Introducing our second installment of 7x7's Style Council 2017, our annual look at the trendsetters and style mavens of the Bay Area worlds of fashion, beauty and design. Check back for more tastemaker profiles each day, between now and September 29th!
Leah Rosenberg is a chroma queen.
Her unmistakable rainbow-hued installations have made a vibrant splash both here at home and abroad—from Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to the Golden Pavilion in Hamburg, Germany, earning her the press and bona fides befitting one of our generations most's talented multi-medium artists. But perhaps even Rosenberg herself didn't see the Color Factory coming.
The wildly successful kaleidoscopic installation that quickly sold out two runs in San Francisco this summer has Rosenberg, the project's creative director, much to thank for its giddy-making experience. Co-created along with Jordan Ferney, founder of the online party place Oh Happy Day, and New York–based art director Erin Jang (Martha Stewart Living, Esquire), Color Factory made candy-crazed kids of many a sophisticated art lover and editor—Condé Nast Traveler wrote that the Color Factory made "all other summer events seem, well, dull by comparison."
But Rosenberg's fascination with color began long before Instagram became a nirvana for her specific brand of eye-catching work. Raised on the prairies of Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, she learned to enliven the barren expanse around her by painting inventive fantasias in her mind that would later translate into art forms. "I think as kids our imaginations were put to good use, particularly in the bareness of the winter landscape," she says.
These days, the artist surrounds herself with an explosive cast of joyful shades and spreads the love around. As part of the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District's Sites Unseen—a public project that aims to transform the neighborhood's once-desolate alleys into hubs for art and conversation—Rosenberg's installation "Local Color" is currently illuminating Natoma Street with solar-powered LED light boxes and, of course, the brightest hues you can imagine.
Until early December, she is also in residence at The McColl Center for Art + Innovation in Charlotte, NC for an exhibition called "Color for the People," a site-specific exploration of color and taste. Each week, the gallery walls and floors will be painted and furnished in a new color inspired by the Charlotte landscape—a concept familiar to any San Francisco art lover who remembers Rosenberg's Outer Sunset project from the spring of 2015. The immersive color-field painting and meditative space in Charlotte will also include a Color Bar, serving cocktails and treats that match the hue of the week. The project aims to "create space for remembering the vital roles that art and food continue to play in fostering shared experiences of pleasure and joy, which I believe can be medicine for times like these," she says.
However busy she gets, her work is often the thing that keeps her centered.
"Sometimes I think I can carry more than I can on my bike, and my bag gets caught on the wheel. I bite it, and my paper bag filled with party napkins and vending machine refills spills all over Larkin Street," she says. "And a kind man who packs his home onto his shopping cart offers a hand and an extra bag that is not ripped. And usually when these things happen, I take it as a sign [it's time] to slow down."
But then again, she says "riding my bike around San Francisco allows me to see the city, and I get stories like this out of it that teach me something. I am thankful for the non-routine, that every day presents me or tests me with something different."
Next year, if you're traveling out of SFO's Terminal 3, don't forget to slow down and look around: Rosenberg is currently working on a large-scale installation for the airport, entitled "Everywhere, a Color."
7x7: How do you feel about San Francisco?
Leah Rosenberg: San Francisco is the host to many histories, and I love turning a corner to hear music spilling out of a cafe, or crossing into one neighborhood from another. I love running into friends around town who are also working hard and getting to hear what they're up to. But I will admit, there are parts I'm finding hard these days living here. Some days honey, some days onions.
7x7: Describe your personal style.
LR: Last year I accompanied a good friend to get her wedding dress altered, and we got into discussing the keys to meeting your match. The seamstress said there are two things: wearing polka dots and carrying a small handbag. I suppose I share this story to say what my style is not. I typically leave the house in the morning on my bike with a basket that holds a bag that is not small because it usually carries paint chips, a roll of tape, my sketchbook and my water bottle, which often leaks all over my sketchbook, and surprisingly a seamstress's tape measure.
7x7: Who's your creative hero?
LR: I feel like everyday I have a new hero to add to my list. Other artists, mothers, writers, musicians, chefs. I've had the opportunity to collaborate and work with so many wonderful people.
7x7: What are your go-to SF eats and drinks?
LR: The martini with smoked olives at the bar at The Progress. I have a special place in my heart for early mornings at Pinhole Coffee.
7x7: What's your guilty pleasure?
LR: Spending too long figuring out just the right caption for the cartoon at the back of The New Yorker. If gummy bears are in the house, I will eat those at the same time.
7x7: What store turns you into a shopaholic?
LR: Lowe's—they have everything I need. Joking aside, I love popping into the local shops run by people I know—like Little Paper Planes or Legion Shop—so I get to catch up with them and learn about what people are making.