Leslie Nichols

A Process Note

My primary medium is text. I use typewriters, stamps, and letterpress to create images of women with words. These portraits visualize the historical context of women’s lives and suggest a sense of social heritage.  I often embed this heritage into the work with words by writers, activists, and feminists like Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, and Sarah Grimké. By interlocking historic words with images of contemporary women, I portray the substance of women’s lives and create connections through time. I weave together phrases from poems, essays, or historical documents that have relevance to the sitter. 

As I layer words to create a portrait, my focus shifts to the visual character of the individual letterforms. Words dissolve into visual marks that echo their original literary content. Remnants and hints of my source materials combine to create new forms that exist at the intersection of visual art, poetry, and typography.

The titles of these portraits indicate the name of the sitter along with the title and date of the text. I typed the featured works on Rives heavyweight paper using a manual typewriter.



Leslie Nichols uses a variety of found and original text to create images. She is well known for her works created on manual typewriters which are featured in Typewriter Art: A Modern Anthology by Barrie Tullett published by Laurence King in 2014 and The Art of Typewriting by Ruth Sackner and Marvin Sackner published by Thames and Hudson in 2015.

Nichols has displayed works at venues including the Huntsville Museum of Art, the Carnegie Center for Visual and Performing Arts, and the Evansville Museum. A recent Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women provided support for Leslie to create large-scale portraits of women working for social change in Kentucky. Her experiments in letterpress printing were made possible by a 2015 NEA Studio Residency Grant from Women’s Studio Workshop . Her work has been recognized with additional grants from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation, the American Association of University Women, and the Great Meadows Foundation. Her residencies include Zion National Park, Vermont Studio Center, Hopscotch House, Women’s Studio Workshop, and Can Serrat. Notable public collections that feature her work include the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, Liquitex Artist Materials, Yale University, and the Library of Congress.

Nichols earned a BFA in painting from Fontbonne University under the guidance of Victor Wang and Tim Liddy. She has an MA from Western Kentucky University focusing in gender and women’s studies. She currently maintains her studio in Bowling Green, Kentucky where she lives with her partner artist Michael Nichols.