November Artist-in-Residence and de Young Global Fellow: Leonard Tebegetu

portrait of man
November 5, 2014November 30, 2014

de Young | Kimball Education Gallery/Artist Studio
Artist Reception Friday, November 28, 6–8:30 pm: Join us in celebrating the artist’s residency with light refreshments

Leonard Tebegetu

A self-taught artist from Papua New Guinea, Leonard Tebegetu's work has explored the human form in action—on the streets of urban centers and in smaller communities of his island home. His new work also addresses material consumption by societies locally and globally. Tebegetu began his career as an artist by designing a graffiti poster for a friend. He was drawn to the melding of "urban rhythms, graffiti, and classical training" in the work of New York artist Justin Bua. After having left law school, Tebegetu decided to devote himself to art.

The artist's oil paintings portray the human form as an avenue for man's spiritual inclinations to be expressed, while drawing on the rituals and practices of his people. As a member of The Roots: Creative Entrepeneurs, Tebegetu is engaged in community projects that combine sustainable design, leadership, and an artistic sensibility.

In 2014, Tebegetu was named the inaugural de Young Global Fellow.

Artist's Statement

I believe that whatever I paint comes from within. I must first be one with my inner being, giving back to it. The freedom I achieve by doing so is manifested on the canvas. Beyond the paint, fur, and feathers of traditional Papua New Guinean decor and attire is the human form. It is where spirit and physique become one. The body becomes the avenue for man¹s spiritual inclinations to take shape and be expressed. It is this that I am inclined to paint. It is this that draws me towards the human form, towards the understanding, and the beauty of it.

The Global Fellows project is an opportunity "to go under," to immerse myself in the rituals and practices of my people that have shaped the presentation of song and dance and other traditional art forms particular to New Ireland. The artist or artisan, in the process of creating art, generally adheres to strict practices—practices which lead to a heightened state of mental and physical awareness about the realm in which he works, about the powers that have shaped the story of time as known to the clan and moiety.  Digging deep into the recesses of his mind, the artist becomes one with his past and the present as they become part of his art.

This project will be driven by that state of mental and physical awareness. It will aim to explore and respond to the body as a medium through which the inner artist is manifested, thus documenting a process that engages both the physical and spiritual aspects of creating art traditionally. The resulting body of work, the outcome of this process, will be delivered as part of this fellowship.

About Global Fellows

The de Young Global Fellows program invites indigenous artists from around the world to activate the museum as a space where important cultural connections can be forged and historic collections can be enlivened through interactions with the public. The project brings art and technology together with indigenous knowledge to examine the relationship of our global community to our shared natural environment. 

Throughout their yearlong fellowships, the selected artists will share their process as they develop their work and educate local, national, and international audiences about the environmental issues facing Pacific Island communities. They will also utilize their artwork to protect and maintain the cultural heritage of their communities. For one month, in November, each artist will take up residence at the de Young to share their works and works-in-progress, promoting cross-cultural exchange and dialogue and engaging in biocultural education and expression.

The Global Fellows program is made possible with major support from The Christensen Fund.