Leland Foster, a senior studying English at Binghamton University, recently placed second in a national art competition through the Smithsonian Institution of Arts.
Foster grew up in Portland, Maine, and came to Binghamton at the suggestion of his father, who was raised in the upstate area. Originally undecided about a major, Foster was drawn to the humanities — particularly English — but he also began to dabble with art during the summer between his sophomore and junior years.
He quickly found that painting was an outlet for dealing with the symptoms of Crohn’s — a disease he’s suffered from since childhood.
“I began suffering from the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease when I was in the fourth grade,” he wrote in a statement to the panel judging his artwork. “As these symptoms became more disruptive to my normal life, I struggled with a growing sense of helplessness. Art became my outlet, my way of dissociating from the vulnerability I felt, and separating the disease from who I actually was.”
This past summer, Foster was contacted by the campus Services for Students with Disabilities Office about an art competition geared toward students with disabilities.
“I was forwarded this e-mail because someone there knew it was something I would be interested in,” he said.
He began to create a piece of artwork tailored to the competition’s theme of Sustaining/Creating.
“It was a pretty fast process,” Foster said. “I worked on it over the summer and submitted it in early August. It was a juried event so it went through a few stages of judging before I got a call from a woman working for the competition saying I had gotten second place.”
After receiving the good news, Foster traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and to attend a reception at the Smithsonian’s Ripley Center, where his artwork is being showcased. While there, Foster also met one of his state senators, Susan Collins, as well as the program’s founder, Jean Kennedy Smith.
Usually Foster works with pen and ink or graphite to create his artwork. The piece he created, titled “Restoring The Sublime,” was one of his first oil paintings.
“I decided to switch to oil painting because I thought it would be interesting to experiment with a new medium. I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to reach my greatest potential as an artist,” he said.
Additionally, the painting Foster created was specifically tailored to the competition.
“My goal was to create a piece of artwork that represented the theme of Sustaining/Creating in a way that related to my life and how I perceive art,” Foster said. “The concept I attempted to convey in my painting was that the spark of creativity that accompanies creating art derives from nature, or the sublime.”
“My painting depicts a figure overlaying an image of a forest on top of a concrete wall. The painting metaphorically expresses how the natural world acts as a muse for creation,” he continued.
Foster’s artwork will be on display at the Ripley Center until January when it will go on a national art tour.
After graduating in December, Foster hopes to continue his artwork success, eventually creating enough pieces to host an art show in his hometown.