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Thursday, December 14 Wilton

Westport abstract artist returns to Weir Farm

WILTON — Liz Leggett’s earliest memories are of making art.

She remembers creating paintings at the age of 3, preferring the solitude of being in a private, meditative space over a playdate.

Even if she didn’t realize it then, art was a therapeutic outlet to express herself, she said.

“It’s sort of a space that’s your own,” Leggett explained. “It’s uninterrupted. It’s uninfluenced.”

For the month of October, the Westport-based artist is finding that space at Weir Farm for her second time as the artist-in-residence. As the only national historic site dedicated to American painting, no place seems more fitting. The former grounds of American impressionist J. Alden Weir offers her the kind of solitude she needs to create her abstract art and to take breaks when needed, she said.

“I love the quiet. I love the nature. And this physical space is outstanding,” she said, looking around the Weir Farm Studio.

Lined along the studio walls are new paintings she began at the start of her residency and a handful of old ones she is trying to rework until the piece finally speaks to her.

The key to achieving this self-defined standard of excellence is by finding the balance between alluding to figurative themes and leaving an open space for the viewer, she said, or what she calls “the space in-between.”

“I like the viewer to see what they want to see. I don’t like to dictate my thoughts to a viewer. I always welcome the viewer bringing their own thoughts and vision to a piece,” she said. “I never get offended — I always get inspired.”

Earlier in her career, in high school and college, Leggett’s work erred more on the figurative side. Now, her paintings and drawings focus more on the abstract — full of vibrant colors and expressionist marks applied both haphazardly and controlled.

Some pieces take as little as 50 minutes while others are revived and reworked a dozen times over from more than a decade ago. But every piece goes through the same creative process: first sketched out with cray-pas, graphites and color pencils, then painted over with oil-based materials after the medium has been sealed with acrylic matte.

In the end, the final product depicts the processing of her thoughts — from world news to personal pondering.

“Sometimes I’m doing it in a very physical way, and sometimes I’m trying to articulate objects. So I’ll make a big mess on a paper and then I’ll sort of clean it up. And my mother used to say I used to do that, like when I would go to my room and make a big mess in my room and then clean it up,” she said. “Sometime I just need to record that energy and that’s how I think the abstraction was born. So it’s recording that sort of energy and then taking certain thematic things and plugging them in as well.”

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Leggett’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, after earning a bachelor’s degree in studio art from Skidmore College and an MFA at the Maine College of Art. She has also participated in artist-in-residence programs in Israel, Spain, The Pyrenees Mountains and Saratoga Springs.

Although she came to Weir Farm as an artist-in-residence five years ago, her mindset is the same, she said.

“I’m never coming here with a solution,” Leggett said. “It’s forever the search and the balance.”

skim@hearstmediact.com; 203-842-2568; @stephaniehnkim

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