Former Geneseo resident Leslie Heen shares intimate, provocative work with community

Despite not having any majors geared toward creating art, Geneseo is nonetheless a home for some very talented artists, or simply those inspired and awed by art. 

The Lockhart Gallery exhibit “Painting in Oils” by former Geneseo resident Leslie Heen, which opened on Wednesday March 21, is a prime example of what living in Geneseo can offer to an artist. 

“Painting in Oils,” a display of artist Leslie Heen’s work, opened in the Lockhart Gallery on Wednesday March 21 . Heen, who previously lived in Geneseo, presented works of art that portrayed various subjects such as nature or intimate portraits of individuals. The opening of the gallery brought together Heen’s friends as they attended the opening of the exhibition.

Heen, who grew up in Geneseo, started painting in 1992 after leaving behind a career in fashion illustration and architectural renderings. 

Her works are largely portraits, and feature bold brush strokes and colors. Heen’s art generally focuses on contemplation. Many of the works have people looking off to the side with expressions of deep thought or lament rendered with simplicity. 

The subjects’ beauty are the focal points; they contain simple backgrounds of a few added details to explain more about the person, such as paint brushes or a pet dog. Each portrait seems to capture vulnerability in the subject, especially the nude paintings, one of which is simply titled “Aprés de Bain” which captures a woman in a towel just after a bath.

One notable exception to this simplistic theme is “Time out at B & N,” which depicts three people propped up in chairs at Barnes and Noble. This piece is humorous, but still maintains the calm and thoughtful aesthetic as each person inhabits a green chair that feels more like an island, separating them in a painting they technically share. 

The other theme of the gallery was landscape. Several paintings capture a uniquely Western New York ambiance with barns surrounded by leafless trees with muted colors throughout the works. A few follow a specifically Geneseo tradition, capturing the annual foxhunt that takes place in the valley on a day called Race Meet. 

This theme of Geneseo landmarks is not surprising when you consider Heen’s roots. 

“Geneseo is a marvelous village,” Heen said. “It has its own cultures, its own histories.”

This inspiration and love for the Village was present at the gallery’s opening. Many of the people who attended were old friends of Heen’s, which added greatly to the intimate feeling created by her work.

The combination of appreciation for art and a social gathering made the gallery display feel less unreachable than works of long gone artists. At the same time, it was a fun event and a cultural outing. The balance shows the best of what art can be and how important art is to the Geneseo community.