Leni Morante: Turning the Page

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Leni Morante at work

Looking back can be so much fun, especially when your past can encourage someone else’s future. Léni Paquet-Morante,  an artist who has kept touch with me over several decades, called with her latest news. I took vicarious joy in what she is doing now.

Morante had been busy with raising three children, volunteering in their schools, rehabbing an historic house, and supporting the successful career of her sculptor husband, G. Frederick Morante. In 1984 they met at the Johnson Atelier,  where she did bronze, copper, and clay sculpture. I wrote about her husband’s work for U.S. 1 Newspaper in the late ’80s. His Daedulus remains one of my favorite pieces, and his ‘Relative’  is one of the large bronzes that J. Seward Johnson commissioned for Grounds for Sculpture.

Thirty years later (can it really be that long ago?) I am retired, Fred is on the staff at the Digital Atelier, and Leni has turned the page in her career. With her children grown, she carved out a space next to the kitchen for her studio and declared independence from cooking dinner.

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Leni Morante: June 11, 2017 In 2017, acrylic on linen, Untitled: Rosemont – 30 x 30

Leni has a solo show opening Wednesday, July 5, at Princeton University’s 113 Dickinson Hall, called “Atmosphere, Place an Time,” described as “paintings that represent familiar local landscapes but which also hint at something more complex.” Best of all, she has an artist residency award at the Lacawac Field Sanctuary in Lake Ariel, PA, and will have two weeks of focused studio and plein-air work next October.

I smiled and smiled when Leni spoke of being recognized with a two-week residency because in 1980 — at almost exactly the same point in my career, I had had a similar opportunity. I landed an NEA Fellowship to a dance critics workshop at the American Dance Festival at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Along with a dozen journalist from around the country, I took movement classes, saw concerts, wrote reviews, and was totally immersed in dance.

It was triply sweet.

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Barbara Figge at ADF 1960
  • I could leave family cares behind for three weeks.
  • It was my second visit to ADF: 20 years before I had gone to ADF when it was at Connecticut College. That summer persuaded me not to a pursue a dance career. Now, three children later, struggling to make my mark as a journalist, I could go back to ADF as a working dance critic.
  • I returned to my ‘stomping ground.” ADF had moved to my alma mater, Duke University.
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American Dance Festival 1980, Duke University. Student learning how to do a “Slow Walk” with choreograher Kei Takei

So, yes, I can truly rejoice with Leni Morante. She is using every available minute to paint. Right now she has a day job, so she paints on weekends, but in October — I smile and encourage her painting sabbatical. Meanwhile, with vicarious joy, I will admire her work.

 “Atmosphere, Place, and Time,” paintings by Léni Paquet-Morante, will be on view starting Wednesday, July 5, at 113 Dickinson Hall. This gallery, curated by Dana Lichtstrahl, is sponsored by Princeton University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A “meet the artist” reception is Friday, July 14, noon to 2 p.m. Her home-based studio is in Hamilton, NJ. Her portfolio since 1984 includes painting, bronze,copper, and clay sculpture, some of which is represented in NJ corporate collections, private collections locally and internationally, and as public art. A full CV and other works can be seen on her website http://www.lenimorante.com. Requests to meet the artist and/or for additional image files can be made through lenimorante@yahoo.com or cell 609-610- 3631.

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