By Emily Hostetler
Assistant Copy Editor
Many artists chose to capture the beauty of landscapes or objects in their work, but senior Chelsea Leeds found inspiration in the beauty of her closest friends.
Leeds’ exhibition, “She Flies with Her Own Wings,” contains 19 portraits of Ohio Wesleyan students and some faces from Leeds’ hometown that were painted from pictures or from a live model.
Leeds said she began working on her paintings over a year ago in hopes of having a collection.
“It’s really cool to see your artwork on a wall. It’s kind of neat and surreal,” she said. “It’s a good sense of accomplishment.”
For Painting III, students are instructed to have a theme of subject matter, style or artist.
Leeds said she decided on her theme as she was “reflecting on school and all of my friends and sisters” over summer break.
“I paint the women in my life that inspire me,” she said. “We have such a lack of young women these days who are as put together as the women I know. I’m blessed to have these women in my life who are so put together and well balanced and interested in self-growth.”
While strong women have been a consistent inspiration for Leeds.
She said it has grown since coming to college as she has become more interested in women’s issues, especially in mental health, and how students develop as adults during college.
“My friends are open-minded, incredibly passionate and all have a very good sense of self,” she said.
“They’re not pompous. They all have a good sense of humility and are very grounded, which is rare for 20-something women to be because we all struggle with so many things. (I) look to them as positive examples.”
Senior Amy Siemon sat as a live model for Leeds. She said it was interesting to see how Leeds painted and created her art.
“It was slightly awkward at first because I’ve never done that before,” Siemon said. “I was honored (to be painted) because I knew the project and the other women she asked to paint. It was fun to be like, ‘I’m art.’”
Senior Allyson North was also painted as a live model. She said she is amazed by Leeds’ passion and was excited to see her at work.
“She is one of my closest friends at Ohio Wesleyan, and I know that she too is a strong, confident woman,” North said. “Her collection is full of paintings of women that I admire very much.”
Siemon said the paintings portray the inner beauty and good qualities of the subjects in the artwork.
“It was very personal for her to use that (inspiration) and open up to the community with something that is so close to her heart,” Siemon said.
Junior Kate Johnson said Leeds took pictures of her to paint in April.
She rode a bike for at least 15 minutes as Leeds aimed for the perfect shot.
“I was flattered when Chelsea asked me to pose for her,” Johnson said.
“I was nervous about the public reception of the painting simply because I’ve never been displayed through such a medium (on canvas) before. I also didn’t realize how big the canvas would be but, when I saw the painting, I wasn’t nervous or anything because Chelsea did a beautiful job.”
Leeds said she depicts her female subjects as individuals because they are so independent.
“(My inspirations) are very selfless and have a huge interest in bettering the people around them and the community around them,” she said.
“They are involved in school and are dedicated to their academics and dedicated to their friends.”
Compared to painting still lifes and landscapes, Leeds said she never becomes bored with painting the human body.
She finds the female figure much more interesting than the male figure.
“Every human body is different. There are a lot of color anomalies that take you by surprise, and a lot of contrast in tone because of shape,” she said. “It’s not something I’ve perfected. It’s a constant struggle and I’m constantly learning more.”
Even though Leeds is surrounded by her inspiration, she said she still has off days and often has to paint over her work to start over again.
“It can be difficult sometimes because art is based on feelings and mood and whether or not you feel inspired at the moment,” she said.
“… You have bad days. You can’t press undo buttons on paintings which is frustrating.”
To make sure she is still accomplishing something during off days, Leeds said she has started working on more than one painting so she can switch back and forth.
After graduation, Leeds is not leaving her inspiration behind her.
She is planning on applying for graduate school for art therapy and counseling and wants “a world where all 20-somethings will have a positive self-image.”
“It’s something that will hopefully stay with me for the rest of my life,” she said.