Luminessence, the essence of light, the designing and building of original handcrafted light sculptures began for me over 40 years ago. A degree in architecture from Carnegie Tech in Pittsburgh had started in the direction of an "artistic" career, but a four year tour in the Air Force put a temporary stop to that direction. What seemed to be an unfortunate delay on one level became a fortuitous promise on another. It was during this time that my need for creative expression opened me to designing in other mediums.
The old adage, "Necessity is the mother of invention" is an appropriate description of how this work began for me. It was basically the need for a lighting fixture for my own home that led me to create my first work in this medium. The essence of that first piece is still evident in my work today. The materials I began with were paper and wood and, despite a few refinements in technique and many explorations in design form, the materials are still paper and wood today.
My final 13 months in the Air Force gave me additional time and impetus for developing a strong foundation in my work with light sculpture. A remote radar site above the Arctic Circle in Alaska was the setting. Long walks along the sea coast and over the seemingly barren yet strangely wonderful arctic terrain were further inspirations to my newly forming creative urges.
It was in this remote location that I created my first collection of 18 works, which at the time I called "lanterns" after oriental works in similar mediums, and displayed them in a one-man show at the Rogue's Gallery in Anchorage. They were an exciting mixture of rectilinear, curvilinear and angular shapes ranging from 14 inches in diameter to 7 feet tall. I used much more color with those pieces than I do now. They were basically white but colored papers in geometric or vaguely representational shapes were incorporated into the many layers of their translucent paper skins. That collection was quite primitive compared to the techniques that I've developed throughout the years but the designs were good and could be placed alongside some of the best designs I am doing today. My emphasis was on originality then and I have maintained that aim all along. It has been the spur which has kept me exploring, driving me as far as I have come with this medium.
After being discharged from the Air Force in Alaska, I went to Hawaii for a two week vacation and ended up staying for six years. There I continued to create with light while at the same time pursuing my architectural apprenticeship. However, as time progressed it became evident that my role was to be that of a light sculptor rather than an architect. With the advent of another one-man show this role seemed to be established and my relationship to architecture became one of enhancing environments through the creation of original lighting designs. In Hawaii, too, I drew much inspiration from nature, the natural beauty of the islands and the surrounding ocean to which my light sculptures are a testimony.
Of course the story doesn't end there. Many moves and many life changes have molded my life, but the pursuit of beauty in my chosen medium, light sculpture, has remained a constant through it all.
William Leslie apprenticed to Stephen White.
Stephen relates this about William:
"William and I have been friends for over 30 years, a friendship that has grown and deepened through our association in Luminessence. Traveling the artist's path together, each with our individual vision, we have made our own personal discoveries and expressions in our common medium. I delight in seeing the designs that William creates, knowing full-well that he is bringing into form works that I could not even dream of."