Leslie Adams exhibition opens at Toledo Museum of ArtWritten by Sarah Ottney | Editor in Chief | email@example.com
Admirers of portrait painter Leslie Adams will be able to experience a different side of the local artist at a new solo exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA).
Adams is known for her oil portraits, but “Leslie Adams: Drawn from Life” features mainly charcoal drawings, said show curator Amy Gilman, associate director of TMA and curator of contemporary art. The show opened Oct. 19 and will run through Jan. 13. Admission is free.
“We thought it was really important to highlight work of hers that doesn’t normally get seen,” Gilman said. “It’s something more personal to her and they are really quite beautiful. It’s both an important and engaging body of work.”
Represented in the works are people and places that shaped Adams and her career, including TMA, where Adams took art classes as a young girl, the New York Academy of Art, the Portrait Society of America, the Ohio Statehouse rotunda, her father, University of Toledo professor emeritus Diana Attie, fellow portrait artist Michael Shane Neal, Toledo jazz musician Jon Hendricks and more.
“Most of the work has an autobiographical thread that runs through it that I think people will really respond to, not just about Adams herself, but the relationship between someone and the museum,” Gilman said. “She grew up in the museum, taking classes here, like many people do, having a special relationship with certain artwork, certain rooms in the gallery. This body of work brings some of that to life. You will see spaces portrayed in some of the drawings that will be familiar to people who know and love the museum.”
The exhibit consists of 13 charcoal drawings and one oil painting, most created during the past year, Adams said.
“Drawing is my first love. I always return to it. I think the content of the exhibition lent itself to doing it in charcoal,” Adams said. “This show is all about a little girl with the dream of becoming an artist. I wanted the show to be positive, I wanted it to be hopeful. I want people to look at it and — whatever it is they want, whether an artist or lawyer, it doesn’t matter — say, ‘If I put my mind to it, I can do it.’”
The works are not chronological, but depict Adams at various points in her life.
“Madonna and Child with Roses” depicts Adams as a baby with her mother. “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl” features Adams working at her first easel, a gift from her father.
The centerpiece of the exhibition is called “The Art of Life” and depicts present-day Adams in her studio. In the foreground are illustrations of major turning points in her career and newspaper clippings from past exhibitions. Pictured in the background are artistic supplies ready to be used, such as a blank canvas and paintbrushes.
“The foreground represents my past and the background represents my future,” Adams said. “Here I am at 49 years old, having an exhibition at Toledo Museum of Art, which is an absolute dream come true. I’ve dreamed about it since I was a little child. The exhibit is reflecting on my career. How did I go from a little girl sitting in the Cloister, taking Saturday classes at the museum, to having an exhibition at the museum and where does it go from here?”
Adams, who grew up in South Toledo and works out of a Downtown Toledo studio, specializes in figurative art and portraiture. She has created portraits of numerous corporate, religious and civic leaders, including Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, Bishop James R. Hoffman and former Ohio Gov. Bob Taft, with each portrait requiring an average of 400 hours of work. She is the first recipient of the Solo Exhibition Award, presented at the 2011 Toledo Area Artists Exhibition.
Adams and Gilman said they hope visitors connect with the exhibit in a personal way.
“I hope they get a renewed sense of their own relationship with the museum, both past and present,” Gilman said. “It’s really personal to her and connected to the way people remember the museum and how we all carry those special spaces within us.”
The museum is located at 2445 Monroe St. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday and closed Mondays and major holidays.
A limited-edition print of “Madonna and Child with Roses,” signed by Adams and inspired by the charcoal drawing in the exhibition, is available as a 12-inch-by-9-inch print in the museum store.