McKay Gallery To Host Evelyn Leavens’ ‘Last Show’

April 21, 2012
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“Interjectional Movements” by Evelyn Leavens.

ARTIST, TEACHER, AUTHOR and lifelong Red Bank resident Evelyn Leavens will hold what she describes as her “last show” at the McKay Imaging Studio and Gallery later this month.

“Linear Configurations,” an exhibit of new and unknown works by the 87-year-old artist opens next Friday, April 27 at the Red Bank gallery owned by Bob and Liz McKay.

Leavens calls the paintings in her new show “non-objectives,” created with a technique that she sums up as, “I just put stuff down on paper.” It’s a style that she has dabbled in, she says, but now that she’s given up creating larger oil paintings and is focusing on small watercolors, she finds her non-objective works a creative outlet that suits her advanced age.

“I love it. It’s so fun,” Leavens says of the technique that involves knives and spoons, finger and thumbs, putting paint on paper, her ima­gination was her inspiration.

Evelyn Leavens still lives and works in the Red Bank home in which she grew up. A self-taught artist, she held her first solo show in 1952. She has exhibited at every major gallery in the state and won two fellowships from the NJ State Council of the Arts.

Her works include landscapes, still life, and portraits. Many depict familiar places and people, and others, like “Several Elephants on a Tightrope,” are pure whimsy.

While many know Leavens the artist, even more in the two river area know Leavens the teacher. Generations of children came to her home to learn about art and creativity from a woman who traces her own artistic inspiration back to the first pencil marks she made on paper when she was two or three years old.

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The only break she took from her long career was to write and illustrate Boswell’s Life Of Boswell, a fanciful “biography” of Boswell the Basset Hound, a “purebred philosopher.” The book was published by Simon & Schuster in 1958 and was No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list for children’s books.

She met photographers Bob and Liz McKay several years ago when they came to her home to photograph her for the Monmouth County Arts Council’s magazine, Xit.

“They said, ‘if you ever want to do a show, call us,’” Leavens recalled of the meeting. Years later, she called the McKays, and the couple has spent months working with the artist to put the show together.

“What a lovely experience. What an intense result,” is how the McKays describe the time they spent working with Leavens to prepare for the opening of “Linear Configurations.”

While Leavens called her new show her last, she comments that she’s “never convinced about that,” leaving the door open to the possibility of future exhibits.

But for now, Leavens says, “I’m thinking about after I’m gone, and what will happen to my work after I’m gone. I’m working on an eternal show.”

“Linear Configurations” is on display Apr. 27 – May 17 at McKay Imaging, 12 Monmouth St., Suite 202, Red Bank. Meet the artist at the opening reception 7 – 10 p.m. Apr. 27. For information and gallery hours call (732) 842-2272 or visit

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