McCarson Leigh is an archivist of the secret self. She’s a curator of the unclad. She’s a fine art photographer who deals in the human form stripped to the skin. Her latest photo series, “Maria Maria,” is a collection of dramatic, dreamy nudes focusing on one woman in intimate detail. The opening reception will be held at Eno Wine Bar and Cocktail Lounge, 723 East Second Ave., from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 15.
DGO spoke to McCarson Leigh about the show and how profoundly nude photography can affect a person.
So, you have a show, “Maria Maria,” coming up at Eno. What’s it like?“Maria Maria” is 15 pieces, all of one woman ... This particular woman, I met her in Carmel, California. I was there for a nude photography retreat. We instantly connected. I photographed her for three days ... We were able to shoot on the Weston estate. A lot of the imagery is in Kim Weston’s cabins out in his fern village.
What are you connecting to in life that your art is reflecting a darker side of, at the moment? I tango. Once I started learning how to tango, the word “surrender” came into my life in a big way. With darkness, there’s a bit of surrendering.
With the current political situation, I’ve really had to surrender to the fact that I know I want to do the best that I can for this world and for the people that are in my life, but I can’t change Trump and I can’t change the situation on my own.
I have always been so excited to have love and light and joy in my life. I’ve also pushed away darkness, saying, “Don’t creep in. You are not welcome here.” As of late, it’s like darkness is knocking on my door and I don’t want to push it away. I want to – and should – confront and embrace it. I think that’s how my photography and my eye and my heart have gone on this year.
I met Marianne and she was the physical in-your-face representation of everything that I have inside me right now.
What does a photographer bring to nudes that a cellphone doesn’t? A big part of my work is really encouraging people to embrace and accept who they are today rather than thinking, “Oh, I’ll do it in another year when I lose 10 pounds.” People love you for the person you are today, not for who you can become or who they think you should be. That’s where a lot of my work comes from.
As a photographer, I notice body structure. The little idiosyncrasies of each person are so unique and different, that’s what makes us us. Our own unique and true self. When people come to me and we go through what their expectations are and talk about the reality of the situation, that’s when fine art can occur. There’s a beautiful, vulnerable communication that happens.
People’s bodies are their biggest secrets. How does dealing in secrets every day impact you? Last year, in April 2016, I had a massive emergency surgery. There was a honeydew sized ovarian cyst in my gut. I had no idea that I had it. I had the surgery. It took me a while to recover.
I have two really good best girlfriends. They each asked at separate times, “What do you think that was? What do you think you manifested?” It came to me instantly: I take on other people’s suffering. This past year I’ve worked on welcoming suffering but also treating myself lovingly and releasing that from my body. I named (the cyst) Simon. I don’t want another Simon. (laughs)
Do you think Durango’s ready for a nude show? I think Durango is ready. I think the world has been having nude shows for eons even if our nation seems to think that there are things that are shameful about the human body. I think that we should celebrate our bodies every day.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clairty.Patty TempletonDGO Staff Writer