To the philosopher Walter Benjamin, a medieval painting of the Madonna only gained its "authenticity" many centuries later, as this develops through its embeddedness in cultural tradition. In keeping with Renaissance custom, Leslie Glenn Damhus' paintings capture the spirit of how symbolism is adaptive to changing conditions and social values, even in a mostly secular society. With no biblical reference, the playful signs and wonders in the Marian portrait represent things and concepts that remain every bit as sacred as a fat Italian baby. What allegorical secrets are contained in fruit? The ultramodern Large Hadron Collider, tool of our search for the "˜god particle,' or decorative plates, as haloes; swaddling clothes, or the Virgin's dress, patterned in polka dots and bubble gum tones of yellow, pink and blue urban camouflage... what do these say about our mercurial attitudes to religious devotion? The signifying monkey influences classical and modern relations between religion and art, giving symbols double-meanings: a bird, for example, may signify a prophet in one painting and the Devil in another, or both at once, suggesting that nature can be simultaneously beautiful and sinister, its seductiveness manifesting in fine detail that ensnares our attention. When art influences what it serves, so religion is what art makes it, and it is left to artist and audience to contest this satirical dialogue.
Leslie Glenn Damhus' childhood home in Pennsylvania was an apartment directly above that of the renowned artist Paul Bransom, who illustrated the 1913 edition of Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. He taught her how to draw animals, and this influence, coupled with her passion for Renaissance religious painting, can be seen in her present work. The paintings are made in oil on wooden panels. In 2009, Leslie gained a BA (Hons) in Fine Art at the University of the West of England.