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Nelson Shanks, Leona Shanks, Lee Vasu, and Damian Salo in front of Leona�s painting at the opening reception of Searching the Soul.

Currently on View: Leona Shanks at Dacia Gallery, NYC

Leona Shanks’s first solo exhibition in New York City may have been a long time coming, but now that the moment is here, the artist appreciates more than ever the steps and sacrifices it took to arrive.

Leona Shanks. "Endurance," 2012, oil on linen, 28 x 24 in.
Artist Leona Shanks has spent the last several decades supporting the efforts of her internationally acclaimed husband Nelson Shanks, co-founding and helping to build their school Studio Incamminati, in Philadelphia, and raising their two children. Although she has kept the pursuit of her own painting achievements on a relative back burner, her talents and potential have not gone unnoticed in the art world. On February 21 Dacia Gallery, in New York City — an up-and-coming exhibition space founded by artist/curator Lee Vasu and author/curator Damian Salo that has recently featured such artists as David Jon Kassan, Maria Kreyn, Daniel Maidman, Christopher Pugliese, and Patricia Watwood — hosted the opening reception of Shanks’s first solo exhibition in New York City, and there was an outpouring of support and interest from both her longtime followers and the general public. 
“It means the world to me to be having my first solo show in New York City,” says Shanks. “Part of what makes this moment so special is knowing how hard I had to work to get here, mainly because I wear many hats and juggle multiple responsibilities while pursuing my passion as an artist. I was really pleased with the turnout at the opening reception, and it was very fulfilling to hear that my work, which comes from such a personal place, resonated with so many others. I love getting feedback from strangers because their response is so pure and from the heart. Connecting to other people through my art is really what I have always wanted.” 

Leona Shanks, "The Hero," 2009, oil on linen, 30 x 40 in.

Leona Shanks, "Abstract Discourse," 2011, oil on linen, 30 x 22 in.
Shanks’s exhibition Searching the Soul showcases her desire to reach for something deeper and more meaningful in her work, and to ask people to slow down and consider something they may have otherwise overlooked or rushed past. As an observant and curious creative, Leona’s mind is constantly racing with ideas and images that are unique to her own perspective, but with paint and canvas she becomes a universal communicator, translating her vision to the viewer and asking, “Is there anyone else who sees what I see and feels what I feel?” Because a diverse range of people from various walks of life respond to these questions, Shanks is often categorized into the “contemporary realist” camp, a loose term that refers to those who use the timeless approach of realism to represent and explore contemporary ideas and concepts. 

Leona Shanks, "Oracle," 2007, oil on linen, 24 x 18 in. 

Leona Shanks, "The Wedding," 2012, oil on linen, 32 x 24 in. 
Because of their timely relevance and skillful execution, Shanks’s paintings were a perfect fit for Dacia Gallery’s curatorial vision. “I have been following the work of Leona Shanks for a while, and I find that her paintings contain a tremendous depth of human emotion and soul,” says curator and co-founder of Dacia Gallery Lee Vasu. “Her figures and portraits are painted with a sensitive touch that pulls the viewer in and evokes an emotional response. Leona’s exhibition has been seen by many New Yorkers in its short time in the gallery, and the public is amazed at her painting skills, depth, and color that bring the figures to life and tell a personal story. As they walk around the gallery, they spend a lot of time observing the paintings, thinking, and searching.” And this, according to Shanks’s artist’s statement, is precisely the type of reaction she hoped the public would have: “The greatest honor or ultimate achievement for me as an artist would be to create art that provokes an emotion or inspires thought in someone else.… A fire rages inside of me to create art that has soul and significance.” 
Searching the Soul will be on view at Dacia Gallery until March 15. For more information, visit
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a new weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here

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