On Saturday, the cold gripped gallery reception attendees before they entered the cozy store front of the Swinehundt Design Gallery in Troy. There was an immediate feeling of warmth as guests were greeted by The Art of Leah Mattice, a collection of over 45 original paintings created by Troy-based artist Leah Mattice.
With a wide fusion of styles including abstraction, realism, surrealism and cubism, Mattice paints vibrantly colorful works. Her interests in science, animals, nature, music and self-reflection are revealed in the themes and styles of her work
One of the first paintings on the roster, The Brain (2012), Mattice declares is her “favorite.” This surreal portraiture features her boyfriend, Sean Hammond. As the subject of the painting, Hammond’s brain pops out of the top of his skull and his tongue hangs from his mouth with a play of light and color across his skin. “I wouldn’t be surprised if other people didn’t find it beautiful,” said Mattice, “but I do.”
Hammond’s interest in molecular biology spurred inspiration in Mattice’s paintings. “I have an interest in scale. It started with pictures of the Earth from space,” said Mattice. “Sean was studying cancer slides when we met and he would let me look at them.”
One image titled, Migrate (2012), shows monarch butterflies fluttering through a field of microscopic cells. This theme of large scale creatures on a microscopic background filters into pieces including Humpback Whales (2012) and Sperm Whales (2012). These paintings show the Earth’s largest mammals swimming through what seems to be a microscopic neural system.
Rabbits are also a popular animal in Mattice’s work. Magic Rabbit (2012) is a surreal painting of a brown rabbit hopping out of a top hat into a forest wrapped in red theater curtains. Mattice incorporated tree bark into this piece for additional texture. (Pumba) 2010 is a line painting of Mattice’s pet bunny. Rabbits and other animals are often incorporated into her self-portraits; In the Poppies, Self-Portrait (2014) features Mattice naked in a field of poppies with a brown rabbit hopping through the flowers.
Not all of Mattice’s self-images are so whimsical. One painting titled, In Pieces, Self-Portrait (2013), shows her during a more difficult time in her life. In May 2013, Mattice was involved in a terrible car accident; This four-panel painting shows Mattice with a variety of casts, braces and metal rods covering her body. During recovery, Mattice used her free time to create even more artwork. “Art saved me when I almost died,” she said.
Mattice’s portraitures are not reserved for her love ones and self. She also paints the people she admires. Malala (2014) is an homage to 16 year-old Pakistani women’s education activist Malala Yousafzai. The portrait displays a vibrant, young Muslim girl in a pink burka. “Pink is her favorite color and it’s mine too,” said Mattice. “It was easy to decide what color to put her in.”
Some of Mattice’s heroes who have passed on grace her paintings in the form of memorials. Dirt Farmer (2012) is a tribute to American rock & roll drummer Levon Helm. Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead is featured on one of Mattice’s hand-painted longboards as part of her Expression Longboards collection.
The Art of Leah Mattice is currently available for viewing and purchase at the Swinehundt Design Gallery (182 River St., Troy). Gallery owner Pamela Skaarup offers boutique-style art goods and classes at a price that is ‘affordable to the average person.’ “I love Leah,” said Skaarup, “she’s an old soul and a very creative artist.”
Mattice, who is also a singer in the local band Maaze and participates in art charity events through the Trinity Alliance, plans on moving to Colorado within the next month to pursue her education. “When I move to Colorado,” said Mattice, “I plan on continuing to sing, create art and teach.”