Entering Leslie Masters’ retrospective art exhibit, “Fifty Years Of A Color Painter” at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center (BBAC) is like walking into a breathtaking sunset.
Masters defines herself first and foremost as “a color painter. A lot of painters are subject-oriented, but for me it’s all about the color first,” she says. “It’s how one color looks next to another and I like bright colors.”
Now 83 years old, Masters was born in West Lafayette, Indiana, where she says she started doing art when she was very young. “My mother said I never asked ‘what can I do’? Instead it was always ‘what can I make’?” she says.
Masters received a B.A. in Fine Arts from the University of Indiana, an M.A. in art from the University of Michigan. She moved to Birmingham with her family in 1963. After living in Birmingham for 20 years, she relocated to Ypsilanti, all while continuing to teach advanced painting and color theory classes at the BBAC two days a week. “Some of my students have been with me for quite a while,” she says.
And over the years she has also taught at several local colleges and art schools, including the College for Creative Studies, University of Michigan Dearborn and Mercy College (now University of Detroit Mercy).
Leslie loves color. Her goal as an artist is to capture the feeling of light as it surrounds us. The impressionist painter Monet is her source. Her vehicle is acrylic paint and she likes to add light…neon or incandescent…for more glow. Her current paintings beautifully explore the abstract color glow found in the landscape around her in her studio as well as in the mountains and canyons of the American west.
“I get inspired by nature and the colors I see in the places I go,” Masters says. “A lot of my work is based on the abstract color sketches that I made on those trips. For example, when I was 75, I went on a Grand Canyon painting and rafting trip. We floated down the Colorado River and every once in a while stopped to paint. It was the most amazing trip I’ve ever been on. I so love the desert colors of Arizona and Utah, and I have painted lots of hot pink and orange abstracts from my trips there.”
She adds, “While out west, I painted six small pictures on site and then, back in my studio, did some big ones. They were all based on the feeling I got there when sitting on the sand near the river. And now several of those paintings are in my current show.
“I have had a rich and satisfying career and teaching is my joy and passion,” the artist says. “It works together with my painting and color exploration to keep me a happy artist. My goal is to treasure every day and to always be in the moment.”
Masters’ delightful – and colorful – art exhibit will be at the BBAC through April 19th.
Photo: Chris Ward