Art Feature: Life Refracted

Art Feature: Life Refracted

Art by Sloane Leong
Feature by Rob Carroll

Sloane Leong can do it all. She’s an accomplished writer, editor, and artist, with dozens of short stories in publication, an anthology series for which she is the co-creator and editor (Death in the Mouth), a graphic novel (A Map to the Sun), and an ongoing comic book series through Image Comics (Prism Stalker). A number of her short stories and one of her short comics have appeared in previous issues Dark Matter, and they’ve always been a perfect fit. Her imaginative, genre-defying blend of psychedelia, science fiction, dark fantasy, and horror are exactly what this magazine is about. Her work—both written and visual—is layered and dense and alive with meaning. The audience experience is truly otherworldly, but also incredibly human.

“I honestly don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing or drawing,” Sloane says. “I was constantly crafting, drawing, writing, with anything I could get my hands on. My parents would always check with me before throwing things out because my catchphrase was ‘I can make something with that!’”

Sloane’s art is often a moving tribute to the miracle of life. By creating cracked-mirror worlds that reflect as much as they refract, she reminds us that majesty abounds in real life, too—we just need a change in perspective to see it, need to
remember a time when every day was a discovery and the mundane was still magical.

“I love to imagine futures and places based on overlooked aspects of our world, like the ecology and biology of fauna and flora,” Sloane explains. “I love exploring these theoretical fantasies where personhood is ascribed to non-humans and non-sentient beings through an anthropomorphic lens, and then extrapolating how these ecologies would work within a speculative frame.”

Human transcendence is another theme in Sloane’s work. The idea that inside all of us exists a power and a purpose that is obscured, possibly even blunted, by ordinary life. In For Ian, a busted length of chain link fence and the light from a single street lamp are juxtaposed with a surreal mountain range and a gradient sky of color, the human subject freed from the depressing urban blight and transported to a kingdom of dignity, heroism, and light. The subject is still solitary, but they no longer appear isolated.

Sloane tells me that her work explores the “fear and awe of our bodies,” but also “the horror of what we’ve made of ourselves and our world.” This can be seen in her grand biological machines and superstructures, many of which are both awesome and terrifying. There is both cosmic horror and cosmic beauty in what she creates.

When considered in this context, her answer to my final question makes all the sense in the world. It’s existential dread made beautiful. When asked where she hopes to take her art from her, she responds:

“I just want to be a better and better visual storyteller, and that goal presents me with an endless journey that I’ll be on until I die.”


Art copyright © 2023 Sloane Leong

The Artist

Sloane Leong

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