‘Secondary Growth’ exhibit at Lenihan Sotheby’s is a reflection on teaching art

“Go Wild” by Kathleen Lolley

Since 2016, Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty has hosted local artists for exhibitions in a gallery space in its offices. The next offering, which opens Thursday, is a mixed show titled “Secondary Growth,” and it comes from three Louisville artists worth watching — Andrew Dailinger, Julie Leidner and Kathleen Lolley.

Insider spoke with Leidner about how the exhibit came together and what visitors can expect.

The three featured artists are all teachers at the St. Francis School, an independent school located downtown that is often known for its progressive policies and programs. The way art is approached at the school is one of those forward-thinking initiatives.

“Our roles — mine, Andrew’s and Kathleen’s — are different from that of art teachers at other high schools,” says Leidner. “We’re not full-time teachers, our title at St. Francis is ‘artist in residence.’ We were hired for that job particularly because each of us works as practicing professional artists.”

Kathleen Lolley, Andrew Dailinger and Julie Leidner | Courtesy of Lenihan Sotheby’s

Leidner was quick to point out that there are teachers at more traditional high schools who work as artists as well. St. Francis’ program uses artists who aren’t full-time teachers because they are making their living off their work, rather than teaching daily.

It was the artists’ presence at St. Francis that brought them to the attention of Lenihan Sotheby’s, through a student named Adelaide.

“Adelaide is the daughter of John and Elizabeth Lenihan, and she’s a sophomore in my art class, so it came about through a conversation I had with the Lenihans at a parent-teacher conference,” Leidner says.

John Lenihan is, of course, the owner of Lenihan Sotheby’s.

“I was sitting down with them, and they were really excited about the art that is happening here at St. Francis,” Leidner explains.  

A conversation evolved, starting with the possibility of a student show, then progressing to the idea of having the trio of guest artists create new works that reflected their time at St. Francis.

“The idea is that it wouldn’t just be us representing our art, isolated from St. Francis, it would be an art show that was about the experience of being an art teacher,” she says. “Our role as art teachers is different than math teachers or science teachers, because art can be so subjective, and it’s a really strange and interesting position to be in. So we wanted to face that head-on in our work.”

While the artists are working from the same concept, the three have very different mediums and very different interpretations of what it means to be an art teacher. Additionally, students are involved in all the work, an important aspect of the project.

“Sycamore 6” by Andrew Dailinger

Leidner talked about Lolley’s contributions to the show, mentioning something that might surprise regulars of the art scene who have no doubt seen Lolley’s dark and haunting paintings.  

“Kathleen is doing two videos that are animations. And her students have helped her create the animation,” says Leidner. “Her role at St. Francis is that of a video teacher; she actually has a degree in film. A lot of people don’t know that about her, and so this is an opportunity to show her film work.”

But Lolley’s distinctive aesthetic, according to Leidner, is still very much present.

“It’s all in there,” she says.

Dailinger teaches photography and is contributing several printed photos that are conceptually inspired by his role as photography teacher at St. Francis.

“Simultaneous Portrait: Red Ellie” by Julie Leidner

As a teacher, Leidner works with pupils on drawing, painting and studio art. Her work for “Secondary Growth” is a type of painting.

“The medium is painted works on paper, so I’ll be using oil stick and oil paint on paper that’s been prepared with some homemade gesso,” she says, referencing a mixture that is often applied to canvases before a painters begin their work.

Leidner also came up with an interactive way of painting that allowed her and her students to co-create works.

The pieces attempt to show how a teacher views her students’ work, and also suggests how students experience the artistic output of their teachers.

“I’m calling them simultaneous portraits,” she says. “We’re drawing each other, from life, on the same paper, at the same time. So we’re facing each other and trying to get out of each other’s way, but also looking at each other. For me, what that creates is, I’m creating a portrait of my students trying to draw. It’s what I see as a teacher.”

“Secondary Growth” will be on display starting Thursday, Feb. 22, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Lenihan Sotheby’s International Realty, 3803 Brownsboro Road. The event is an Open House, and there is no charge for admission. The exhibit continues through May.