Jeff Fleming paints delightful (yet haunting) works, using gesso, India ink, white charcoal, and pencil. The effect is that a chalkboard has been used over and over again, not due to error but to history, to new iterative versions of a story. Fleming says his work is “storytelling of memories; it’s drawings and the recording of drawing.” Palimpsestic in their conceptual nature, these soft gray (or green) and white works hover, demanding an intimacy with the viewer in order to truly notice and further recognize.
Fleming is interested in the absurdity of making art that is reminiscent of this utilitarian substrate for teaching, which is more prescriptive form of storytelling. Pedagogy, praxis, and fine art come together in these drawings on canvas—the background media is meticulously mixed, and the charcoal and pencil marks are made so that the subjects are “drawn exceedingly well, and the wipes just as important.” Fleming incorporates much finger painting, painterly and loose, also, so that the solidity of his compositions also dissipates—a slow erasure of sorts of the form, moving the stillness of each subject into more dynamic evocations, giving the drawings a lightness.
Fleming earned his MFA at Pratt Institute, has shown nationally, and held positions at The Metro Opera Association and the Smithsonian Institute, before moving to Des Moines to work at the Des Moines Art Center, where he remained until 2023. Recently returned to his studio to draw and paint, Fleming resides in Des Moines.