San Francisco-based artist Leah Rosenberg works with painting, printmaking, paint-based sculpture, mixed-media, installations, site-specific wall works, and performance art. She is a collaborative and interactive artist who engages a community through her passion for color. “Color has become my ritual” as she wants viewers to see the many ways that color can enhance their lives.
While attending the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia, from which she would graduate in 2003, Rosenberg signed up for a once-a-week cake decorating class. She would bring the decorated cake back to school to share with her classmates, an extension of the generosity she felt as a child when she gave little gifts to people she liked. She considered making a cake as a medium for generosity, and she wanted the same feeling when she made art. She wondered if a painting could have an aspect of generosity as in the actual baking of a cake and then sharing it with others.
After receiving her B.F.A. at the Institute, she moved from Canada to San Francisco to pursue her M.F.A. at the San Francisco College of Art. Her 2008 thesis was on the artistic possibilities of cake. Immediately after acquiring her Master’s Degree, she worked with Caitlin Freeman for four years as the head pastry chef at San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art’s Blue Bottle Rooftop Cafe. Rosenberg was able to combine her love of art and cake-making by baking cakes and pastries in a myriad of colors, based on the colors found in the paintings in the museum’s special exhibits. Freeman, the author of “Modern Art Desserts,” mentions Rosenberg as her collaborator at SFMOMA and the creator of glorious desserts.
Rosenberg has had numerous artist’s residencies: a 30 day residency at Vermont Studio Center; Project 387; Montalvo Arts Center; the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art; the Irving Street Projects; and a residency at Villa Lena in a Tuscan village in Italy.
At her 2015 residency at the Irving Street Projects in San Francisco, Rosenberg created a color-based installation, “Everyday, A Color.” For fifty days she painted the gallery a different color each day. She chose the colors from plants, everyday objects, reflections, garage doors, etc. to create an abstractive portrait of the neighborhood. When she changed the color of the gallery each day, she left behind a stripe of the previous day’s hue. She gradually created a low relief, site-specific striped mural. Each day’s color was announced on Instagram, and she invited people to attend a sunset happy hour or to join in a sunset color walk where they could comfortably talk to one another. At the end of the fifty days, Rosenberg served striped cake and was surprised to find that she was able to pull back the fifty layers of paint off the walls in one piece. She used the cake server to do this.
In 2016, her “Everyday, A Colour” was another site-specific installation in a gallery in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This was a sequel to the earlier exhibit at the Irving Street Projects. Every day she painted a small storefront – three walls, a floor, a desk, a chair, and a vase – in a single color. She choose the color from some object in the neighborhood, and people would wander inside to see what color she chose for that particular day. Sometimes she took people on an inspiration walk to choose an object for its color. She did this for thirty consecutive days, adding a layer of color but again leaving an area from the previous day on the walls and other objects.
In 2017, Rosenberg was an artist-in-residence at the McCoy Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, North Carolina. Her project was “Color for the People” a site-specific exploration of color and taste. She observed colors outdoors and photographed them. She chose one color each week from the Charlotte landscape and applied it to the gallery walls and furniture to make an immersive color-field painting. For each color, she hosted a weekly event where she made cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the color chosen. People could make connections between color and flavor as they enjoyed drinking and nibbling on these treats. Each week when she added the new color, she once again allowed a stripe or a geometric shape of the previous color to show. At the end of the residency, all twelve colors were exhibited.
In 2017, she was the Creative Director for Color Factory in San Francisco and in 2018 in New York City. The Factory was all about color and waking up one’s senses. After leaving the Color Factory, she felt that viewers would notice color in a different way.
She has been featured in group exhibitions at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum; San Jose’s San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art; Napa Valley Museum; Sarasota Art Center; San Diego’s New Children Museum, among Others. Solo and two-person exhibitions took place in Berkeley Art Center and in galleries in California, Chicago, Texas, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
She was an artist-in-residence at Recology in San Francisco’s Bay Area making art from objects found in the dump. She actually found components that came from one of her former projects, made for the 2017 SFMOMA Birthday Bash. She repurposed the objects and painted them with paint reclaimed from the city’s household Hazardous Waste Facility.
Her mural, “Everywhere A Color,” is in the International Terminal Gate G at the San Francisco Airport. It is 20 feet high by 27 feet wide and is a patchwork of solid colored and patterned wood slats, accented with powder-coated aluminum and an acrylic mirror. It was inspired by the colorful cultural landscape of San Francisco. The artist did more than gather colors together as she was focused on “gathering the psyche of what brings color to the lives of people.”
In 2019, she exhibited her site-specific wall painting of stripes, “28 Colors,” at the Sarasota Art Museum in the lobby, atrium, and second and third floors. She has made other site-specific color walls in Hamburg, Germany; in California’s San Francisco and Culver City; and in Poland. In her exhibition in the garden courtyard of San Jose’s Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, she lined up large strips of dozens of colors, chosen for their healing properties, to be seen in the garden’s natural light. Currently she is rolling color onto a wall at Schwab Hall at SFMOMA, leaving a three-inch-wide stripe of the previous day’s color for the installation “Getting Better Every Day a Color.” At the project’s end, fifty corresponding stripes of color will be revealed.