About Les

As an emerging writer and visual artist, I invite people to imaginatively engage with interrelated themes about nature, consciousness, and social justice. The work I do is an expression of how I have come to approach exploring ideas and connections in areas of the natural and cognitive sciences, theopoetic and contemplative practices, and human learning and development. It is also infused with my own quirky sensibilities as a Black, cis female, cultural misfit born and raised in the USA.

One of my current projects involves a body of work exploring a scientifically inspired and spiritually informed theopoetics of nature. The project is an attempt to cultivate playful meditations on the ordinary magic that is inherent in our everyday existence. Entangled with this work is an experiment in subverting binary patterns of thinking in which the body is conceptualized as being Other to the mind. This includes and is perhaps most poignantly expressed by the ways in which darkness / blackness is conceptualized as being Other to lightness / whiteness.

I was born in the lands of the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations (Chicago metro), and currently reside in the lands of the Powhatan (central Virginia).

If you're interested in connecting, reach out to me at les@mallessa.com

Published Work

Poetry

“Odd sympathy” | 1619 Speaks, Sims Library of Poetry (Forthcoming 2023)

“Nature being” | When We Exhale: An Anthology of Black Women Rooted In Ancestral Medicine, Black Freighter Press (Forthcoming 2023)

“Home is where the heart is” | When We Exhale: An Anthology of Black Women Rooted In Ancestral Medicine, Black Freighter Press (Forthcoming 2023)

“Maybe Mother Earth is an angry Black woman too” | When We Exhale: An Anthology of Black Women Rooted In Ancestral Medicine, Black Freighter Press (Forthcoming 2023)

American dreams / Wake-up call” | Fractured Union: American Democracy on the Brink (Special Issue), Michigan Quarterly Review Online, University of Michigan (2022)

The struggle is real” | Consilience, Issue 8: Entropy (2022)

"Dark natured" | BLUU Notes An Anthology of Love, Justice, and Liberation, Black Lives of Unitarian Universalists, Skinner House Books (2022)

“Why Black women write horror stories” | The Future of Black: Afrofuturism, Black Comics, & Superhero Poetry anthology, Blair (2021)

"Why Black women write horror stories" | The Black Liberation Blueprint, Blackroots Alliance (2021)

On purity and truth: A reflection on the Robert E. Lee Monument (1890-?)” | 2020 Visions: Imagining (Post-) COVID Worlds Series; Edge Effects; Center for Culture, History, and Environment; University of Wisconsin-Madison (2021)

“Mother prayer” | Issue 001: Black, Gumbo Magazine, Gumbo Media (2020)

Artwork and Photography

Locked In, Locked Out, Interlocked” (photo collage) | EcoTheo Review, EcoTheo Collective (2022)

“Intersecting” (chalk pastels, digitally modified) | 2023 Art Calendar, Glen Allen Cultural Arts Center (2022)

"Snails in Scotland" (photography) | Issue 65: Sex, Geez magazine (2022)

"Feelings" (photography and digital collage) | Issue 65: Sex, Geez magazine (2022)

"On the James" (photography) | Take Me Away - Summer Fun and Vacations juried group show, Art Works Gallery - Richmond (2021)

"On truth and purity" (photography) | 2020 Visions: Imagining (Post-) COVID Worlds Series; Edge Effects; Center for Culture, History, and Environment; University of Wisconsin-Madison (2021)

"Carried Away: Cedar Rapids, IA Summer 2008" 1 &2 (photography) | Best Depiction of Theme Award, Flood Awareness Week juried group show, Art Works Gallery - Richmond (2021)

"LA Escape" (photography) | Juried group show, Art Works Gallery - Richmond (2021)

"Biloxi Shrine" 1 & 2 (photography) | Flood Awareness Week juried group show, Art Works Gallery - Richmond (2020)

Panels, Presentations, Performances, etc.

"The Future of Black" (panel) | American Writers Festival, American Writers Museum - Chicago (2022)

"Just Work: A conversation on the progress we've made and what still remains to achieve Black liberation" (virtual panel) | Blackroots Alliance (2021)

"In our nature: A theopoetics of science project" (virtual poster presentation) | The Mind, the Human-Earth Connection, and the Climate Crisis, Summer Research Institute, Mind and Life Institute (2021)

“The AI Q&A: A design fiction look at different points of view” (virtual presentation) | Midwestern Conference on Literature, Language and Media, Northern Illinois University (2021)

"The dictionary as a work of fiction" (podcast guest) | What Kindled Your Interest in Minds? Many Minds Podcast, Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (2020)

“Levels of mind as levels of matter” (virtual poster presentation) | Cultivating Prosocial Development Across the Lifespan: Context, Relationships, and Contemplative Practices, Summer Research Institute, Mind and Life Institute (2020)

“Body, heart, mind & spirit: Emergent images for inspirational & intuitive practices” (conference session) | Mystic Soul Conference: Radical Wholeness, Mystic Soul Project (2019)

“Embodying race as an emergent concept” (presentation) | Embodiment and Race Conference, Department of Philosophy and Religion, Clemson University (2019)

“Emergent levels: A framework for reimagining complex & cognitive systems” (presentation) | Complexity in the Humanities and Sciences Conference, Department of Philosophy, University of Memphis (2019)

Funding & Awards

Residencies

Artist Residency | Peter Bullough Foundation (upcoming 2023)

Artist Residency | Foundation House (2022)

Resident Artist / Storyteller | Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (2021)

Resident Artist / Storyteller | Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (2020)

Resident Artist / Storyteller | Diverse Intelligences Summer Institute (2019)

Writing programs

Writing Spirit, Writing Faith Workshop, The Collegeville Institute (2017)

Beyond Walls: Spiritual Writing Program, The Kenyon Institute (2016)

Misc

"Once upon a universe" | 1st Prize in the Humor for Serious Subjects category, Thinking Funny Humor Writing Contest (2022)