Staff Show 2024: L. Turner

Meet some of the talented artists on The Phillips Collection’s staff, whose works are in the 2023 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show (on view through February 16, 2024).

L. Turner

What is your role at The Phillips Collection? What is interesting about your job?

I am a Museum Educator at The Phillips Collection. My role is one that requires a broad understanding of pedagogy and an infinite love and appreciation for art and humanity. As a museum educator, I, along with my superbly talented colleagues, develop ways in which modern and contemporary artworks, and history, can be interpreted through customized engagement strategies. The role I perform is fluid. It is quite common to interface with the youngest of audiences in the morning with thought-provoking

Lois Mailou Jones, Place du Tertre, 1938, Oil on canvas, The Phillips Collection, Acquired 1944

viewing, then, within  a few hours, lead an intimate discussion on Modernism with serious art collectors and government dignitaries. Museum educators, in essence, are the bridge between The Phillips Collection and the public. We provide an inclusive stage to facilitate new conversations, fresh experiences, and forward-thinking approaches that strengthen our guests’ understanding and appreciation of the artwork.

Who is your favorite artist in the collection?

There are quite a few works in the collection that intimately speak to me. I particularly find alluring the highly-textured Parisian street scene paintings by Lois Mailou Jones and the monumental, deeply personal, mixed-media works of Benny Andrews and Kara Walker.

What is your favorite space within The Phillips Collection?

My favorite space within The Phillips Collection is Gallery 116 in the Sant Building. The expansiveness of the space, and the abundance of light, is dreamy—inviting one to wander freely and breathe in the magnificence of the artwork!

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2024 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

On view at staff show: fille de janvier

The artwork I create, utilizing collage as a medium, is charged with human emotion and reflects a refined aesthetic—weaving a rich tapestry of imagery, language, and rhythm. Minimalistic, yet bold, my handmade motifs invite intrigue and contemplation. They speak to my personal identity and the exploration of my life experiences but in an abstract or figurative way.

My exhibiting artwork, fille de janvier, is mosaically designed out of paper. Taking over a year to complete, this vibrant imagery depicts the quiet elegance and abundant strength of my mother, Frances Arlene Smiley Turner. Collage fille de janvier pays homage to the legacy of wonderfully chic women in my family who, having migrated from the rural American South as sharecroppers to the industrial Midwest, managed to rise above adversity with grace and resolve. Each leaf, flower, and object was cut with precision, and intertwined seamlessly, to form a powerfully expressive crown—symbolizing the toiling of the human spirit and the anticipation of a bountiful harvest.

L. Turner, Untitled

About the artist:

Leslie A. Turner is an African American mixed media artist, children’s book writer, museum educator, and mother whose intricate handmade collages are influenced by her love of nature, humanity, and artistic expression. Turner’s vibrant motifs reflect a refined aesthetic and a certain fluidity nurtured throughout her childhood in the Midwest, where wildflowers and sweet corn exist harmoniously on the fertile plains.

Frequent travels to New York and Europe exposed Turner to a visual narrative, composed of highly stylized subjects, places, and designs, speaking intimately to her. Minimalistic, yet bold, Turner’s abstract and figurative depictions invite intrigue and contemplation. Although having no formal training, Turner’s artistic interests span many decades. Turner holds an MA from Duke University and finds great pleasure in exploring the spaces between the soil and the sun.