09 May Stephenson Showcase: “The Within” by Leigh Petersen
Leigh Petersen loves to use art as a way to “escape” and “unwind,” to get in touch with her thoughts, dreams, and inner self. She has always been creative; even as a child, everyone assumed she would become some sort of artist.
In high school, Petersen chose to enroll in summer school and completed as many required courses as she could so that she had more room in her schedule for art classes during the school year. By the time she was a senior, she had taken every art class the school offered; thus, the school created “independent” art classes for her to fill the void. When she graduated, she wasn’t committed to any single medium and enjoyed drawing, painting, fashion design, and photography.
“I moved to New York City and got a job at a small graphic design firm as one of my first ‘real’ jobs,” Petersen says. “From there, I was hooked on graphic design because it was a place where I could draw from all of my favorite mediums and experiences . . . and I just never looked back.”
Petersen worked as a design apprentice in NYC before moving back home to Indiana and shifting to production and advertising design. Because she did not go to college, Petersen learned as she worked and was able to work her way up as a result of her admirable performance and achievements. During that time, she found her creative spirit in other aspects of art–specifically photography and music–and she did not go back to her roots of drawing and painting until she left the corporate design world to work as a freelancer.
Working as her own boss gave Petersen more time to dedicate to traditional creative pursuits; she discovered her passion for creating curves, lines, spirals, and shapes that don’t really mean anything to her in a sketchbook until she starts to “see” something that inspires the goal of the piece. Because of this, most of her work is surreal and abstract. The pandemic was also a turning point for Petersen’s career, as the uncertainty and chaos served as creative inspiration for her pieces during that time.
“Art has always been a means of escape for me, a way for me to disconnect from my day-to-day stress and worries and delve more deeply into my thoughts and feelings,” Petersen says. Everything she draws or paints comes from within, as she allows her eyes, hands, and mind to disconnect and lead her in the “right” direction. Although her work is often classified as fantasy or surreal, to her, each piece of art is a visual representation of some piece of her inner self.
“They come from the chaos within,” she says.
See Leigh Petersen’s full exhibit, The Within, in the Stephenson House Wednesday through Friday from 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You can meet Petersen in person at her free public reception on Friday, May 5 from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on the Nickel Plate Arts campus.
You can discover more of Petersen’s work at her website, LeighPetersenArt.com, and by following her on Facebook and Instagram (@aleighn).