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UP CLOSE: LPHS artist lands show at Upper Jay Art Center

Monica Sara Mzese (Photo provided)

LAKE PLACID — Artist Monica Sara Mzese is just 17 years old, but she’s already booked her first gallery showing at the Upper Jay Art Center.

The Lake Placid High School junior said she’s always communicated through drawing. Mzese’s adoptive mom, Nol Carmichael, said her daughter has always struggled with verbal communication. When she was younger and wanted to communicate with her parents, she’d draw stick figures to express her emotions. Carmichael said she thinks Mzese’s love for art grew from those early experiences.

“I don’t have to tell my parents how I feel,” Mzese said. “They have to look at my paintings and guess how I feel.”

Mzese describes her art style as “creative and with emotion,” and she’s always listening to different types of music when she paints. And during the pandemic, she started painting a lot more.

Carmichael said Mzese finished one painting nearly every day during the height of the pandemic, and many of those works featured faces with tears on their cheeks. Those works will comprise most of Mzese’s gallery pieces at the art center.

Painting by Monica Sara Mzese (Photo provided)

Carmichael met Upper Jay Art Center co-founder Scott Renderer at the center’s Recovery Lounge a couple of summers ago, and when he visited Carmichael’s home during the pandemic he was “taken” with Mzese’s art and suggested the gallery showing. Renderer said the raw, emotional quality of Mzese’s work struck him, and he wanted to give her an opportunity to share her work with others and encourage her to continue painting in a serious way.

Now that Mzese is attending school in person and running for Lake Placid’s cross country team, she’s not completing paintings every day like she was. But Carmichael said Mzese has graduated to larger paintings recently, filling up 24-inch canvases.

For inspiration, Mzese said she sketches and looks at Pinterest. When she was younger, she learned about TingaTinga painting — a colorful oil painting style that usually features animals — and she said that those vibrant colors continue to influence her work today. She said she uses acrylics on canvas or boards, and she uses different sizes and types of brushes — even toothbrushes.

Mzese is considering painting different subjects for future projects. She said she mostly painted people and their emotions in the past, but she wants to try landscapes or another subject she’s never painted.

The show opens Sunday, Oct. 17 with a reception from 2 to 5 p.m.