This summer’s winner is local artist
By Angie Landsverk
From the time Leah Griffith Boyce was a child, she loved art.
She grew up in a small town just outside of Madison and ran a weekly newspaper and later a wholesale greenhouse business with her husband before deciding to return to that love.
These days, she works out of a studio in her Waupaca home, where she typically works on more than one project at the same time.
“I’ve usually got some kind of painting project going on and sculpture project going on,” she said. “I’m just always staying open to what is next. I like the variety in that and the self direction in that. I like not having a boss. I feel very grateful that I’ve been able to put together a life that allows me to have this type of experience.”
Griffith Boyce is this year’s winner of the Arts on the Square Poster Contest.
She describes the image she created for the contest as a “happy, little watercolor. It’s loose. I wanted it to be all about joy and community.”
The ninth annual art festival is set for Friday and Saturday, Aug. 14 and 15, on the city square.
Her image will grace all of the publicity.
Griffith Boyce is a nationally recognized artist, known for her portrait images in bronze, oil, watercolor and charcoal.
Her bronze bust of John Steuart Curry is in the permanent collection of the Chazen Museum of Art.
Commissioned by the museum to do it, Griffith Boyce said she is probably most proud of that piece.
The UW-Madison Agriculture Department brought Curry, an artist from Kansas, to Wisconsin in 1936 to be the state’s first artist in residence, Griffith Boyce said.
Until 1946, he went throughout the state, teaching farmers, their wives and the farmhands how to paint, she said.
“That is why we have such a rural art culture in the state. That is why the arts are all throughout the state,” Griffith Boyce said.
It took her about a year to complete the bronze bust of him, and the piece is also a learning tool as it shows the entire lost wax method of casting, she said.
Many of Griffith Boyce’s oil portraits are in collections throughout the country, including prominent collections at the Circus World Museum, the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Culver’s Corporate, the Erie Beer Corporation and the Hooper Cooperation.
In addition, she is a professional photo stylist with clients throughout the Midwest.
Griffith Boyce’s decision to pursue art was a gradual one.
She majored in art during her first two semesters of college, but discontinued the major after looking around the classroom and comparing her work to that of other students.
“I had no confidence in myself at that point. We live. We learn. We grow,” said Griffith Boyce.
For her, the decision to return to that love took place after her husband Steve died of a heart attack in 1992.
“When Steve died, it just ripped me all the way to the core,” she said. “I had been ignoring my gifts. I went back to school in the art department and never left.”
She moved to the Spring Green area with the couple’s young daughter Shannon to be near her parents.
Griffith Boyce went back to school, graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in art.
In 2000, she completed her master’s degree in fine arts from UW-Madison.
“I wanted to keep studying,” she said. “I also felt I could teach if I wanted to.”
She applied for several teaching positions.
“I always came in second,” Griffith Boyce said.
She figured teaching was not what she was supposed to do and instead found other ways to make money, including working as an assistant in a photo studio.
Friends of hers owned a Spring Green studio and did work for Lands’ End.
As Griffith Boyce commented on how much she loved fabrics, they told her they sometimes needed help.
“I went from getting a master’s degree to steaming and ironing clothes,” she said. “I was their assistant for five years. Then I made the jump from being an assistant to a stylist.”
That jump took place about 5 1/2 years ago.
“It’s so fun,” she said. “It’s like painting with objects. You’re trying to illict an emotion.”
Griffith Boyce works with both hard goods and soft goods.
That is similar to her artwork.
“I can do both 3-D and 2-D,” she said.
She moved to Waupaca in March 2013, after considering a move to California.
Her parents once owned a cottage nearby on Long Lake, and being there with family helped her heal after her husband’s death.
“Everything about Waupaca is so beautiful. I feel like I found an old, vintage town,” she said.
As an artist, she does not like to be categorized.
“I feel it’s all about expression. If I can dream it, I can do it,” she said.