While working as a deckhand set-netting in Kasitsna Bay two summers ago, Leah Dunn, then 15 years old, was inspired by the natural beauty surrounding her, especially, the ocean. This fascination launched her journey into acrylic and watercolor painting. Today, her work can be viewed at Grace Ridge Brewing, her first public showing.
On display through the end of January are 22 acrylic paintings and 12 watercolor paintings featuring mountainscapes, landscapes, fishing boats, waterfalls, a lighthouse, fireweed, otters, a bear and more.
“I love the ocean and living by the water and this is reflected as a recurring theme in most of my paintings,” she said.
Conversely, some of her paintings, including two titled “Civilization” and “Desolation,” depict the loss of natural beauty she witnesses.
“This devastation is happening to our world because of human activity,” she said.
A Homer High School senior, Dunn’s primary mediums are acrylic and watercolor. She is currently taking art classes through the high school and has been playing with charcoal as a new medium.
Raised in Homer since she was 8 years old, Dunn’s family includes a couple of professional artists: a grandfather’s cousin and a great-grandmother, and her father, who spends a lot of time on the water and enjoys drawing. Since very young, she has been working with crafts and doodling. She also likes to sew.
The first painting she created that shows in this exhibit is titled “Sunrise from Ohlson Mountain,” painted from a photograph she took during cross-country ski practice. “Dick, Rick and Jo” is a painting of her dad and his two friends hauling a halibut into their boat. Dunn heard the story from her father and realized how much the photo, taken in the 1990s, means to him. The photo had become tattered through the years. She was eager to preserve the memory so she painted the scene as a gift for his birthday.
“My dad was out fishing with his friend Jo and then Rick came up next to them in his boat,” she said. “They had a big halibut on the line and needed help getting it in. Someone else in the boat took the photo of that moment when the fish was teetering over the edge. It’s a very special memory for my dad.”
The last painting she created for the exhibit is “Beautiful Isolation,” which features a lone log cabin in the foreground and a series of log cabins in the background.
“That one I just created the scene in my head and it’s about being in your own little world,” she shared. “That one cabin is sitting up on its own, surrounded by flowers, while the other cabins are off in the distance in a valley. I haven’t really analyzed the meaning, but I’m very happy with it.”
For Dunn, being creative is way to express herself and bring attention to the beauty of the natural world that surround us.
“We live in such a beautiful place and sometimes because I see it every day, I notice that I haven’t really noticed it in a while,” she said. “Painting these scenes helps me appreciate it and I hope it helps others do the same.”
In addition to painting, Dunn likes to sew. She has sewn her friend’s prom dresses, creating them with fabric from a local store, sewing from scratch without a pattern, learning from her mom and YouTube videos, and on her Brother sewing machine. At the beginning of COVID-19, she sewed close to 200 masks for her family and friends and also donated dozens to West Homer Elementary to ensure that everyone who needed a mask would have one to wear.
Dunn describes her creativity as spontaneous, sometimes going for days or even weeks without painting, and then randomly returning to her canvas and painting for hours non-stop.
“I think artist’s moods are just like that — spontaneous,” she said. “Well, that’s how I am anyway, spontaneous and kind of random in my process — sometimes thorough and methodical, and sometimes all over the place.”
Inspired by local painters she knows, like Gary Lyon and Rebecca Seneff, she plans to major in art and environmental science in college and is still in the process of applying and deciding schools and programs.
“I think being a professional artist would be cool, but right now I don’t know,” she said. “I definitely see myself doing art for the rest of my life, but whether that’s as a professional career or not, I’ll have to see.”
Enjoy Dunn’s exhibit at Grace Ridge Brewing through January.