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Ely artist uses light and space in her oversized works

Keith Vandervort
Posted 7/27/22

ELY – A local artist visited the North Country for the first time when she was a 15-year-old camper at YMCA’s Camp Widjiwagen, and she never really left. Leah Reusch worked at Widji off …

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Ely artist uses light and space in her oversized works

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ELY – A local artist visited the North Country for the first time when she was a 15-year-old camper at YMCA’s Camp Widjiwagen, and she never really left.
Leah Reusch worked at Widji off and on for the past ten years and finally decided to make her home here. “I just fell in love with this place,” she said. She and her partner are building a permanent year-round home on the shore of Fall Lake and until then spend winters in Colorado.
A small, unheated cabin with a deck, a screen house, and a woodshed look like a natural North Country hideaway. Parked nearby is a vintage passenger bus. The interior has been gutted to make room for Reusch’s art studio. Huge fabric paintings hang from the structures and trees, looking perfectly natural in this setting.
“I’ve been making art since I can remember. My grandparents were painters. My parents are both doctors, and my mom works with ceramics, and dad is a musician. They are definitely artists at heart and fostered in me the will to just go for it,” Reusch said.
“I was taught my whole life that art is a huge tool for communication that is just as valuable as anything else,” she said. “When I went to school and tried to study other things, I was an English major, I was a math major, and in the end, I was a studio art major because it was just coming out of me.”
Reusch’s love of art will be on full display this weekend as she makes her debut at the 2022 Ely Blueberry/Art Festival in Whiteside Park. The festival runs Friday through Sunday, July 29-31 and features hundreds of arts and crafts for sale.
On her website biography, Reusch said she works in interdisciplinary performance art and installations, making paintings with light and space, collages with painting and body and poetry.
She earned her studio art degree from Lewis and Clark College. “I developed my art style through exploring how to take the space between realism and abstraction and expand it out to a livable space,” Reusch said. “I think a lot about communication between people. Everyone has their own perceptions. Every plant and animal and landscape has its own life.”
She said she hopes that her work provides a strong connection with those who view it. “I try to look at those things, such as the smallest flower, and paint it so large with some areas of abstraction and other areas of realism. Any person can look at that painting and have something to grasp onto and enter the painting and become a part of it. To me, I would like for my work to create a space for people to communicate and connect with themselves and with nature.”
She continued,”I explore the human environment of art pieces, the healing energy that is hidden in the disconnect between moments of common ground and moments of abstraction. My work shares a space and energy with my body such that presenting it can feel all-consuming. Such a connection makes me passionately intrigued. I can paint something which is just barely abstracted to me, but if I show it to someone else they might not see it at all, and yet, practicing art has become how I interact with and connect energetically with other people, both physically and emotionally.”
At Ely’s Blueberry/Art Festival, Reusch will have some of her large-sized artwork on display and for sale, as well as painted woven blankets that are basically large-scale prints that can be used as a blanket or hung as a tapestry. “They’re like a painting you can snuggle with,” she said.
Reusch will also feature other painted objects like hand bags, purses and pouches. “Similarly, as I like to paint large, I also like to paint objects,” she explained. “Art is something you can live with, to have art more present in your life.”
Reusch works with youth and with disabled adults in wilderness settings and on farms, teaching and learning and practicing healing methods through art, outdoor, and natural therapies.
With her art booth set up next to next to Ely’s Adventure School, operated by her partner Sunshine Gardener, art and games will be available for kids to play while at the festival. “Kids will definitely be involved when they come see us,” she said.
Visit Reusch’s website to view photos and information about her art work, at https://lcreusch.wixsite.com/leahreusch.

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