Gwyneth Leech
New York Artist Paints "Perfect Families" and More

Ben Erickson

Issue date: 1/31/07 Section: Arts & Entertainment
Southwest Minnesota State University
Marshall, Minnesota

The idea of the good ol' "conventional family" (a husband and wife, happily married with approximately 2.5 children) is one that has been purported in our land for the better part of its existence. Middle America was the perfect place for this concept to be planted and allowed to blossom, as special attention was given to the steadiness of life and old fashioned values.

A public boost was given to this highly idealized mythology as the Beavers, Griffiths and many others took advantage of the national spotlight provided in the "Golden Age of Television." Where married couples weren't seen alone together until the (gasp!) interracial Lucy and Ricky stormed onto the scene and it would be years before the Brady Bunch would introduce the many possibilities of non-traditional family structures to the public eye.

Nowadays, we'd like to think that we live in a world that is beyond infatuation with pointless myths such as these, a world where anyone of any race can share in the same opportunities and relationships with anyone else, pursuing happiness regardless of their cultural background. Gwyneth Leech's exhibit, "Perfect Families," celebrates the diversity of the American family in all of its vivid colors and lively expressions.

The concept of this exhibit is about as straight forward as they come. The works are portraits of various families from Leech's New York City neighborhood, compositionally simple and breathing with a wealth of diverse culture.

A white, middle aged couple is pictured holding their adopted Asian children while a white woman and an African-American man smile upon a son whose complexion is somewhere in between each of theirs. A lesbian couple is portrayed actively outdoors with their adopted or alternatively conceived son. While these situations may be out of the ordinary or possibly offensive to some, hopefully most observers can enjoy the collection as a celebration of life outside of caving "mainstream" stereotypes.

Other works by Leech have caused much more of a stir, such as her "Norwalk Stations of the Cross" series, which meshes the traditional scenes of Christ's crucifixion with modern, war torn backgrounds which are heavily suggestive of the current conflict in Iraq.