I was born in New Mexico where brilliant skies backdrop a unique and rugged landscape, where diverse cultures converge with tradition and art, living up to the name, “Land of Enchantment”. Growing up in these surroundings was the soil from which I sprouted. However enchanting it was, I was meet with tall challenges early on. As the black sheep, my creative development was stifled by a devoutly religious family. I secretly imagined a life where I could freely express my creative passions and began plotting an escape. At age 18, I decided to pursue it and was rejected, forever cast off by friends and family. A black and white world doesn't know how to accommodate shades of grey. And what I learned is that this was their way of letting me go so that I could live a new more fulfilling life.
I spent the next few years writing poetry and immersed in the study of drawing and painting. When possible, I’d study with artists and retreat to my studio to experiment with oil paint for days and nights. Eventually, I developed a love for the look and feel of oil paint and gained a dexterous handling of the medium. I became known and collected for my still life paintings as a young emerging artist in the Southwest. Around this time, I had a reunion with my only sister, Shanna. We began to rebuild our bond and cherished each other's company in a new way. I remain grateful for the time we had together. It was short-lived, however. One day in August after we planned to spend the weekend together and just finishing up a day of painting in the studio, I answered the phone. It was the worst phone call I'd ever received. I was told that Shanna died in a car accident. I was devastated... A part of me died that day, as well.
As these life events go, tomorrow does come, eventually, and the next day follows. Once again my whole life began to shift and so did my perspective. If I was able to paint at all, the work I did complete was like a diary entry of what I was experiencing. In seeking solace, I spent time reflecting on the past, the present, and future. In time, I recalled how as sisters we shared much in spirit, including a love for anyone who followed adventure. Then, a door opened. The adventure before me was New York City.
At this point, I recognized that life has a way of repeating itself. Once again, I was gathering the necessities with a few months’ rent, and stepping through a new doorway and into a world completely unknown to me. It's true, I've always been an explorer and a seeker, and I was beginning to understand that experiences, good or bad, were quilting my individuality, giving my preferences deeper meaning, and fueling an endless storehouse of creative inspiration.
New York would prove to be a broad reaching challenge, leading me to a very special studio in Union Square. In January of 2014, I opened my ideal north-light studio. Already teaching art classes in New York, I began to see a pattern forming. Many of my students were struggling, moving from teacher to teacher but not finding the fulfillment they longed for. That spring I opened the doors of the Leah Lopez Atelier at Union Square and welcomed the first students ready to combine art technique with the inspiration within. Today, I'm proud that the Atelier continues to support the idea of combining educated technique and intuition under one roof.
Desiring to further help connect and support fellow artists in their professional goals, I joined the Board of Directors of the American Women Artists, a non-profit organization dedicated to the inspiration, celebration, and encouragement of women artists. I knew something special was beginning as we launched AWA's "25 in 25" - a goal to secure twenty-five museum exhibitions in as many years. We're doing this because work by women artists makes up only 5% of the permanent holdings of art museums in America. I’m proud to be promoting the growth that I would like to see take place and there isn’t a better mission to make the changes that are needed nationwide.
The love of my life is my day to day studio process and the paintings that emerge from this sacred time. Love, when it is true, is both familiar and mysterious. I know that when I go into the studio tomorrow, I will shut the door and open up a special world, my creative storehouse, and let the magic flow.