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Artist uses unique materials to create three dimensions

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Whether with a piece of pocked packing paper or the mylar material used to make balloons, Leah Kosh delights in using nontraditional materials to create her art.

Mylar is the medium of choice for Kosh’s most recent series, “A World of Her Own,” which features a variety of birds.

Mylar is translucent and allows Kosh to paint on both sides, she said.

“The main thing is you can create distance.”

When finished painting, Kosh places a white sheet on the back to prevent other colors from bleeding through.

Kosh said birds have always been intriguing art subjects.

“I think mainly because they imply freedom and movement. I think somehow they represent the soul to me.”

That could be because they are carefree creatures, she said.

The birds in each painting are not planned, Kosh said.

“When I start a painting I rarely have a specific idea of what I want to do. I go for the language of art -- shapes, colors, composition -- and start there and see what evolves.”

New artistic vision

Kosh moved to Port Townsend from Seattle in January, where she had been established in the art scene for decades.

“She is pretty phenomenal,” said Lisa Harris, who often showcased Kosh’s work in her former Seattle studio. “As I look at her body of work over five decades, they are always imaginative and little bit mysterious. There is a total command of materials.”

When Harris represented Kosh in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Kosh was heavily involved in collage work, Harris said.

“Early on she was doing a lot of figure based work and they were a little bit mythical and symbolic,” Kosh said. “She would combine portrait heads with birds.”

Kosh has long been interested in the use of creative materials, Harris said.

“It allows her to layer things and adds complexity and transparency. This later work has a lightness to it and a fluidity and I think that is a strength.”

The new paintings still have an air of mystery about them, Harris said.

“It is really strong work derived from years of being a process oriented artist where she might have a little bit of an idea.”

Kosh moved to PT in January from Seattle. She said she wanted a slower pace of living.

“We obviously wanted to get out of Seattle, and I think for all the right reasons. It was too crowded. There was too much driving and it was too noisy.”

When her realtor showed her a property in Port Townsend, Kosh knew it was the right fit.

“There is only a 25 to 30 mph speed limit,” she joked.

And, the residents here are friendly, she said. That isn’t the case in the big city.

Teaching others

While Kosh earned an art degree at Tyler School of Art at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she has never been able to earn enough money as a professional artist to get by.

“When I graduated from art school I was told, and it turned out to be true, that only two percent of graduates from art schools continued making art after the first year.”

Luckily for Kosh, she has a second passion -- teaching.

“I was very lucky because I love teaching and so that sustained me economically and I could make my art,” she said.

Kosh taught at the Northwest School in Seattle for about two decades.

“She was the chairman of the art department,” Harris said.

One of the greatest lessons Kosh said she ever learned was that sometimes mistakes make for really good art. That can begin with a color that inspires her on a particular day with oops moments that make for happy accidents.

“There have been many and I love it,” she said.

Kosh currently does not have any art on display at any Port Townsend galleries, but examples of her work can be seen online at http://www.leahkosh.com.

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