Pen and Brush Award 2009

December 1, 2008

leonard-1six-thousand-partsI have seen this piece. It is 5′ by 3′, Six Thousand Pieces, six thousand toy soldiers, melted together, representing our country, a warrior flag. It is a stunning, upsetting and vividly authentic expression. Valerie Leonard’s powerful, thought-provoking, truthful piece is this year’s first prize winner of the Pen and Brush award. Pen and Brush is a not-for-profit  organization supporting women in the visual, literary and performing arts for the past 113 years. They provide a dedicated facility for the presentation of 70 events featuring women’s work in a historic brownstone in Greenwich Village. Morley Safer, longtime CBS correspondent and contributor of “60 Minutes” has curated the show of works that interpret or relate to current or historic events.


Valerie Leonard lives in Litchfield county, an inventor and artist. Her iconic art will be exhibited at the Washington Art Association December 7, 2008. Valerie earned her B.A. in fine art from Hornsey College of Arts, in England, and another in Graphic Design from the Basel School of Art & Design ( the Kunstgewerbeschule ) in Switzerland.

Whilst continuing her studies at Watford School of Art, she was invited to work as a lithographic edition printer with an international fine arts publishing house, Petersburg Press.

Throughout the next ten years she enjoyed working with major artists such as Jim Dine, Claes Oldenburg, and Dieter Roth among others. It was a project with Frank Stella in 1973 that first brought her to the US, where she lives today.

She quit edition printing before the birth of her daughter Sam and, almost by accident, became a toy designer and inventor.

During these years Valerie became fascinated by the power that an 11 1/2 “ pink, plastic plaything (Barbie) has exerted over generations of little American girls, how deeply this doll and her questionable values have penetrated our society. In fact how Barbie has become an American icon, just as surely as Marilyn, Lady Liberty, and the Stars and Stripes.

With the onset of the gulf war, (1991) she found the need to return to creating her own artistic statements. Her time in the toy industry had its influence on this work. Both Barbie and the universal toy soldier have become the basic media for her pieces.

Valerie’s latest artworks combine common American and religious icons with children’s toys and other ubiquitous elements in assemblages designed to evoke conflicting messages.