiture is,” noted UA Gallery director Daniel White. “At the same time, these portraits are an homage and a glimpse into the golden era of the Jazz Age in America. The title ‘Shaken By the Roots,’ underscores the role jazz has played as an influence on other forms of American music.”

Leanna Leithauser-Lesley has had solo exhibitions of her needlework portraits at the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, Tennessee; the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute; the Historic Balzer Theater at Herren’s, Atlanta, Georgia, among others. She was awarded a 2021 Visual Arts Fellowship by the Alabama State Council on the Arts and her work has been selected for numerous juried and invited exhibitions including Artfields Seventh Edition, Lake City, South Carolina; the 44th Biennial Montgomery Art Guild / MMFA Exhibition (Foy Gilmore Goodwin Award); ArtsRevive Roots and Wings Exhibition, Selma, Alabama (Best in Show); and the 43rd Biennial Montgomery Art Guild / MMFA Exhibition (Landmark Award). Leithauser-Lesley holds a bachelor’s degree in art education from Auburn University. Her website is here.

The University of Alabama Gallery is an essential part of the education and development of UA students and our community. Admission to the gallery is free. The gallery is located in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center at 620 Greensboro Avenue in Tuscaloosa. It is open Monday through Friday, 9 am-4 pm and First Fridays 12 noon-7 pm. To ensure the safety of our visitors and staff, everyone must wear face coverings inside the gallery. Have questions or need assistance? Call (205) 345-3038. 

For more information about The University of Alabama’s programs in studio art and art history, visit our Degree Programs page.