Experimental and Foundation Studies


Leslie Hirst

Leslie Hirst is a visual artist who works in a variety of media to explore the meaning of materiality. Using found objects, she deconstructs the repetitive symbols and messages of everyday experience, then reconfigures, embellishes and elevates these objects to reflect the complexity of an interconnected world. Her compositions and installations suggest a type of mapping of the human environment, referencing street plans and passageways as a means for navigating an inhabited landscape. Hirst comes by these sensibilities instinctually, through her experience as a distance runner, as the elements of time and the traveled path form an indelible connection to the earth and a definition of “place.”

Hirst has had solo and group exhibitions at Pavel Zoubok Gallery in New York City and has shown in group exhibitions at Islip Art Museum (NY), Weatherspoon Art Museum (NC), Hunterdon Art Museum (NJ), Maryland Art Place (MD), Kala Art Institute (CA), Delaware Center for Contemporary Art (DE) and Gregory Lind Gallery in San Francisco, CA. Internationally, her work was included in the VI Biennale di Soncino a Marco in Soncino, Italy and at the Center for Contemporary Art in Pont-Aven, France. Her honors and awards include the Rhode Island Foundation's MacColl Johnson Fellowship and a Fellowship in Printmaking and Drawing from the Rhode Island Council on the Arts. She has been a two-time nominee for the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award. Hirst’s artist residency appointments include Yaddo, The Emily Harvey Foundation/Venice, VCCA, Centre d’Art Marnay Art Center/France (CAMAC), Blue Mountain Center, Ucross Foundation, Djerassi Resident Artists Program and Hall Farm Center for Artists and Educators. She has taught drawing, painting, printmaking and design since 2000 and has been a visiting artist and lecturer at several universities and institutions, including Bilgi University Istanbul, Turkey. She came to RISD in 2006, where she is currently associate professor. 

Academic research/ areas of interest

Hirst is interested in the language of materiality. By definition, these areas (language and materiality) imply a link between the verbal and visual. Her investigations into form, structure and shape are informed by historical and cultural exchanges between objects, natural resources and environments.

Research areas include:

History of Written Languages / Handwritten Manuscripts / Typography / Calligraphy / Graffiti

Structuralism and Semiotics / Logocentrism / Travel Theory / Pattern Recognition / Cartography / Symbol Languages

Movement / Ideokinesis / Neuro-musculo-skeletal effects on abstract thinking and creativity

Color Theories / Psychology of Color

Botany / Taxonomy / Plant & Garden Structure

Lace Making