Like so many artists, Colleen Leahy had a full career in fields ranging from journalism to finance, plus a family to raise, before she gave into her artistic impulses.
Then she made a U-turn, replacing the numbers and data she was crunching on paper as a financial consultant the with the colorful, impressionistic forms–on much better paper–for which she’s known as an artist.
“I told my husband I wanted to spend $4,000 on a press and make prints and he said ‘you’d be really good at it; go for it,’ ” she said. “I thought, ‘I knew there was a reason I married you.’ ”
These days, Colleen’s love of color most informs her work. Early on she did a lot of classical figurative painting at Gage Academy that heightened her sense of color. She found that, “I’d be more interested in how to make the warms and cools work in the shadows on the body than whether the body looked real or not.”
In her current Shift show, Afterimages: Impressions of Indonesia, Colleen has summoned her impressions of that exotic land–the colors, feelings and patterns she found in the culture and traditions there on a recent trip.
“I like combining the colors on the paper with moveable plates and pieces so I can control the color combination but maybe not the composition so much,” she said. “It really isn’t about a particular image, it’s more like a feeling. That’s how I approach it.”
Always working in series, Coleen finds both the discovery and the final touches that bring her pieces together the most enjoyable parts of her art-making.
“Art to me seems like it has so many dimensions that you’re constantly invited into and that’s the coolest thing to me,” she said. “In printing I like making textures. The funnest part is the very end, when I think, ‘oh, I’m just going to put a little bit of red right there.'”
Whatever she’s working on, there’s little chance Colleen will make another U-turn and move away from her art. “Once I discovered it,” she said, “I was like oh yeah, I’m doing this.”
Leahy’s show, “Afterimages: Impressions of Indonesia” is on display at Shift Gallery from May 1st – 30th