Welcome to the new monthly column spotlighting an area artist. The title of the column, “Fight in the Museum,” speaks of the struggles artists face to get their work completed and out for people to see. It is inspired by a piece of mine of the same name that was collected early in my career.
This month, we meet Leni Paquet-Morante. She is a landscape painter who resides in Hamilton. Her broad brushstrokes and earthy colors work to show the beauty of the natural lands that she sees around us. Morante was born in Quebec, and grew up in Baltimore. She came to Hamilton to study sculpture at the Johnson Atelier at age 21. She has been living in the area since 1989. Morante has recently taken the leap to paint and work on her art full-time. Prior to that, for the last 10 years, she worked as a project coordinator and office manager for an architectural and fine arts metal shop in Hopewell.
What is most fun about being an artist?
The thrill of creating a new work that I’m proud of, that seems to have pushed forward of what I knew I could do, keeps me going.
What are you communicating with your art?
At first glance, my paintings are about trees. In practice though, my aim is a painterly one, to express myself and my world through an approach where brushstrokes and the colors are equal players to the forms they are describing.
What fight/struggle do you have regarding your art? Studio space? Money? Physical limitations?
The biggest struggle wasn’t any of those, but rather making the leap toward doing it full-time. It required a perfect storm of financial support from sales, moral support from family and friends, and most importantly being very brave. After all, this is both a very private and very public enterprise. It’s a balancing that requires diligence and faith.
Who were you influenced by?
Earliest images were of ancient and primitive art which surrounded me at my grandmother’s private school. As a teenager, Turner’s small seascapes entranced me. Later it was Franz Klein’s bold black and white paintings. In Turner’s work, I saw that edges could be barely defined. With Klein’s, I understood that there was beauty in junctures.
What is your process?
I seek out landscapes that convey intimacy of space, and then re-interpret them through somewhat altered perspective and composition. It used to be that I’d be drawn to a bit of light peeking through some trees as I’d commute to work, and then hop out with a camera. Now that I have more time, I’ll take a sketchpad along, search out and explore those locations. My return to drawing has been especially rewarding, and I approach it as cross-training for a better result in my canvases. The better I can understand the existing forms, the better I can translate them.
A lot of artists struggle to find their own style. How long do you feel it took you to find your own voice?
I recall at 17 years old, in a class of very talented students and an inspiring teacher, I tended to go my own way. Though I didn’t understand at the time, that was the beginning of knowing I had my own vision. My work since then has been sculptural and two-dimensional, and mainly abstract and/or conceptual in nature. It took 30 years to get back to landscape as a painter.
What do collectors commonly say about your work?
That it looks even better in person. I also get comments about a kind of calm that the work transmits, which is what they want in their homes or offices.
What local attractions do you love?
I like to go to the Abbott Marshland, Rosedale Park, and the Sourland Mountains. As for local museums, the NJ State Museum has a lovely collection of American paintings, as does the Princeton University Art Museum. For a nice meal locally, my husband and I enjoy the Mariachi Grill in Mercerville.
What are you looking forward to?
I will be showing/selling my paintings at the well-known Rittenhouse Square Art Show in Philadelphia, June 7-9. I will be having a solo exhibition at Johnson and Johnson headquarters in New Brunswick Nov. 11- Dec. 20.
For more on Morante and her work, go online to lenimorante.com.