The Reverend Steven Johnson Leyba has been called the first artist of the 21st Century to offend and enlighten the masses through his ‘unspeakable art.’ A painter, trickster, social critic, and controversial public performance artist, Leyba is a folk hero, loved and hated by many.
PAINing POORtraits follows Leyba as he reclaims and re-invents his work, giving friends and muses alike the opportunity to destroy his paintings. In his examination of Destruction, Transformation, Reclamation, and Rebirth, Leyba takes on various enemies, from ex-lovers to the Monsanto Corporation, even himself as the Hero and Fool.
The film is an allegory for every TRUE Artist who creates as a renegade to the system, fighting globalization, celebrity, consumerism, governments, multinationals, and the growing ineffectiveness of today’s activists. (Dir. by Adam Cooper-Terán and Steven Johnson Leyba, 2013, USA, 65 mins., Not Rated)
About Adam Cooper-Terán
Adam Cooper-Terán is an award-winning visualist and performer born and currently residing in Tucson, Arizona. An autodidact known for his collaborations with the underground and avant-garde, from musicians, painters, performers, poets, to sex-pressionists, and a fire circus troupe.
Adam began his career in the nonprofit arts when he was 14 as an apprentice muralist to the painter Pasqualina Azzarello. Upon his introduction to the artists of Tucson’s Historic Warehouse District, Adam eventually made a name for himself as a volunteer designer and ultimately co-organizer for one of the largest public ceremonies in the Southwest, the annual All Souls Procession.
As a traveling performer, Adam’s work has appeared across the American continent, in Europe, and the Middle East, mostly in the form of video installations, telematic rituals, and performance spectacles. He has featured in galleries, theaters, and institutions such as the National Hispanic Cultural Center (Albuquerque, NM), UC Santa Cruz, NYU, Universidad Ciudad Juarez, Arizona State College, Prescott College, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, the Phoenix Art Museum, Galería de la Raza (San Francisco, CA), Highways Performance Space (Santa Monica, CA), and the Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE).
In 2010, Adam was shortlisted for the Guggenheim Youtube Play competition in New York City. In 2011 his group, the US-Mexico collective, Verbo•bala Spoken Video was the recipient of two grants from the Belle Foundation for Cultural Development and Arizona Commission on the Arts. Since the New Year, Adam has completed two residencies in Colombia and a US tour with the international stilt companies Carpetbag Brigade Physical Theater and Nemcatacoa Teatro. He received a New Works grant (2013) for innovation from the Tucson Pima Arts Council.
About Steven Johnson Leyba
Rev. Steven Johnson Leyba is a ritualistic, shamanistic painter of Mescalero Apache ancestry. His art is equal parts satanic, holistic, radical, political, and extremely personal. Utilizing various media, Leyba creates a celebration of the sacred and profane. Paint mixes with collage, beadwork, and DNA making bold statements about the world we live in and constantly questioning the very nature of Art.
Since 1989, Steven Leyba has produced 14 handmade books, huge volumes of bound works on canvas. Forms of these have been published by Last Gasp and Coyotel Press in books containing commentary by William S. Burroughs, H.R. Giger, Poppy Z. Brite, Clive Barker, and Genesis P-Orridge. He has been the subject of media attention for his controversial approach and subject matter, and in 2002 a documentary was made about the artist titled, Unspeakable:The Life & Art of Reverend Steven Johnson Leyba.
His works are multi-media explorations into the souls of both individuals and society as a whole. They are liberating, honest, and organic in experience, void of any censorship and defiant against those who would attempt it. Look for his own documentary, What is Art? Inside the Mind of the Artist as They Speak the Truth.
Leyba’s artwork has been collected by Vincent Price, William S. Burroughs, Stephen King, Clive Barker, David Cronenberg, H.R. Giger, Cornell University, A.I.M. (American Indian Movement), Genesis P’Orridge, Lydia Lunch, and the Black Panther Party.
About Jeanelle Mastema
Jeanelle Mastema is a performer and multimedia artist born and raised in LA. She has participated in rituals from Poland to Tokyo with the performance project Aesthetic Meat Front, and is a member of the body suspension troupe CoRE (Constructs of Ritual Evolution). Her experimental art project, Virgo Rising, has led to collaborations with Ace Farren Ford, Orlando “Oddrocker” Greenhill, the Omega Collektiv, Sein Und Zeit, and the United Satanic Apache Front.