At first glance, the Anna Bier Gallery currently seems to be filled with stunning color photographs. The viewer quickly realizes however that the colorful, realistic pictures on the gallery walls are bold but nuanced paintings. Christopher Leeper, the 48-year-old creator of these charming works, says that as long as he can remember, he has been excited by landscapes, and feels a need to respond when confronted by a sublime subject. Leeper’s paintings, on display in the Gallery through April 26, will transport you to inviting locales that seem familiar, evoking feelings and memories almost like those summoned up when reviewing your own photo album.
“Autumn Light” realistically depicts an inviting path through the woods where gleaming autumn foliage is amplified by a stream of bright sunlight. “Autumn Shadows” is also light-filled, but the light produces shadows that extend toward the viewer and pull one into the wooded scene.
A wintry city landscape, “First Light” features snow-covered buildings sporting chunky icicles and barren tree limbs adorned with snow, but light embellishes walls and dapples the snow-covered ground, creating a warm and inviting effect, a somewhat incongruous result for a picture so accurately evoking winter’s cold. “Winter’s Warmth” wins a similar response; in this rural scene, the eye is led down an appealing country road running aside snowy fields and fetching farm buildings, all burnished with golden light.
The artist, a graduate of Youngstown State University who is now an adjunct professor at his alma mater, readily admits that his work is “all about the light” which excites and inspires him. Leeper’s fascination with light is apparent in all of his work, including night scenes. “Mockingbird Light,”so titled because of its similarity to remembered scenes from the movie To Kill A Mockingbird, explores color within its shadows, creating an inviting nighttime tableau bathed in ethereal light. “Friday Night Lights,” another piece capturing light in the dark, depicts an intriguing street corner in Lisbon, Ohio. The glow of traffic lights, street lights, and oncoming headlights illuminates the scene, an alluring “Open” sign inviting one to enter and discover the wonders to be found behind brightly lit shop windows.
When asked if he credits any artists as inspiration or motivation for his work, the painter names Charles Burchfield, a renowned artist who grew up a few miles from Canfield, Ohio, where Leeper now lives. “Although I paint nothing like Burchfield, I dearly love, admire, and study his original interpretations of nature as well as his writings about art and nature,” Leeper remarked. Burchfield’s watercolors of nature scenes and townscapes were described by his friend and contemporary Edward Hopper as “founded not on art, but on life,” a characteristic that might also describe Leeper’s work.
The composition of “September Farm” brings to mind classic rural landscapes of the past, but the subject matter leaves no doubt that this picture represents modern-day agriculture. A farmer stands amid a couple of red-painted wood sheds, working in back of his red pick-up truck, tending to his cattle. Another charming farm scene entitled “Patriot Barn” earned Best of Show at last year’s Ohio Plein Air Society Annual Competition. When asked to identify the qualities that made this work award-winning, Leeper replied that he was very humbled to win, as many great painters belong to the society, and demurred from presuming to understand the reasoning behind the decision. However, he said that the judge commented that this painting looked effortless - “as if the artist had breathed the painting onto the canvas” - an appealing attribute found in most of Leeper’s work in this lovely exhibit.
The Anna Bier Gallery, located within Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall in Greenville, is open Saturdays from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m., and prior to performances at the Hall. To view the art by Christopher Leeper at other times or to arrange a tour, contact Gallery Director Marcia Weidner at 417-3497.
Marilyn Delk is a Director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.