SHIPPENSBURG – The Thought Lot’s Fall Gallery, which features works by Mary Seay, Melissa Libertini and Tracie Leisher, opened with a reception on September 6, and the exhibit will be on display through October 18.
With this exhibit, The Thought Lot continues to live up to its tag-line “More than just a venue: A celebration of the arts in the heart of Shippensburg” by bringing musical acts, community events and visual artwork under a single roof.
Which is to say that it celebrates all of the arts all of the time.
For example, on September 21, someone leaning against the back wall during Mawcore’s set at Bearding Man 2019, could turn their head to the left or right and see works by Leisher and Seay.
It is extremely unlikely that a visitor to any other gallery or arts center in the region will find such an eclectic and exciting mix of sights and sounds.
At the center of the exhibit (and the bands and the events) is Thought Lot manager Hannah Nawa.
Nawa has known Mary Seay since she was 16, and she discovered Tracie Leisher at The Thought Lot’s own Creators & Makers Market, and she recently met Melissa Libertini by chance.
But the eclectic mix is more about cross-pollination than chaos.
A visitor to the Fall Gallery will likely be coming to support one of the three artists and will be introduced to the work of two other artists.
“People who don’t know the other two artists, who are coming for Tracie, are going to see the other artwork,” explained Nawa of her ‘rising tides lift all ships’ approach to supporting the arts. “More people see what you’re doing and value it.”
And while the sale of art is important, Nawa emphasizes that the support of the community is just as – if not more – important.
“There are so many free ways for people to support their friends who are makers,” she said. “Just showing up and taking a couple of photos – ‘Hey, this is a thing that’s happening right now, come check it out.’ That network of creatives in this area, I feel, is very strong.
Mary Seay has been interested in the arts since she discovered photography in high school. In 2014 she began painting as a way to physically create something with her hands, and ever since then she has been exploring the next step of artistic evolution beyond production: expression.
“Honestly, in the simplest way, it felt good to create, to have something you did in front of you and get all of the emotions out of you,” said Seay.
Seay’s contributions to the exhibit are mainly acrylic, but they also incorporate spray paint and 3D mixed-media elements “that stand out in your face more” like cloth and plastic flowers.
But, for Seay, the work isn’t complete until someone else reacts to it.
“I would say that the main thing I try to put in my art is I want people to interpret it how they see it, and I try not to have a specific thing,” she said. “I like seeing people take something from it and make it their own.”
She added: “Be open. Find something you feel.”
Melissa Libertini had stopped doing art in the third grade, and she only took up painting two years ago as a way of coping with the loss of her mother.
“It was therapeutic for me,” said Libertini. “It gave me something to focus on besides my loss.”
Her rediscovery of art has progressed along two tracks: reverse engineering works that she likes and a more formal six-month mentorship with artist Kate Keely.
“It’s anything that I see that kind of captivates me, and I want to figure out how the original artist did it,” she said. “It’s a lot of experimentation and ‘That is so neat looking – I want to do it.’”
Through the mentorship with Keely, Libertini has established a foundation in the fundamentals. Keely instructed her to spend an hour a day drawing her hand, which included every formation from the alphabet in sign language to rock horns.
“I’m like, ‘I can’t draw a hand.’ I can freakin’ draw a hand,” said Libertini of her initial triumph. “I’m like, ‘Thank you.’ I didn’t know I could do that.”
Libertini’s contributions to the Fall Gallery exhibit are acrylic and watercolors, which she recently branched out into.
“If you look at everything here, it’s all, actually, very different,” she said of her pieces, although she could have been describing the work of all three artists (or even The Thought Lot itself). “I have my flowers and then I have all of my architectural ones. It’s all kind of random. It’s from different things I saw that were just so interesting.”
Tracie Leisher has enjoyed art since elementary school, and once she reached the age where she could choose her own academic courses, she always loaded up on art. That is, until college, when she chose business.
But even while studying business, she continued to pursue art as a hobby, and it could be argued that she successfully combined the two fields when she first brought her creative works to the Thought Lot’s Creators & Makers Market.
“Back in July, I did the Creators & Makers market here, just selling some matted prints and magnets, and that was my first time officially putting anything out there.”
Nawa took notice of Leisher’s work, which led to her inclusion in the Fall Gallery, Leisher’s first public exhibition.
Leisher’s contributions to the Fall Gallery include digitally edited photographs and original digital paintings – both created using the software Procreate.
Leisher’s photographs begin with an appreciation of the patterns in nature that she then augments – taking great care not to manipulate to the point of detracting from what drew her to the subject in the first place.
The result is a defamiliarized look at nature that makes thew viewer stop and reconsider it anew.
“The biggest thing that I could say is, ‘Stop and look around you. Look at the nature that’s surrounding you and really appreciate it. Just take a minute and stop and look around because there’s so much beauty around us that we take for granted every day.”
[Main image caption: (from left to right) Melissa Libertini, Mary Seay, Hannah Nawa and Tracie Leisher pose together at the Fall Gallery reception at The Thought Lot on September 6.]