Artistic use of steel on display at Bear’s Mill


DARKE COUNTY — Nationally recognized artist Mike Elsass will display his colorful paintings on rusting sheets of metal at historic Bear’s Mill alongside imaginative steel sculptures created by Loveland, Ohio resident Leslie Lehr Daly at the next “Art at the Mill” exhibit, which opens in the Clark Gallery on Friday, June 28 and continues through Sunday, July 21.

An opening night reception offering finger food and drinks from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. will feature the artists briefly sharing information about their work, methods and inspiration at 7 p.m. “Art at the Mill,” curated by Jan Roestamadji and Julie Clark, is free and open to the public.

According to Roestamadji, both Leslie Lehr Daly’s fascinating sculptures and Mike Elsass’s paintings evoke the beauty of nature in distinctive and surprising forms.

“These artist create modern yet timeless work with a unique sensibility that will enhance any home regardless of style or décor,” Roestamadji stated.

Julie Clark pointed out the appropriate sharing of space by artists who work with steel to design vastly different artworks, saying “Both artists utilize steel in expressing their creativity with incredibly spectacular, widely diverse, yet strikingly compatible outcomes.”

After earning a BFA in Design at the University of Georgia, Leslie Lehr Day worked for design and architectural firms in South Carolina, designing everything from schools to private homes to Army Reserve Barracks up and down the Eastern Seaboard. After marrying and starting a family, Leslie continued to seek new ways to express her creative spirit, eventually moving to sculpting steel.

“My current work is an amalgam of things we know and imagine; it is abstract and organic rather than figurative, realistic, or classical,” the sculptor explained. She says that many ideas come to her during walks where she takes inspiration from something as simple as a leaf, an acorn, or a seed pod, as well as more esoteric subjects. Texture and color are integral to her pieces which are meant to pull people in, provoking curiosity and conversation, while also inspiring the desire to touch the evocative work.

Dayton artist Mike Elsass specializes in painting color-field-inspired work on weathered steel; his unique pieces are included in over 2,000 private collections throughout the U.S.

“My art is spiritual, meditative, and based on the emotion of people and places,” says the en plein air artist who paints abstract landscapes that reflect the moment, creating emotional and visual connections with the places he visits. Known for his approach that fills any space with color, excitement, and energy, his dynamic contemporary patterns on reused/recycled rusting steel have a sense of a former life, bringing a mystical organic sensibility to his artwork which, while not a specific representation of a place, evokes a sense of the universal energy of the site.

Owned and operated by Friends of Bear’s Mill, the historic mill is located at 6450 Arcanum-Bear’s Mill Road about 5 miles east of Greenville. “Art At the Mill” is funded in part by a grant from Darke County Endowment for the Arts, and can be viewed during regular Mill store hours. Current hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. For more information, contact Bear’s Mill at 937-548-5112 or

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