‘One dot at a time’
The artwork of Nicholas Schleif, is taking him places near — Minneapolis — and far, to San Francisco, and Baltimore
It’s hard for Southwest Minnesota State alumnus Nicholas Schleif to describe his artwork. There are a lot of influences, he says, “pointillism,” for one since his art is composed of tiny dots. As in pointillism, the resulting picture can be appreciated from afar as well as up close.
Another description of his art, he said, is “abstract expressionism,” naming Mark Rothko as an influence as well as Chuck Close who is known for his large-scale portraits.
Whatever the description, his art is catching on. He has four pieces on permanent display in the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis https://www.vikings.com/stadium/art-collection/artists/nicholas-schleif.
One of the paintings is a portrait of Prince, an artist he loved. Called “Purple Reign,” it is a 4 1/2-by-7 1/2-foot acrylic on canvas. The painting is comprised of lyrics and words that were important in Prince’s life, words such as Revolution, Time, Royalty, First Avenue and Paisley Park.
The piece hangs in the entry to the Medtronic Club, Valhalla Suites and Delta Sky 360 Club areas of the stadium. His other three pieces, created in a similar style to his Prince portrait, are of former Vikings coach Bud Grant, and running backs Chuck Foreman and Adrian Peterson. They are located in the same hallway with the artwork by Viking alumni, on the fourth floor.
In August, he spent a couple days in San Francisco for the unveiling of pieces he sold to the Golden State Warriors for the opening reception at the Chase Center, the team’s new home.
“The team commissioned six paintings from me, each depicting one of their different logos throughout the team’s history,” Schleif said. “Every piece is composed of different text, significant to that particular era. I hand-painted them all one dot at a time.”
Schleif will be traveling to Baltimore, Maryland, in a couple weeks to attend the Poe Fest International. His portrait of Edgar Allan Poe has been nominated for a Saturday Evening Visiter Award. According to the website, poefestinternational.com, The Saturday Visiter was the name — and spelling — of a local periodical that held a contest for poetry and short stories. The Saturday Visiter Awards are named after the prize a young Poe won while he lived in Baltimore which helped to launch his career.
“To be recognized by the Poe community is a big honor,” he said. “I’m a big fan of Poe’s literature.”
The portrait comprises the complete text to his most famous poem “The Raven,” hand-painted one dot at a time in eight shades of gray to render Poe’s likeness. The painting is titled “The Tale Telling Heart.” It measures 48 inches wide by 57 inches tall, and is acrylic paint on canvas.
Schleif’s work has been exhibited at the William Whipple Art Museum at SMSU; MAFAC Art Gallery in Marshall; Altermat Gallery in Springfield; Gallery 705 in Stroudsburgh, Pa.; Altered Aesthetics in Minneapolis; Zhou B Art Center in Chicago and Brooklyn Waterfront Artist’s Coalition in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Schleif said galleries are becoming a thing of the past.
“The gallery scene is dying,” he said.
How he mostly gets the word out about his art is through social media, mainly Instagram.
“I’ve made a lot of connections,” he said.
The Comfrey native enrolled at SMSU because he is an admirer of artist and SMSU art professor Edward Evans. Much to Schleif’s dismay, Evans retired soon after, but Schleif still keeps in touch.
“He’s my mentor,” Schleif said. “I wanted to study under him. I continued to work with him. He ran the museum (Whipple Gallery). I helped him curate a big collection, helped him catalog and hang it.”
After living in Marshall for 13 years, in 2016 Schleif bought an old grain storage building next to an old creamery building in Milroy. He’s been slowly renovating the space as living quarters and a studio.
“I’m half done,” he said.
He likes having a studio so close.
“I open one door, and I’m in my studio,” he said.