Courtney M. Leonard: Logbook 2004–2023 is on view at The Heckscher Museum of Art, New York
June 10 – November 12, 2023
The Heckscher Museum of Art presents Courtney M. Leonard’s first retrospective and the artist’s first solo museum exhibition in New York. Leonard (Shinnecock, b. 1980) is among the most original and compelling voices in American contemporary art. Her work amplifies Indigenous knowledge and expresses reverence for the earth and sea while advocating for their protection. Leonard’s practice engages with Long Island’s history, breaks new ground in the disciplines of ceramics and installation art, and underscores the importance of dialogue between Indigenous knowledge marine biology, and other sciences.
Courtney M. Leonard: Logbook 2004–2023 at The Heckscher Museum of Art is concurrent with an exhibition presented by Planting Fields Foundation at their location in Oyster Bay, NY. Leonard is the Planting Fields Foundation 2023 Catalyst artist, and as such created a site-specific outdoor installation, located in the Taxus Field at Planting Fields, from summer 2023 to summer 2024.
The exhibitions at The Heckscher Museum and Planting Fields both explore themes of food and cultural sovereignty, as well as ongoing ecological issues that endanger the Shinnecock Nation and Long Island as a whole. Both exhibitions are accompanied by a catalogue with a foreword by Shavonne Smith, Shinnecock Environmental Department Director; an interview with Courtney Leonard by Heckscher Museum Curator Dr. Karli Wurzelbacher; and an essay by Gina Wouters, President and CEO of Planting Fields Foundation.
Leonard, an enrolled member of Long Island’s Shinnecock Indian Nation, creates immersive installations that encompass ceramic sculpture, painting, and video. Informed by historical research and drawing on cross-cultural art traditions including wampum beadwork, scrimshaw, and blue and white Delftware, her work champions environmental sustainability and Indigenous cultural viability.
Three of The Heckscher Museum’s galleries are dedicated to the exhibition, which presents more than a dozen individual artworks. The show also features one of Leonard’s signature room-sized installations, BREACH: Logbook 23 | ALLUVION. Composed of contour mapping lines painted on gallery walls, ceramics installed in surprising configurations, and video projection, this immersive installation offers visitors a multisensory and emotional experience of Leonard’s message: “Can a culture sustain itself when it no longer has access to the environment that fashions that culture?”
A significant new work commissioned by The Heckscher Museum for its permanent collection debuts in the exhibition. Titled CONTACT 2,023…, the approximately eight-foot-long wall hanging focuses on the moment of colonial contact on Long Island, by mapping the contours of the island with thousands of individual clay thumbprints resembling shells. Sewn onto a cotton canvas with artificial sinew, each thumbprint becomes a maker’s mark indexing the artist’s contact with the earth.
This monumental work is a sister piece to two other artworks in Leonard’s CONTACT series. CONTACT 2,021, a work measuring six feet by six feet, was on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through April 2023. CONTACT 1,609 is co-owned by LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and The Autry Museum of The American West (Los Angeles).
The retrospective includes loans from Mashantucket Pequot Museum and Research Center, CT; Mystic Seaport Museum, CT; the New York State Museum, Albany, NY; and private collections. The exhibition traces the development of Leonard’s art over the last 20 years and celebrates her enduring commitment to ecological concerns and Indigenous cultural viability. It features rarely exhibited early work, including sculptures from her MFA thesis show at RISD. Artworks from the 2010s demonstrate the growth of Leonard’s ceramics practice and her expansion into the media of painting, printmaking, and installation art.
The exhibition extends Leonard’s ongoing project BREACH, which she began in 2014. Conceived on the model of records kept by 19th-century whaling ships, each “logbook” of BREACH records— in ceramic, paint, and video —one year of the artist’s experiences of “environmental fragility, shifting adaptations, and/or the ability to simply become anew,” noted Leonard.
The exhibition is organized by The Heckscher Museum Curator Dr. Karli Wurzelbacher in dialogue with the artist. Related programs accompany the exhibition.
Partnership Statement from Planting Fields Foundation
Planting Fields Foundation (PFF) is proud to partner with The Heckscher Museum of Art to present the work of Shinnecock artist Courtney M. Leonard. The dynamic activation of a traditional museum space, historic house museum, and an Olmsted-designed landscape result in concurrent exhibitions across both sites. Leonard is the Planting Fields Foundation 2023 Catalyst artist, and BREACH: Logbook 23 | ROOT, her site-specific outdoor installation, is located in the Taxus Field from summer 2023 to summer 2024.
ROOT examines how the colonization of Long Island has impacted traditional Shinnecock foodways and explore themes of food and cultural sovereignty, as well as ongoing ecological issues that endanger the Shinnecock Nation and Long Island as a whole. In collaboration with national and international museums, cultural institutions, and indigenous communities in North America, New Zealand, Nova Scotia, and the United States Embassies, Leonard’s practice investigates narratives of cultural viability as a reflection of environmental record.
The Heckscher Museum Land Acknowledgement Statement
The Heckscher Museum of Art is situated on the traditional territory of the Matinecock Tribal Nation, whose presence continues in New York today. We acknowledge the meaning and sacredness of the land for the Matinecock and its sister tribes on Long Island. We recognize histories of land theft, violence, and erasure, as well as the continued disenfranchisement and displacements of Indigenous peoples. We commit to building a more inclusive and equitable Museum for all.
About The Heckscher Museum
The Heckscher Museum of Art is in its second century as a source of art and inspiration on Long Island. Founded by philanthropists Anna and August Heckscher in 1920, the Museum’s collection comprises more than 2,300 works from the 16th to the 21st centuries, including European and American painting, sculpture, works on paper, and photography. Located in scenic Heckscher Park in Huntington, the building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Heckscher Museum of Art
2 Prime Avenue
Huntington NY 11743