We’re suckers for fellow native New Yorkers with an arty bent, particularly when they’ve got a deep sense of the city’s culture and a seemingly endless eagerness to explore it. Today’s 5+5 interviewee, Brooklyn-based Leonor Mamanna, checks those boxes and then some. In her Q+A, she picks a few choice 20x200 art pieces, lets us peek in on her childhood memories at NYC’s Museum of Natural History, touches on the subjectivity of joy-sparking art, and waxes poetic about the supercharged specialness of a salon wall. And Mamanna knows what she’s talking about when it comes to awesome images — she’s a Senior Photo Editor and producer who’s worked with tons of estimable publications, including New York Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, GQ and Conde Nast Traveler. She’s also juried numerous photo competitions, PDN Photo Annual, Photoville, and Latin American Fotografía among them.
But our introduction to this crackerjack creative was through one of her especially consumable extracurriculars. A self-described “passion project pursuer”, Mamanna moonlights as the maker of one of our favorite newsletters, Leave it to Leonor—a weekly missive that’s loaded with recs re: what to read, watch, listen to, do, visit, and more. There are gifs that really hit home, curated internet gems, killer quotes that aren’t even the least bit cringey, and it’s all kicked off by a brief, thoughtful personal essay reflecting on the week. Plus, it includes a punchy little interview series focusing on female-identifying dynamos with all manner of expertise. (Our founder Jen Bekman will be featured in this week’s interview!) Our inboxes are embarrassingly overflowing, and we still look forward to receiving Leave it to Leanor. In short, do yourself a solid and subscribe.
Now without further ado, let’s let Leonor take the lead. Peep her art picks and Q+A below. — Team 20x200
5 Perfect Picks
1) Brooklyn Bridge, Water and Dock Streets, looking southwest, Brooklyn by Berenice Abbott
I'm a born and raised New Yorker and am obsessed with pictures of New York in the past. This area (DUMBO) has changed so much in my own lifetime and it's fascinating to see which of the bones still remain — I especially love seeing the iconic Brooklyn Bridge from a less obvious angle.
2) Food Cart on Gansevoort Street by Julia Rothman
Is it too uncool to admit that I am obsessed with Julia Rothman's work? Good thing I've never been cool! I love love love the way Julia captures the tiny moments of New York City. We've all seen this food cart, you can smell the hot pretzel just by looking at this drawing. It makes smile.
3) New York City (ISS045-E-066112), a 20x200 Space Edition
I know I'm biased, but to me, there is nothing more gorgeous than New York City at night. If you've ever been lucky enough to fly in when it's all lit up, you know how awe-inspiring it is. It glitters and twinkles like nowhere else. Who doesn't want a piece of that in their home?
4) The Ten Largest, No. 2, Childhood, Group IV by Hilma af Klint
I love the dreamy and playful qualities of Hilma af Klint's art. Her work feels accessible to everyone and open to be interpreted in so many different ways, which, to me, is the best kind of artistic experience.
5 Q's + 5 A's
1) What's your favorite museum?
I spent a lot of my childhood at the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side and so it holds a very special place in my heart. I used to love sitting under the whale (far far away from the dark corner with the squid) and gazing up, feeling extra small. I can't wait to share it with my daughter.
2) What's your most coveted coffee table book?
Right now, I am obsessed with Carmen Winant's My Birth. I vividly remember the MOMA exhibit in 2018 and I had no idea that a year later, I would be giving birth. The experience is still very fresh in my mind and I'd love to revisit this powerful project with this new knowledge.
3) Do you prefer a single statement piece or a salon wall?
I'm a salon wall girl all the way. I love the depth, the levels, the various points of interest, all the messages you can send with different pieces. Plus, I have commitment issues.
4) You've got $5m you have to spend on one piece of art. What would it be?
A Kusama infinity room, specifically Butterflies on Water. I might actually get into meditation if I could go sit in one for more than a minute at a time!
5) We love your weekly newsletter "Leave it to Leonor" (so many juicy recs, plus a really fun interview series!), but you're actually a photo editor by day. You've also juried several photo competitions. As a photography professional, what advice would you give to fledgling photography collectors who want to know more about what makes a "good" photo?
I think we all know that good is so subjective. I've never been a proper collector, in the sense that I have never bought a piece of art thinking, "oh, this will be worth so much one day!" Everything I've ever collected has been because it brings me joy to look at it on my wall.
The 411 on Leonor Mamanna
Leonor is a photo editor by day, passion project pursuer by night.