the early work of Leigh Riibe
It’s rare that a retrospective come before an artist show any of their work publicly. As a teenager, I produced a lot of art including collage, paintings, and photographs that I never allowed myself to show in a gallery setting mostly out of fear. Now that I am 30 years old, I have decided to have my first solo show be a collection of my photography and mixtape collage spanning my teenage years as a way to validate my history as an artist and honor what I’ve lived through.
I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade, which I found to be more and more oppressive the older I got. There was just no tolerance for a young girl’s artistic expression or that of her budding sexuality, let alone opinions! By the seventh grade, I found myself getting in trouble for everything from dying my hair to doodling on my stomach to writing a report speaking out against Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (a report which was literally banned from school).
I was heavily influenced by the music I immersed myself in. The Riot Girl Movement was born just a few miles from the little Seattle suburb I was trapped in. My older sister was attending college at Evergreen in Olympia watching this history unfold. She would mail me records from Kill Rock Stars, Sub Pop, K Records, Chainsaw, and the like and I would listen to them on repeat until I could recite every word. I remember the first time I heard Bikini Kill; it was 1995 and I was 13 years old. The depths of emotion I heard in Kathleen Hanna’s voice was something I could identify with. I felt like I could breathe again; my rage was valid. I used this music as an escape from a place I found to be dull, lifeless, and without promise and as the ammunition that would propel me into a world better suited for me. I wanted so badly to scream, but I hadn’t found my voice, so I screamed through images.
The photos in this collection were taken before I had access to digital photography. Some were shot with a little red Kodak point-and-shoot, and some with a manual camera: a Minolta XD11 which was manufactured for the first time in ’77. All of the images were directed by me and most were shot by me (with the exception of a few portraits of myself) while I was a teenager. Each is titled after a song I would consider to be a part of the Soundtrack of My Life.
The accompanying 30 page zine includes photos as well as mixtape collage art and hand painted stories of my teenage years. The accompanying 13 song mixtape is a musical time capsule and inspiration for the pieces. I call this collection “a mixtape archive and a photo herstory of one girl in America”.
Blessing Mix Up (black and white print/1996)
Good Sister/Bad Sister (black and white print/1996)