Exclusive Interview with Edith Lebeau & Ruth Speer: Celebrating Dreamlore @ Talon Gallery

Celebrating their final show in their current gallery space on Division Street, this weekend Talon Gallery unveil Dreamlore, the hypnagogic brainchild of Edith Lebeau and Ruth Speer. Inviting both of these artists to exhibit in their final show in their current location was a no-brainer: “Both are fantastic portrait artists” explains Neil Perry, co-owner of Talon Gallery and Antler Gallery, alongside co-owner Susannah Kelly. “They effortlessly imbue their subjects with a personality in the way they’re painted, using both technique and context to do so.”

As with all compelling exhibitions, Dreamlore invites you on a journey – yet its intertwining pathways promises a trip of exploration rather than a safely guided route. Interestingly, the theme and title of Dreamlore was decided upon by the two artists themselves: “Our works are mostly portraits but still very different in their subjects. We wanted a title that represent us both.” explains Edith Lebeau, “We both like to tell stories through our work and we liked the idea of having our own Dream Folklore.” And so Dreamlore was born.

The show shares Edith Lebeau’s deeply insightful works on subjects concerning the fragilities and strengths of her female subjects, alongside Ruth Speer’s magically surreal portraits infused with historical elements. I interviewed them both to find out more about their upcoming exhibition and gain more insight about the artists behind the pieces. Read below to find out more:

Edith Lebeau and Ruth Speer: Dreamlore

Opening Reception:

September 7, 2018 | 6 – 9pm

Exhibition Dates:

September 7 – September 23, 2018


Talon Gallery

1100 SE Division Street | Portland | Oregon

For purchasing information and availability, please contact the gallery directly at gallerist@talongallery.com.

Dreamlore Press Release:

“Edith Lebeau is a Canadian artist based on the north shore of Montreal, Quebec. Her iconic style is well represented in this most recent series, surreal and thought-provoking portraits of women deep in introspection. Symbols of pills, poison, and knives surround her figures, who are seemingly lost in themselves. Intense imagery is juxtaposed with Edith’s signature bright color pallet, questioning what we present to the world and what we leave hidden.

Ruth Speer is a painter based here in Portland, Oregon. Inspired by folklore, fables, and fiction, Ruth’s series for Dreamlore incorporates familiar iconography that harkens towards an unwritten mythology. One that falls just outside of memory. Blending the ethereal and bizarre, Ruth’s portraits are confident and playful, they have a look of determination and purpose which gives the viewer the opportunity to search through the entirety of the piece, searching for signs and clues.”

Edith Lebeau:

The Illusion of Liberty

In the bio on your website, you explain that you like to tell stories through the portraits you create. Your pieces for Dreamlore have this underbelly of darkness, the women surrounded by different objects or people that cause a sense of entrapment. Can you share some of the stories that live inside your paintings for Dreamlore?

Of course! Well, the first thing to know about my recent work is that it focuses on the subject of mental health. I like to depict women that are strong in their fragilities. We are all hiding our own flaws, weaknesses, problems, issues or fears and I’m trying here to illustrate the beauty and strength in facing them.

So, my new pieces are about just that. Each piece tells a different story but all the characters are dealing with their fears and issues in their own way. Some of the pieces approach different mental illnesses like OCD, Anxiety (including Social Anxiety and panic attacks) and impulsion phobia, among others. Tips on how to manage some of these conditions like visiting Green Health Docs Missouri will be forthcoming too.

How to DIY a Home

There are many cool hues and stunning shades of blue within your works, why do you think you are primarily drawn towards these colours?

I sincerely don’t know. My colour palette has changed with time but the shades of blue seem to stick. I rarely wear blue except for jeans, but for my work it keeps coming back. I just really love to work with those blue! I rarely plan my colour palette in advance; it’s just something that I’m not able to do. I choose the colours pretty much by instinct as I paint.

How have you found the process of creating pieces for this show? Has it opened up any new ideas or experiments in the studio?

For my new pieces for this show I wanted them to be a continuity of my recent works. I also wanted to explore new ways to talk about mental health. This time I used repetition as a way to illustrate OCD or recurring thoughts and I also developed new symbols, as I really like symbolism. I think my new pieces are some of my most personal ones yet.

Cutting Down Your Soul

Some Days Are Better Than Others

I’ve found there are always some favourite tools or materials that artists have a soft spot for… are there any that you can’t live without?

There are no particular tools, just tiny tiny tiny brushes – I’ve got a bunch of those which keep dying on me because I’m too hard on them! I love to work on wood panel. I kind of like the process of putting endless coats of gesso and sanding over and over in between coats until it’s very soft. It’s some sort of ritual.

I also love my Alvin mechanical pens – Mab edition. Since I started to work with them I can’t work with anything else.

Let’s focus on a broader element being an artist – what is the most challenging part about creating art for you?

The creation part. The toughest part is to put the ideas that are in my head on paper. That’s the most challenging part for me; finding the right idea that would translate well on a painting.

When creating a piece I want to find the right emotion that the model will express with her face expression but also with her posture. I also want to find the right message and symbols. Once the drawing or mock up or sketch is done, I find the rest to be more relaxing. I also always struggle with the colour palette – it’s almost as if I think in black and white sometimes even if it’s not the case.

Possessed by an Old Fear

Ruth Speer:

Despite Everything, There Was Still Time For Tea

You mentioned in a previous interview with Beautiful Bizarre that your parents are from Germany and the US. You were born in England and “shuffled through several different states” before living in Oregon – more recently; you’ve been travelling around Europe! How has seeing so much of the world affected your art, do you think?

That’s such a good question! I think there is something to be said for seeing and being surrounded by a lot of varied art and architecture as a kid. And forming relationships with so many different people from all the places I’ve lived and visited, and recognizing the importance of welcoming and being welcomed, has given me this curiosity about humans and their stories, which has morphed over time into these very narrative paintings informed by what I love in art history and the people I’ve met.

For example, a favourite piece from this body of work is “Despite Everything, There Was Still Time For Tea.” A few years ago I met a lovely artist (@sylwiaholmes) from Spain over Instagram, and we ended up trading paintings. Through some random magic, she was studying and living in Bath, England the same time I was there this summer, and we traipsed often to each other’s houses to paint while listening to music and audio books, talk about art and life, and make each other dinner and large amounts of tea. As two people in an unfamiliar country, something we talked about a lot was hospitality, kindness, and the act of preparing food for people. So when I painted her portrait in this piece, the story of those conversations came out in the symbolism of the teacup, and fish out of water and the vulnerability of letting someone see your true self. Someone said recently that looking at one of my paintings is like reading a book. I love love that.


Spring Enchantments Can Be Unpredictable

Did you create many pieces for Dreamlore while you were on your travels?

Yes! I was with a group of students from my university going through major European cities for three weeks, and came up with a lot of the ideas then! After that I stayed in Bath by myself for about two months, where eight out of the 11 new paintings were physically created in part or completely, and I found most of the frames in antique and vintage stores there. This is why so many of the pieces are smaller – they had to fit inside my luggage to take back on the plane!

It was a lovely and strange experience to be in a new city mostly alone, painting. It took a week or two to get into a rhythm in a new atmosphere, but then (however the art brain fairy dust works) I got in sync with my surroundings and it was just lovely. The rest of the paintings were completed after I got back to Oregon, so each one has inspiration from Europe in it somewhere.

It sounds like you’ve been on a real adventure! I’m interested in the primary ‘spark’ that kick starts everything… do you find your creativity comes from a place of instinct and imagination, or more from research and outside influences?

I want to say both, always! But I don’t think you can have instinct and imagination without those outside influences and experiences. At the risk of sounding sarcastic, I think unless you grew up in a sensory deprivation tank, something is always informing your ideas (actually art inspired by sensory deprivation would be really interesting too). Personally, each side goes into every painting!

The Night Magician

Well Beloved Amen

It’s always fascinating to see how artists work step by step and you have some mesmerising time-lapse videos on your Youtube page. Can you share more about the mental processes going on behind the scenes as you go from initial concept, to the finished piece?

Thank you! Art through video and music is something I’ve realized I’m so excited about! There’s a different kind of story you can tell when you’re engaging multiple senses and I love it.

I’m so inspired by pretty much everything, all the time. Sometimes a color pattern in a bowl of soup, a photograph of street fashion, the shape of a crumpled napkin or a dream will begin the wheels turning (those are all real examples). If I had to make a source list of inspiration for each painting it would be twenty pages long!

I love magical realism, and adding objects, phrases and symbols that may not make sense at first, and a lot of those conceptual and symbolic meanings behind pieces don’t become clear to me until even months later! It’s almost like I’m painting secret messages to my future self, and when I figure it out it’s like the last chapter of an Agatha Christie novel when you find out who the murderer was.

Are there any particular pieces we should look out for in Dreamlore that have a special story behind them?

I wanted to give every piece a title that sounds like a sentence lifted from a book about that painting. I was obsessed with fairy tales growing up (and still am) and one of my favorite things to read was how different authors would start each story. Sometimes there would be a line like, “Once upon a time, a young man went off to seek his fortune, for that is how all good stories begin.” My biggest painting in the show, “For That Is How All Good Stories Begin,” is a heroine off to seek her fortune.

When I began it and sketched the idea, I didn’t know exactly what it was about or why I was painting it. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s about creativity, and the brave and frightening forging ahead that comes with pursuing a passion. She has a sword, and a sunburn, her clothes have tears and there’s a long road behind and ahead, but she’s filled with joy and a good sense of humor. That’s my interpretation, anyway. I love it when people come up with their own stories about my paintings relating to their lives.

For That Is How All Good Stories Begin

The Autumn Was A Curious One

My last two questions are for the both of you! We all know that constantly being creative is fun, but challenging. What do you do to overcome the inevitable Artist Block?

Ruth: Lately I’ve been intrigued by the creativity in procrastination, and what I do when I’m doing it – nearly always it’s something that ends up coming back in my art one way or another, whether I’m reading a stack of childhood picture books or going down a Wikipedia rabbit hole about serial killers. Because what interests me is what shows up in my paintings, I’ve tried to relax and let myself go about the ideating process naturally, rather than sit at my easel and try to conjure things up, which has led to a better mental state through me not treating time “when I’m supposed to be working” so harshly. A lot of the time, procrastination is very productive for me, so drifting around is helpful even if in the moment it feels useless.

Edith: I rarely get stuck with it. For me the Artist Block is a sign that means You need to take a break! But it doesn’t happen to me that often. I either need to take a break for a couple of days and do something else, or work through it.

And lastly, if there is one thing that viewers can walk away with after seeing Dreamlore at Talon Gallery, what would you like that to be?

Ruth: I would love for people to be telling themselves stories about my pieces, or thinking about the stories they already love, especially those deep-rooted childhood ones. I’d like them to be feeling valid in their own mythos and lore, their feelings and thoughts. I’d like people to be immersed in that kind of quiet, kind, dreamy magic that keeps you floating after you’ve finished a really good book.

Edith: Hmmm, that’s a great question. For me art is kind of like a mirror, you interpret it based on your own views and experiences. That’s also the way I like people to look at my work. Yes, there is my own voice, a message, an emotion that I want to express through my work but I like that people can receive it, perceive it in their own way. I leave clues and symbols but really, they can create their own stories with it if they want to and that’s the beauty of it.

So I guess, I’d love them to leave with their heads full of wonderful new stories.

Don’t Listen to the Voices


A Sudden Knock At The Door

Dreamlore will exhibit at Talon Gallery until Sunday September 23rd, 2018. Contact the gallery directly at gallerist@talongallery.com or head over to the gallery website for information and purchase details.

About Author

Based in the UK, Natalia Joruk enjoys a life surrounded by art, nature, and curious trinkets. As Deputy Editor, she's worked closely with the Editor-in-Chief for over a decade, supporting with the design and growth of Beautiful Bizarre and the maintenance of the annual Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize. Natalia also oversees sponsor partnerships for the Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize, and distribution of the magazine, so drop her an email if you know someone who would like to sponsor or stock! She also writes for both the Beautiful Bizarre Magazine website and print publication. One of her favourite perks is getting to know artists, gallery owners and their teams personally, so feel free to email her if there is anything she can help you with – or just to connect.


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