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San Francisco

The Feeling Sense

The Feeling Sense
An illustrated conversation with Leslie Shows and Ross Simonini

What is the relationship between art and the language that surrounds it? Must an artwork be explained, decoded, or carry a fixed meaning? When you approach an object, where in your body do you feel it? Does it affect you in ways you cannot verbally describe?

The “Feeling Sense” is the perceptual capacity of any living organism to encounter their environment. Coined by herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner in his book Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, the term can more broadly be applied to the field of art and has become central to the practices of artists Leslie Shows and Ross Simonini. A cousin to intuition, the Feeling Sense is in pursuit of an elusive understanding beyond the language of consensus, offering a critical and subjective approach to perceptual experience.

In this presentation, Shows and Simonini articulate and position the Feeling Sense as a useful tool in navigating a contemporary culture preoccupied with topicality, context, and logic. The artists argue for a philosophy rooted in material consciousness, often misunderstood as apolitical or emotional. Animated by examples from natural history, technology, poetry, popular media, environmental science and contemporary art, their conversation aims to foster a deeper, stranger, and more personal engagement with artworks and their conditions.


Leslie Shows’ sculptural two-dimensional works explore connections between earth processes, philosophies of matter, and the materiality of painting. She has exhibited at institutions including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI), Orange County Museum of Art, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Ross Simonini is an artist, writer and musician. His first novel, The Book of Formation, was recently published by Melville House and he contributes interviews to ArtReview, Mousse and The Believer. Later this year, his musical project, NewVillager will release a suite of new music and his next visual art exhibition will be in a vacant Odd Fellows hall in Forestville, California.