In memoriam: Leif Brush (1935-2021)
On March 15, 2021 Leif Brush passed on in Duluth, Minnesota. In the mid-1960s Leif began studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and as a graduate teaching assistant independently taught the school’s first sound course, Audible Constructs. He and his students created sound installations on the roof, and his own sound installations that he called Terrain Instruments were in his MFA Fellowship exhibition in the Art Institute in 1972. While at SAIC he met Gloria DeFilipps and they were married in 1969.
Leif went on to teach at the University of Iowa, and then from 1976 to 2002 at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where he introduced the course Creating across Disciplines in the 1970s. The location of their Duluth home with many trees and those he added over the years was optimal for his Terrain Instruments work.
Over the course of his artist life Leif received artist fellowships or grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in New Genres, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation, and the Bush and McKnight Foundations. A permanent installation of his original 1975 soundwork was installed in 2013 at Klankenbos (Sound Forest) in Neerpelt, Belgium. He was a resident artist at the Yellow Springs Institute for Contemporary Studies and the Arts in Ohio and the Visual Studies Workshop in New York. His works have appeared in such venues as the INMM1 in Darmstadt, Germany; Minnesota Museum of Art Riverfront Gallery; GMEB Le Festival Synthese; SoundCulture at the San Francisco Art Commission Gallery; New Music America in Philadelphia; Walker Art Center Performance Series; Academy of Science Auditorium in Washington, D.C.; Hudson River Museum in New York; Wright State University in Ohio; the University of Maryland Baltimore County; University of Chicago Midway Studios; SUNY Alfred Gallery in New York; and The Center for New Performing Arts in Iowa City, among many others.
A chapter about his work, “Windwitnessing: Sound Art and Nature Research by Leif Brush,” by Volker Dust, appears in Vernetzungen: New Music in the Tension Between Science and Technology, by Jörn P. Hiekel, and he is included in Stephen Wilson’s book Information Arts: Intersections of Art, Science, and Technology, published by MIT Press. His article “Monitoring Nature’s Sounds with Terrain-Based Constructions,” coauthored with his wife Gloria DeFilipps Brush, appeared in Leonardo. Pentiments 2017 is an album release of his recordings mixed and produced by Guido Gamboa and mastered by Giuseppe Ielasi.
He is survived by wife Gloria DeFilipps Brush, daughter Sanna Ellingson, and five grandchildren.