Trailblazers 2016: Leslie Barlow

Leslie Barlow

Leslie Barlow // Photos courtesy MCAD

One might consider U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis a piece of art in and of itself. But when the doors opened for the start of the football season this year, Vikings fans were greeted with a true array of museum-quality artworks and installations, including six portrait paintings of iconic Vikes from Leslie Barlow.

Primarily an oil painter, Barlow was among one of 34 local artists selected from more than 1,100 submissions to create NFL-sized commissions for the new stadium. But her portfolio doesn’t stop there. The Minneapolis artist—who received her BFA from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2011 and her MFA in 2016 from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design—strokes big concepts with her paintings.

Barlow assesses the different facets of humankind, and her work explores the complex social issues related to identity and multiculturalism. In fact, her colorful portraits range from spirituality to sexuality, from gender to educational backgrounds. Whether it’s artwork depicting protesters of different ethnicities at a Black Lives Matter march, or a series addressing the 2013 General Mills’ Cheerios commercial that featured a mixed-race family, Barlow simply reflects on the life around her, all while subtly asking the viewer to contemplate the hierarchies and stereotypes embedded within our culture.

In early 2016, Barlow was awarded as a Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative Grant recipient.  She will culminate a series of eight to 10 large-scale oil paintings, featuring portraits of interracial families. The pieces were inspired by and will commemorate the upcoming 50th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court case, Loving vs. Virginia, a landmark 1967 decision that legalized interracial marriage in the United States. Barlow will display her creations with a solo exhibition in the Twin Cities in early 2017, and as always, push the boundaries between art and activism.

Our mission at The Growler is to tell stories that inspire progress in local food, drink, and culture. And in that spirit as part of our 2016 Kind-Of-A-Big-Deal Issue, we felt the need to point out 25 people, ideas, businesses, and organizations who have done necessary, important, and groundbreaking work in 2016. See the rest of our 2016 Trailblazers here.


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