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Elizabeth Leader
Elizabeth Leader grew up in Saugus, an historic town on the rocky north shore of Boston, Massachusetts. After graduating from Massachusetts College of Art, she moved to Rochester, New York to earn her MFA degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology. She settled in Upstate New York and worked as an art instructor and graphic designer. Now she concentrates full-time on her art, using a wide range of materials and techniques to communicate her ideas about people, the environment and “the stuff we throw away.”
During the last few years, Elizabeth has exhibited her work nationally and internationally. She currently lives in Buffalo, New York and maintains a studio at the Tri-Main Center, an old industrial building in the inner city. She can be reached online at www.elizabethleader.com.

TOYOLOGY - Urban Exploration and The Reclamation of Abandoned Playthings
Armed with a camera, I go “urban exploring” through post-industrial sites in Upstate New York. These once important places now sit empty and abandoned except for graffiti artists and occasional squatters. In some of these places, people feel it is safe and appropriate to dump trash. Sometimes, alongside the tires and roofing tiles, the broken toilets and worn-out bedding, are children’s toys. Finding toys in what were once active industrial sites, feels very different than seeing them in ordinary household refuse. In these chaotic environments, little faces stare out of the earth like abandoned children. They compel me to create a sense of order out of these
disturbed landscapes.

When I come upon discarded toys, I resurrect them. As they are disinfected, the process of decay becomes evident. Most of their natural materials rot away but the plastics survive with disturbing longevity. I make display boxes out of castoff wooden drawers that have their own long history of use and abuse. For each assemblage, a photograph of the discovery site is subsurface-mounted to the back wall of the box. The side walls of the box are painted with location markings and with graphics related to the toy’s identity as a commercial product. Graffiti observed in the vicinity of the site is recreated with paint on a side panel. The toy, the location and the graffiti are all separate stories that come together to form a mini-diorama of urban decay, a “neighborhood in a box”.